Turn Your iPhone, iPad, or Mac into a Foreign Language Dictionary

Turn Your iPhone, iPad, or Mac into a Foreign Language Dictionary

Those of you who happen to love your Apple devices as much as I do are probably familiar with an often overlooked, but incredibly useful feature: built-in dictionaries.

On my MacBook Air, I three-finger tap any new words I come across on the internet. On the iMacs I can’t stop playing with at my university’s book store, I can right-click on them and select Look Up. When I’m reading on my iPad Mini, I simply highlight the words I want and tap Define.

In all three cases, the functionality is the same – a little window pops up next to the word with its definition.

I never really took note of this feature until I started reading The Name of the Wind on my iPad. I haven’t finished it yet, but there have already been so many words I wasn’t quite sure about that it would have been hell to switch over to a browser and Google definitions for all of them.

Honestly, I probably would have forgotten a lot of the words in the process of switching apps, and would have had to go back to iBooks to find it again. If you’re a fan of completely destroying your immersion when intaking media, then this probably sounds fantastic to you – I, however, am not a masochist.

Being myself, I immediately needed to know if this feature could be harnessed in the name of language learning – and to my delight, it can!

Read More →

4 Free Dictionary Apps for Looking Up Chinese and Japanese Characters on Android and iOS

4 Free Dictionary Apps for Looking Up Chinese and Japanese Characters on Android and iOS

If you’re studying Chinese or Japanese, you know that both have vastly different writing systems from basically anything else. Chinese Hanzi and their Japanese Kanji descendants number in the thousands – said to come from turtle shells after they were burned, these characters are much different than the Roman characters that many western languages use.

One of the most inconvenient things about these characters to a new learner is that you can’t tell how to pronounce them just by looking at them. Now, there are exceptions – many characters contain clues to how they’re pronounced, and Chinese Hanzi generally have only one pronunciation each.

Despite this, unless you’ve memorized the character, you’re probably not going to know how to pronounce it. Without enough context, you probably won’t know what it means, either.

Every time I had to read something for my Chinese homework and I didn’t know a character, I had to flip through the whole book trying to find it. This was definitely not efficient.

So, like most languages you’d be learning, the trick is to use the internet to figure things out – but how do you find a character if you don’t know how to pronounce it or what it means?

Strangely enough, I found out that touch screens can do much more than play games starring birds.

Here are 4 apps for Android and iOS that let you draw Chinese and Japanese characters to find out what they mean and how to say them.

Read More →

MindSnacks: Game-Based Language Learning on iOS

MindSnacks: Game-Based Language Learning on iOS

Last year, I went looking for some good language apps to install on my iPod touch. What I found was MindSnacks – now one of my favorite apps for studying a language. Although they’re only available on iOS at the moment, MindSnacks has an app for Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and Italian.

After using MindSnacks long enough to go through an entire redesign and becoming an ambassador of sorts for their brand, I’ve got some pretty good things to say.

Read More →

Practice Chinese Like the Judoon

Practice Chinese Like the Judoon

For those of you who watch Doctor Who, you may remember the Judoon – a rhinoceros-headed alien species that are often employed as mercenaries. You probably also remember the way they speak, with rapid-fire single-syllable words almost always ending with an ‘o’. But did you know that studying how the Judoon speak can help you with your Chinese?

Read More →