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WP8 and Windows RT apps for learning Chinese


jbradfor

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I thought it would be useful to put together a thread for apps (or ideas in general) for studying or using Chinese for WP8 (Windows Phone 8.x) and Windows RT (the ARM-based version of windows).  This is assuming your phone/tablet is not localized to Chinese.

If you have additional information, please post!

 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I do have "some amount" of professional relationship with Microsoft, but I have no non-public information regarding Microsoft's OS products, phones, or tablets.  And of course I do not speak for Microsoft, these are my personal opinions.

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Enabling Chinese input.

 

Both WP8 and Windows RT can be configured to support pinyin-based IME for simplified Chinese and handwriting recognition.  I have not found a good pinyin-based IME for traditional Chinese.  There are some non-pinyin-based IME listed, but I do not know how to use any of them, so I cannot comment.

 

WP8:

 

Settings -> Keyboard -> add keyboards.   Add the ones you want, note that "Chinese Simplified QWERTY" is pinyin based; really stupid name, as if you used a non QWERTY keyboard I bet it would work just fine!

 

If you add the handwriting keyboards, I suggest you change the recognition time to the longest available.  I still find it somewhat challenging to write it fast enough, especially for characters I don't know (which is usually why I'm writing them....), but at least you have a chance.

 

 

Windows RT:

 

Swipe in from the right, touch Settings -> change PC settings -> Time and Language -> Region and Language -> Add a language.  I selected 中文(中华人民共和国).

 

The only tricky part is to enable handwriting recognition, once you enable Chinese, you need to touch 中文(中华人民共和国) -> Options and then download the language pack.

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Viewing Chinese web sites

 

Overall I found viewing Chinese in websites to be excellently rendered right out the box, no need to install / change fonts or any setting.

 

Since I usually view Chinese larger than English (wonder why....), I usually zoom in when I read Chinese.  If you use the standard pinch-expand gesture to zoom in, it will zoom in fine, but it won't reflow the text to all appear on your screen, so you will constantly need to pan.  To avoid this, you want to change the zoom setting inside IE.  From within IE, swipe in from the right, touch Settings -> Options, and then you can change the zoom.

 

To use chinese-forums.com on a tablet, make sure to scroll to the bottom and touch Change Theme -> Mobile.  The default one is pretty hard to use.

 

I have not found any pop-up dictionary for IE under Windows RT.

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Dictionaries and Translators

 

WP8:

 

There is a good dictionary app called, appropriately enough, "Chinese Dictionary".  In fact, there are many apps called "Chinese Dictionary".  The one I use is also called "Kuaishuo" and is by "Larry Knibb"; the icon is the PRC flag.  I believe it is based on CEDICT (from mdbg.net).  It provides a nice searching feature with cross reference, etc.  It's also free, and has no ads.

 

Looking at the store there are many other dictionary apps, but I haven't tried them as this one does all I need.  Although I'd rather not have the PRC flag on my start screen.

 

 

Windows RT:

 

There is one called "sidebar"; on-line only is free, off-line is paid.  Thus far I don't really like it, but I currently do use it when viewing web pages as it snaps to a thin part of the screen very well, and I haven't spent the time to find anything better.  I mainly don't like it as when searching for a Chinese character, it seems to use an English -> Chinese dictionary and show all English words whose meaning in Chinese contains that character.  No way to then click on certain characters to find all words with that character, etc.  I also can't figure out how to make the text bigger, it's too small for me.

 

 

Translators:

 

Bing Translate.   'nuff said.  I've tried it for the camera based Chinese OCR, and thus far it's been an epic fail (especially on handwriting, where I need the most help), but beyond that it's not bad.

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Next up: flashcard programs for WP8.  I took a look about a year ago, and there weren't very many, and the ones I found were HORRIBLE.  Just looked again, and there are a lot more to pick from.  I'm guessing most are still horrible, but maybe I can find one that is at least acceptable.

 

Very much hoping someone has some suggestions....

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Windows Phone:

 

321 Chinese is an app that downloads podcasts (Popup Chinese free content by default, but I have successfully added my ChinesePod subscription).  You can view the transcript and also dictionary definitions for all the vocab inside the app.  

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Yes, the Metro/Windows 8 app store hasn't really caught fire, to no one's surprise except a couple of people within Microsoft.  I'm hoping the rumored merging of the WP8 / Windows RT API and app store will help this.  I'm also really really hoping the port of VLC will be done soon!  In Windows RT's defense, it does have over 100,000 apps, and comes with a fully compatible (but limited functionality) Office Suite.  Personally, for how I use a tablet, I'll take a fully compatible Office, USB ports, and a real filesystem (with CIFS support built-in) over iOS or Android, but that probably speaks more about me and I'm not saying it's the right choice for everyone.

 

tysond, thanks for that, I gave it a try and it looks good.  I've been wanting to find an easy way to listen to podcasts on my phone while exercising, and this looks pretty nice.

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Alas, it's currently only available for x86-based Windows 8.0 and 8.1: "is compiled for Intel x86 CPUs: Windows RT version will follow as soon as we are able to compile it."   I'm hoping for the version for Windows RT and Windows Phone (ARM based).

 

What they have shown there looks pretty amazing though.

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Windows Phone - Tip Tap Tones - practice tone (and sound) recognition on the phone.  

 

Progressively more difficult tones and sounds are given, you need to select the right one and the right sound.

It's timed and you are penalized for mistakes, so you are in a rush against the clock.

As you get better, you are presented with tricky sounds like Shan/Shang or Qie/Jie or Wan/Wang/An/Ang and need to pick the correct tone as well (so 16 choices).  

 

Then you get stats that show you which tones you mix up - I have trouble with misidentifying 3rd as 2nd.

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