During my quest to learn a new language, I came across Duolingo. The nifty app+website does a great job of introducing learners t o a new language through practice and repetition. Though it is clear that Duo is not a comprehensive single source for learning a language, the amount of material it provides, as well as the quick and easy-to-browse interface make it a powerful tool in one’s language practice arsenal. That being said, I was a bit disappointed that there was no Chinese course yet, since I wanted to have a nice phone app that would allow me to practice my Chinese on-the-go. EDIT: Since first writing this post in my previous blog, Duolingo has come out with a Chinese course, which I haven’t tried yet.
I searched through several apps and came across some that were helpful and others that were pretty bad. Most of them had a “flash-card” interface in which the user is forced to practice individual words alone. However, I was looking for something that would help me practice complete sentences (both reading and writing them down) as well as listening comprehension. So, I came across ChineseSkill.
Now, I haven’t used this gadget long enough to write an in-depth review about it, so for today, I’ll only write about my first impressions using the app (basically, what I got from it after only one day of using it).
The interface looks a lot like Duolingo’s, which was good in that it was simple and easy-to-follow, and I personally like the colorful style of both apps. The content is mostly divided by topics and each topic has from two to five levels. Again, similar to Duolingo’s style. I walked through a few of the topic bubbles to get a feel of how the practice exercises were presented.
The practice exercises consist of different types of questions. Here’s what I managed to see my first day:
- A slide that gives an English word and asks to select the corresponding Chinese word (with pictures) out of four options.
- A slide that shows the correct order for writing a character and then asks the user to “write” it down. It also provides arrow keys to guide the user.
- A slide that gives a sentence (in Chinese) with a blank and the user has to select the appropriate word out of four options. The full sentence (including the answer) is read aloud by the app.
- A slide that gives a sentence in English and asks the user to translate it to Chinese, selecting the appropriate Chinese words from a word box. The full sentence (in Chinese) is read aloud by the app.
- A slide that gives a Chinese word and asks the user to write down the English translation.
- A slide that gives an English word and asks the user to write down the Chinese translation (it accepts the following formats: ni3hao3, Nǐ hǎo， 你好)
- A slide that gives a Chinese sentence and asks the user to translate it to English.
- A slide that gives an English sentence and asks the user to translate it to Chinese (again, accepting any of the three formats mentioned above). The full sentence (in Chinese) is read aloud by the app.
In general, what I liked about this app was the repetition-style of its exercises. Within a single lesson, the user has to go through a sentence several times, and with doing different things every time (sometimes translating from Chinese, translating to Chinese, writing with Chinese characters/pinyin, multiple choice, etc). I liked that the style was very similar to Duolingo.
As a First Impression, I’m really happy with this little app. It seems to be a good tool to start diving in to the Chinese language.
First week update:
What I didn’t like so far is that there doesn’t seem to be any measure of “strength” of words, as in Duo. For example, in Duolingo, after spending some time without practicing certain words or lessons, you see the “strength” bar for the particular lesson diminish. In the case of ChineseSkill, it’s up to you (the user) to decide when to go back to a lesson or repeat it. And so far, the lessons seem to be exactly the same, even when you repeat it.