As you start learning Chinese, there are several apps I would highly recommend you download on your phone that will help you tremendously. Don’t wait, grab your phone and download them right away!
Pleco is an absolute must-have app for learning Chinese and it deserves a spot on your home screen because I guarantee you’ll be using it a lot. This is a Chinese-English dictionary with so much to offer. The dictionary is completely free and I have found that I use Pleco to look up words many times every day. It will give you not only definitions, but also lists of words containing specific characters, character stroke order, example sentences, and audio pronunciations. I would also highly recommend purchasing the in-app Add-On called Document Reader ($9.99) which will allow you to use a Pleco-based web browser to read Chinese. In this browser, you can simply tap words for a pop-up definition or have your phone read the text aloud. (We’ll discuss sources for reading Chinese on the web in the following post). You can do the same with notes and PDFs on your phone. Another function I have seen a lot of people use is the Flash Card System Add-On ($9.99), but I personally have not tried it. They also offer a bundle of features that includes both of these Add-Ons and more for $29.99.
2. Google Translate
Having Google Translate at your fingertips can be very helpful if a thought pops into your mind and you are wondering how it would be translated into Chinese. Google Translate might not be perfect every time, but it definitely offers very useful insight in these types of situations. Also, Google Translate allows you to input characters by handwriting if you don’t know the pinyin. I’ve found this very useful when reading physical books or embedded subtitles. You can even hold up your phone’s camera and use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to translate the characters on the page! It’s pretty amazing!
Especially if you are starting out self-teaching Chinese, HelloTalk is a very useful app to have. This app allows you to find native speakers who are seeking to do language exchanges. The main purpose is that you can find a partner to practice conversing with. However, I have found it so helpful to have from the very beginning because it has a social media style feed where you can make posts with text and voice recordings that others can reply to. Using this function, you can ask for guidance on your pronunciation or ask others to read out something you’ve written to hear it in a native speaker’s pronunciation. It’s a great way to get quick feedback!
*I have no affiliation with any of the apps discussed in this post.
Next up: Get an Overview of Chinese Grammar