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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Is A Good Chinese To English Dictionary App For Learning Chinese?

One of the most frequently asked questions on my FB page for parents which have a number of parents whose kids are learning Chinese but they do not speak or write Chinese themselves is this "What Is A Good Chinese To English Dictionary App For Learning Chinese? This post is for them.

I have a lot of apps downloaded on my iPad for teaching my kids and for them to use when doing their homework. They are both in Chinese school. They are also required to learn Malay. We, the parents do not know Chinese. So I have a number of educational apps including dictionary apps and translation apps to help them learn.

One of my favorite apps for learning Chinese is Pleco. Pleco is a dictionary app that helps us learn Chinese as well. In this post, I will share with you how we use the Chinese to English Dictionary app Pleco as a resource and aid for learning.

When we first downloaded the app, we merely used it as a dictionary app to find words that we did not know the meaning of. However, now that we have got used to the app, we find that we can use it in an even better way, as a study aid. Pleco is so much more than a dictionary app. It is a Chinese learning app. Hopefully this post can help you understand how to maximize and use it to its full potential for your benefit. Many people download the app and use it like a dictionary  like we did at first but it can do so much more. Here's how.

This is how we use it to help the kids to learn Chinese. We don't make use of all the functions but even then this is very good for us. We are using the free version of the app.

1. Here Is How To Search Using The Pleco App Dictionary

You can search by handwriting, Chinese pinyin, English or Chinese characters or by radical.

The light green arrow points to something that looks like three parallel lines. Those lines toggle you to another page which allows you to do a lot more things including open your dictionary, history, bookmarks and more.

The dark green arrow with the world icon allows you to toggle between different keyboards to do your search in either English, pinyin or by handwriting. The picture shows the handwriting keyboard which I like best because it allows one to practice their Chinese handwriting. (Note: To use the handwriting input function, make sure you have the handwriting keyboard added to your device. For iPhone or iPad, got to "Settings", then "General" followed by "Keyboard". Then select "Add Keyboard" and choose "Chinese (Simplified) - Handwriting keyboard). You will then be able to toggle or choose your methods of input by tapping the world icon.

You can also toggle to the pinyin keyboard and search in pinyin in which case you may need the pinyin indicator signs as shown by the yellow arrows.

Finally, you can toggle between searching in English or Chinese as shown by the red arrow.

You will receive your answer in text as well as listen to the audio. Pleco also helps in Chinese pronunciation because of its audio playback.

How To Search Using Pleco
How To Search Using The Pleco App

2. Pleco Is More Than A Dictionary App. You Can Use It As A Chinese Learning App

Once you have clicked on the red parallel lines, it will open up this screen. You can help your child learn by organizing or bookmarking the words or Chinese vocabulary currently being used in their Chinese textbooks or syllabus. Clicking on the "Dictionary" tab will take you back to dictionary to search for more word. The "History" tab shows you a history of all the words you have searched for.

How To Use Pleco App To Learn Chinese
How To Use Pleco App To Learn Chinese

3. You Can Organize Your Search Into Folders Using The Organize Bookmark Function.

When you click on "Organize Bookmarks" you can set up categories and folders for the words you wish to bookmark for later learning. Once you have set up your folders, you can search for words to add into the folder. After searching a whole list of words, for example the whole vocabulary list in a certain chapter in your child's textbook, click on "Dump To Bookmarks" and choose the folder to keep them in.

You can also import or export your files or download or upload your files via "File Manager" all using wifi. You can also read your searched terms on the clipboard reader which allows you to adjust your text size, fonts and do other cool things including adding text and reading in night mode or saving in a folder. However, I don't use these features very much.

How To Organize Or Bookmark Words Into Folders In Pleco
How To Organize Or Bookmark Words Into Folders In Pleco
4. Even A Child Can Use Pleco Once You Teach Them The Basics

This is how we have organized our bookmarks according to the Chapters in my son's textbook. Clicking on Chapter 18 shows all the words he has to learn from that Chapter in the folder. I asked him to key in the words into the folder himself.  He can use and understand the Pleco app much better than me once taught the basics. He is 10 years old by the way.

How To Use Pleco As A Supplementary Learning Aid For Textbooks
How To Use Pleco As A Supplementary Learning Aid For Textbooks

5. Another Useful Feature Of Pleco

Finally, below is another feature of the Pleco app which I find useful. When you search for phrases or idioms which contain several words together, you can click on the tabs I highlighted in green, yellow, red or purple. The green shows you the meaning of the whole idiom. The yellow shows you the meaning of each individual character that makes up the idiom. The red shows you the words or phrases that can be found within the idiom while the purple shows you example sentences. I find this most useful in understanding idioms. Knowing each character and the meaning actually helps you to understand the idiom's literal meaning which helps you think about a story for that idiom and helps you remember better.

How To Use Pleco To Help You Understand Phrases, Idioms And Proverbs
How To Use Pleco To Help You Understand Phrases, Idioms And Proverbs

6. How To Use Pleco To Help You Understand Phrases And Idioms

For example, in the idiom shown above and below, the meaning is "deafening". However, if you click on "chars" or characters, you can get the separate meaning for each character. I have highlighted them in yellow. The first being "shake", second is "ear", third word means "wish" and fourth word means "deaf". If you click on "words" you will get a phrase made up of the first two characters which means "ear splitting". Put all those together and you can understand the meaning of the idiom "deafening" pretty well or your child can make up his own story for example "shake the ear so loudly till deaf" = "deafening".

Breaking Idioms Or Phrases Down Into Individual Characters Help You Understand Its Meaning Better
Breaking Idioms Or Phrases Down Into Individual Characters Help You Understand Its Meaning Better

I have an electronic dictionary at home. However after discovering Pleco, I find myself using less and less of the dictionary and more of Pleco.

Here is Where To Download Pleco for iOs including iPad and iPhone or for Android users.


  1. Oh. This sounds good. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You are welcome, Rose. It is really useful. We use it daily.


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