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Monday, February 27, 2012

Chinese Idioms Dictionary

Now that my daughter is in Std 4 in Chinese School, she is learning a lot of Chinese Idioms in school. I need a good Chinese Idioms Dictionary. Unfortunately most of the Chinese Idioms Dictionaries are in Chinese! So how can I help her? I am Chinese but sometimes I forget how to write my kids' names in Chinese. That's how little Chinese I know. I am getting better now, having gone through Std 1 to Std 4 Chinese with my girl and now repeating Std 1 and Std 2 Chinese with my boy.

What I need is a good Chinese Idioms Dictionary for an English learner. I need the Chinese Idioms to be explained in English. That's exactly what I need to help my girl understand her Chinese Idioms. I need a good Chinese to English translation for the Chinese Idioms so that I can explain the Chinese Idioms to her. So, do I throw up my hands in the air and say I give up let's leave it to the tuition teachers? Errr... I can't, there's no tuition teacher. I'm the tuition teacher.

Never fear, the internet is here. So for other English speaking parents like me who wish to help their child learn Chinese idioms, here are some useful resources for you. I like these Chinese Idiom Dictionaries because I can search in Pinyin and I get the English translation or explanation for the Chinese Idioms.

1. An English Dictionary of Chinese Idioms from Chinese-Tools.com - Oh I like the sound of that! This dictionary has more than 30,000 Chengyu (Chinese proverbial idioms) with calligraphy, pinyin, English translation, Chinese explanation, synonyms, antonyms and context examples. Fantastic. I checked it out. It is everything it said it is. Love it. The English interpretation is kept simple, described in just one line with a more detailed Chinese explanation. Here's what my search "kai men jian shan" yielded. It has an alphabetical Chinese Idioms Index which is lovely. Just take a look at the Chinese Idioms list for "shan" (Mountain). I didn't know there were so many idioms from the use of this word "shan" alone.

2. If you can't still find your Chinese Idioms from the above, try this simple one. Its quite comprehensive and I love the simple layout. Check out the Chinese Dictionary from Yabla Chinese. You can key in the pinyin for your Chinese idioms using this Chinese Dictionary. It's not just a Chinese Idiom Dictionary, its a comprehensive Chinese Dictionary which includes idioms. Have a look at how my search for "chui tou sang qi" looks like. It's quick, simple and to the point but if you want details check out the Chinese-Tools Chinese Idiom dictionary I mentioned above or the following Nciku English Chinese Dictionary. Compare all the results and see which you prefer or use them all, like me.

3. This one is from my favorite online Chinese Dictionary, until I got my Electronic Dictionary that is, I used  this one frequently because I like the fact that I could handwrite the Chinese Characters in using my mouse. Here is the online English Chinese Dictionary from Nciku. One thing to note when using this dictionary to find Chinese idioms is you have to key in the pinyin close together with no spaces in between. For example, key in "yugongyishan" instead of "yu gong yi shan" if you are looking for this idiom. If you key them in separately, you will get separate Chinese characters as results instead of the Chinese Idiom. Next thing to note is you have to select "All results" before you hit the search button. Do not select "idioms". That won't get you the result you want. Take a look at the results for the above search yugongyishan. You get to listen to the pronounciation. You get detailed English and Chinese explanations. You get a word decomposition meaning each character is taken out and explained. Sometimes you get example sentences as well. Fantastic! Very comprehensive. You can get the Nciku dictionary on your iPhone and Androids too for $7.99 but I have not tried it so I can't say how good it is compared to the website.

4. Here's another online Chinese Idioms Dictionary, this one is from ChineseSavvy. Like the Nciku dictionary, it supports handwriting input which means that you can hand write in your search using your mouse. Have a look at my search results for "shan ming shui xiu". Besides the Chinese and English explanations for the Chinese Idioms, I am rewarded with a pictorial interpretation of the idiom! Nice but not always available for the Chinese Idioms descriptions.

5. I also like the English to Chinese Online Dictionary from MDBG. Have a look at my search results for the Chinese Idiom "yishandaohai" I like it that each of the Chinese Character that make up the idiom are explained  in detail. Once you get the search results, click on the idiom to get the meaning of each character that make up the idiom. Try it, click on my search results and see what you get. This is useful as most Chinese Idioms mean literally what they say. By looking at each of the Chinese Characters that make up the idiom, you would sometimes have an instant understanding of what they mean. Note: Like the Nciku dictionary, type in your pinyin close together not separated when searching.

Lastly, just for fun, your child may enjoy some Chinese Idiom Stories like the Frog in the Well etc. You can get a lot of Chinese Idiom Videos and Animations from YouTube. Just go to YouTube and type in "Chinese Idiom Stories". Some of them are in Cantonese if that's what you prefer. However, I particularly like the Chinese Idiom Stories and Poems by Hongen Education Chanel.

Remember to favorite and bookmark this blog post if your child is studying Chinese Idioms in school. You will need to refer to it often!



  1. your doing just well, my mom also improved her mandarin when I was studying primary school :)

    1. Nath, most of us pick up some Mandarin that way don't we?

  2. Me dizzy reading through this post! hahahah! I think I need my children to teach me when they go to Primary school. ;p

    1. Rose we often have this scenario at home. "Mum, can you teach me....?" "Sure, can you tell me what that means?" hahaha.

  3. Thanks. This is very helpful :-) Son was just asking on some words and just so happened I saw this post. He relies a lot on manual dictionary an online dictionary.

  4. Thanks for the info, it is indeed very helpful for Mums with kids in Chinese school. :)


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