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Old 03-26-2010, 01:24 AM   #16
LDBoblo
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LDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcoverLDBoblo exercises by bench pressing the entire Harry Potter series in hardcover
 
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Originally Posted by HansTWN View Post
Actually, in Mandarin the tones are not that much of a problem, since people will still understand what you mean as long as you speak in whole sentences, even if you get it wrong sometimes. Knowing the written language helps, of course, since you could explain which character it is supposed to be.

LDBoblo's suggestion of reading on a computer and using DrEye (have seen people use it at work many years ago) is very good. You just hover over a word with your mouse and translation and pronunciation appear. Since that little program is from Taiwan, I don't know if it works with Simplified, though. And the Romanization may not have been PinYin. But I am sure the Chinese have developed similar programs.
Lingoes is a cool little free program that is almost as good as DrEye in function, has a relatively small footprint, and has pretty good support for simplified Chinese. Sadly, some of the host links for their traditional Chinese dictionaries are unreachable for me, thouth they can be found elsewhere mostly. StarDict is much the same and might have even more/better dictionaries supporting it, and works well on Linux (admittedly better on Linux than on Windows as it uses GTK+, though I've seen a portable version that kept it all self-contained). For traditional Chinese, I don't think they're quite as good or comprehensive as DrEye, but they're pretty good. I keep the portable version of Lingoes on a USB stick and find it can be handy from time to time with a few dictionaries in it.

While they are useful language aids and can be used effectively to study, they're really designed more for productivity and convenience. In my experience, the mental investment in phrases, words, and grammar using super-convenient dictionaries is minimal, and retention is exceptionally low. They also bypass many of the larger language structures in favor of vocabulary (since that's the function of the programs), which is a bit of a pitfall for way too many learners of many languages.

I also agree that tones aren't too hard. For many students of the spoken language, the trickiest things are slang and idiomatic expressions (which are generally just memorized and only rarely logically discerned on the fly) and alternative pronunciations for characters that don't always appear in dictionaries (A simple and common example is "dice" which dictionaries will almost invariably list as 骰子 [tóuzi], but which a huge number of people call [shǎizi] which comes from a dialect reading of 色子 apparently. Use of "proper" Mandarin pronunciation will confuse a surprising number of native Mandarin speakers, especially in the south and in Taiwan). It's all doable, but those things are trickier to learn independently. Tones, tonal sandhi, the u|ü distinction, and the retroflex sounds seem to be hardest to many beginners, but among intermediate/advanced students, the problem quickly goes away. It doesn't mean they do it correctly, it just means they don't recognize it as a huge obstacle to learning anymore, and they have other problems to worry about.

Phew, sorry for the rant.
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:55 AM   #17
petechan
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BTW, regarding my comment on Plecodict.

You can input both by pinyin or handwriting. I just mentioned the latter since pinyin for me is slower to enter on PDA, and I don't text on my phone so am not good at it. Handwriting recognizes both traditional and simplified script. Output is in both also.

They have Chinese to English and English to Chinese dictionaries all of which exist in published book form. Their ABC Chinese to English by DeFrancis is excellent in my opinion. Includes slang and variant pronunciations and colloquialisms. The have text to speech pronunciation and flashcards capability also.

Sorry about my enthusiasm for the product, I don't work for them. Years of slugging through dictionaries almost killed my desire to learn Chinese, and wish I had found their product sooner.
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