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The Wenlin Computerized Chinese - English Dictionary
The Wenlin site warns that their software is better for English speakers than for Chinese. I find it hard to believe that it wouldn't be very valuable for a Chinese speaker as well. In fact it was a Chinese speaker who gave us this program.
It took us a while to turn on to the Wenlin program. It sat for months in my computer unused and neglected. Then Ruth started to use it to help find Chinese characters by radical strokes, and gradually discovered its virtues. Both of us now use it daily, if not hourly. I'm going to try to explain why.
First of all, looking up a word is so incredibly simple. Here's the opening screen. Options let you change the colour, and Ruth has it set for amber, which she finds easier on the eyes.
<![if !vml]><![endif]>Note the instant lookup area here.
Going up to the Dictionary menu gives you this dropdown.....
But wait, there's more....
You might also notice that there is nothing in the Instant Lookup window. This is because I wasn't mousing over anything when I took the screen shot. Clicking the mouse on the Chinese character for fēi 飞 gives me the screen below.
And now you see where the Wenlin software takes you if you want to go there. Each character gets a complete treatment, from radical analysis to historical etymology. (I could have done this for "dog". but I just wanted to concentrate at that point on showing the features of the program, starting with the most important and working toward the more arcane.) But if you are really into learning Chinese, and want a program that will serve many purposes, Wenlin gets even better....
Looking Up an Unknown Character - the "Tiger in the Path"
What about that "tiger in the path". The complicated character you meet and have no idea what it means or how to figure it out. This is another area where Wenlin really shines.
Let's say we just bumped into this character, and we don't have a clue what it means....
Start at the list menu at the top of the screen:
<![if !vml]><![endif]>Next lets click on our favourite list: A. Radicals by stroke count.
<![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]>We'll start by looking for the radical at the bottom of our character, and it has four strokes, so there it is. Actually, it's our old friend yuè (Learning to See Chinese Characters Part 1), moon. So we will click on the yuè radical to give us this screen....
<![if !vml]><![endif]>Scroll down to get the list of characters with 月 yuè as a component.
Open that list and scroll down until we find our character. It's not all that difficult to find.
<![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]>
Trying to appreciate this program by looking these screen shots is going to be really difficult. You need to get hands on, play with it, and see its potential. I'm going to show you one last feature, the least important from our point of view but a nice addition for those times when you have a fairly simple character to find. It's the handwriting recognition screen, accessed by clicking on the pen icon.
The program also has a pronunciation function (the kou "mouth" icon) that gives a clear pronunciation of the Chinese words. I don't use it much, but I might in the future. In addition there is a flash card function we haven't investigated yet.
And there are still more features in the Wenlin program I have yet to discover. For example, I didn't think I could cut and paste from the program into a Word document, but Ruth has just informed me that you just use the I-beam tool to select what you want and there's no problem.
You can learn all about the features of the program by going to the Wenlin site.
*Note: the version of Wenlin we have is 3.0 I see they are up to 3.4 now.
Reviewed by David James Scott,