Apps List #3: Apps that Helps Me Learn Chinese (Android)

Time flies and suddenly it’s the end of my first semester of college (goodbye finals week, hello holiday!) As a Chinese Studies student, I, of course, have to learn Chinese, which is a definitely new language to me. Fortunately, I found several apps that have helped me to  learn it.


This should come as no surprise. Ankidroid is the Android port of Anki, an open-source flashcard app that’s very useful memorizing almost anything.

I created a deck in Ankidroid and filled it with new words, sentences, and phrases I’ve learned. I also created my own card layouts so the characters are large in size and is easier to read. The Custom Study deck is particularly useful if I want to learn from a category, like ‘adjectives’. You can also put images and sound files into a card, but it’s pretty hard to do.

If you also have Anki on your computer, I recommend you to create cards using the Chinese Support add-on, which would automatically add pronunciation guide, meaning, and sounds to a card after you add a word on it. Then you can sync them to Ankidroid.


Have you ever seen some Chinese characters and wondered what they meant and how to read them, but found copying-and-pasting them to your dictionary cumbersome? Pinyiner is an app that could answer your problems.

The next time you encountered characters you’ve never seen before, just copy them, and the transliteration will appear on your phone’s notification bar. Open up the app and you can find out what the characters mean by tapping on them. You can also export the text on Pinyiner to text files (hanzi only, pinyin only, or both) and create a word list that you can export to Anki or Pleco.


trainchinese is a Chinese-English/English-Chinese offline dictionary with stroke order animation, measure words (if the word is a noun), usage examples in sentences/phrases, and words lists in many categories like HSK levels, radicals, and interests. To listen to pronunciations, you’ll need to be online. There’s also a flashcard function, but you’ll need to create an account first.

Trainchinese is a freemium app, which needs you to subscribe if you want access to all words lists and create unlimited amount of flashcards, but most of its features are available for free.

Speech syntesis apps (Google Text-to-Speech and Text to Speech)

Speech syntesis (text-to-speech) is a feature I rarely used, but I recently found it quite useful. I needed to memorize a text for class, and I found the idea to use speech syntesis to dictate them so I don’t have to read them.

The problem is, unless you live in China and other Chinese-speaking countries, it’s likely that your phone don’t have the Chinese voice data. The only free option I found is Google’s own Text-to-Speech. It has many languages available for download, including regional accents for several languages, like English and Spanish.

To dictate the text, I used the open-source Type and Speak app, which lets you type/paste text to it and dictate them using the phone’s speech syntesis. You can adjust the speed and pitch, and even save the resulting speech to a .wav file.

Material Player

My Chinese textbook came with a CD that contains recordings of native speakers’ speech, which I would copy to my phone. However, I found out that using a mere music player to listen to them is a frustrating experience.

Although what I have here are not exactly audio books and thus not what Material Player‘s developer had in mind, it’s what I need. First, it will ask you in which folders did you put your audio files in, so it can put a .nomedia file in it, which prevents you from getting an unpleasant surprise the next time you put your music player in shuffle. I often need to repeat some parts of the audio to understand what the speaker is saying, and Material Player does it really well with its forward/backward button.

As I’ve said in the beginning, these apps have helped me learn Chinese, and thus can’t be used by their own. Most of the learning I’ve done is made possible by the great help of textbooks and my teachers. These apps are only tools to make the process easier.

Lastly, happy holidays for everyone who read this blog! I’m still writing on 2016, I promise.



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