Sunday, March 20, 2011

Free Chinese dictionary apps: iCED

Parent blog entry:

My preferred Chinese dictionary app. Its usage of the visual tone choices (see below) can save time when looking up a character phonetically, and is more smooth all around. It is also the only dictionary app I know of which allows you to copy out (to other apps) Pinyin syllables with tone indicators just like you would write by hand, e.g., Hǎo bàng! (好棒,Excellent!), instead of having to write Hao3 bang4!

10/22/12: One possible downside to using tone indicators instead of digits to represent tones is that you would not be able to search for tone-less Pinyin. That is, searching for "hao" would find a note that contained Hao3 bang4!, but it would not find one that contained Hǎo bàng!. Still, in general I would argue that searching directly for the Chinese character (好), even if you need to look it up in a dictionary first, would be better for language learning. This issue is predicated on the idea of notes which contain both Chinese characters and the matching Pinyin, like those I use for vocabulary reinforcement.

  • Adds all 5 visual tone choices as separate buttons to tap above the English keyboard, e.g., a horizontal line for first tone, as people would normally write by hand. I'm used to adding numbers to indicate the tones, but this functionality saves you from switching to the number keys when entering Pinyin.
  • You can copy and paste Pinyin syllables having these visual tone choices.
  • Ads. This app serves me so well that I paid to remove the ads. I don't have an iPhone, so never really thought about how such ads nibble into one's 3G data usage, but that makes sense.

CC-CEDICT DICTIONARY LINGUISTIC ISSUES (which are not iCED's responsibility):
  • 10/16/11: The surname whose Pinyin is is given as 區, and for practical* reasons should perhaps be given only as 歐. Pleco, for instance, has it as 歐, which matches what my native Chinese speaker source expected.
    Neither the 844-page Far East Pinyin Chinese-English Dictionary, published in 2008, nor the 1762-page Far East Chinese-English Dictionary, published in 1992, include 區 with the pronunciation ; in traditional Chinese, 區 is always pronounced qū, and is not a surname.
    The 976-page simplified Chinese The Pinyin Chinese English Dictionary, published in 1991 by The Commercial Press, gives both 区 and 欧 (the simplified Chinese versions) as an surname, but I suspect that 欧 is far more common than 区.

    * It is not possible to wholly map traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese on a one-to-one character basis, although many apps, like iCED, make some attempt to do so, to serve users of either.

In February 2014, I had to restore (three times all told) my 4th generation iPod running iOS 5.1.1 from my 4-day old PC iTunes backup. Although I had a more recent iCloud backup, a couple of my apps are no longer in the App Store, so my understanding is that I must restore from PC iTunes to get them back along with their data.

After that restore, I couldn't load my ABC dictionaries into iCED while following the Murage website instructions, until after I switched to loading the downloaded files into PC iTunes one at a time. That differed from the recommendation to load all the dictionary files at once, which didn't work for me.

Murage support was rather quiescent until March 2014, but I did get things working again, and I am still happily and regularly using iCED.

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