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new PDA and Chinese dictionary software - Frances Bea
new PDA and Chinese dictionary software

I've never had or used a PDA before, but this Chinese-English learning/dictionary software convinced me. I have a Chinese-English dictionary that I really love: ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary. It doesn't have an English-Chinese section, only the Chinese-English.

PlecoDict can make this dictionary, some other very solid C/E and E/C dictionaries, and some excellent Chinese study tools, all available in a software suite that runs on a Palm OS or Microsoft PocketPC PDA. The total weight of all dictionaries: less than half a pound.

Dell Axim X51v
I started looking for a PDA with a high resolution display so I could make out very complex characters on a very small screen. I settled on this one - the Dell Axim X51v. It has a relatively large screen, expandable memory, and enough power to run everything I hoped to run. It isn't a phone. The phones that I looked at cost significantly more and had smaller screens. It does have built in WiFi for internet access, Bluetooth for peripherals (theoretically), and is essentially a little computer the size of my hand.

I've been told on good authority that I have small, feminine hands, but next to this little thing they don't look very small. (I will admit that my grandmother's word does not constitute an unbiased judgement of my alleged beauty.)

I've loaded PlecoDict, and have been extremely impressed. See on the right the search screen. I entered a search for a word containing both Chinese characters and phonetic spelling. On the bottom are my search results and in the middle the dictionary entry for the selected word in my search results. (Click on the image to see it better!)

When I see characters I don't recognize the Chinese handwriting recognition can usually identify them if I copy them onto the screen (see left). In the picture, the first (left-most) character along the top is the correct interpretation of the character I drew in the larger box.

There's a nice flashcard system that can take a set of characters and/or words, and alter their frequency over time to present words less often that the user has identified correctly more often. I've played with this feature a little, but not enough to really swear by it. It certainly looks pretty darn cool.

I've been trying out some of the other things the PDA is capable of. I have loaded some electronic books to it so that I can read them in a comfortable chair or curled up in bed without being tied to a computer or using a tremendous amount of paper.

I've been playing some computer games. I've been listening to mp3 audio of my Chinese lessons. I've loaded slide shows of personal photos to the device. I've loaded portions of my personal address book to it and synced the result up with my PC (only portions because I haven't typed it all in yet). And, since I have the PDA with my most of the time, I make important notes and to-do lists on it, which is a system completely superior to my old system of making notes on any handy piece of paper or post-it and then promptly losing said note.

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