To know me is to know I love my iPhone. I was quite late to the game (I got my first iPhone 6 months ago), but I’ve been an iPod owner for the past couple of years. I originally bought the iPod touch for the dictionary app. About 2 and a half years ago I got to the point in Chinese class where not having a dictionary was really slowing me down. I was going to buy an electronic dictionary (in which you could write the characters with a stylus) but they were almost as expensive as an iPod touch and had only one feature, so it would be stupid not to just go for it.
To say my life has changed because of my phone is not an understatement. I have met countless people because of it, stay in touch with my friends on a regular basis, learn gobs of chinese, and even keep up with The Daily Show. (And for the record, I only have a few kinda boring games on my iPhone because I don’t need the temptation.)
I started with the chinese dictionary app, but these days there are several apps that have become vital to my life in China. I’ve been wanting to add some more resources to this blog, so I thought apps is a good place to start. Because there are so many, I decided to break it up into several categories. Today’s post is about the apps that are most helpful to life in China.
Unless otherwise noted all these apps are free (because I’m very, very cheap).
Living in China:
Weixin (english version is called ‘we chat.’)
I’ve talked about it before, but really, this is the app that has changed my life the most. I would say my life is 40% different than it would be without it. And this isn’t just a “Becky thing.” When I was in Kunming a Columbian saw me using weixin and shouted out, “You use Weixin?! That app has changed my life!!!”
It’s a free chat app (in which you can send audio or video messages too) but it also has a great “look around” feature in which you can see all the people in your area who are also using weixin and want to meet new people. So not only can you keep up with your friends (and students) but meet new people.
To give you an example yesterday I chatted with my best friend in southern China, comforted a student at my school, talked to a former student who is in Scotland, texted with a guy from Shanghai who I only met a few times but we have become “besties” through all our chatting, hung out all night with a local chinese guy (who I met on Weixin) and later I chatted with my Kunming friends (one in Shanghai, two others in different parts of America. On Weixin you can do multi-people chats.)
Not only has my social life improved by leaps and bounds, but so has my chinese. About 50% of my chatting is done entirely in Chinese.
I’ll be honest, this app sucks. The translations turn out to be crazy weird most of the time. For instance it once translated a sentence to, “Your technology is not ye drops,” when the real meaning was “your technique is only so-so.” But when you are chatting with a chinese person, and you get a big block of text, this can be a real life saver in understanding.
On the learning Chinese community, the go-to dictionary app is the Pleco app so I’m going rouge recommending another. Pleco has a ton of add-ons that I’ve heard are great (like a flash card app my classmates in Kunming used and loved). But I’m cheap, so I only use free apps, and therefore only have their dictionary. But for some reason, I prefer the Dianhua dictionary (also free of course.) The Pleco dictionary has a ton of features, and when I first downloaded it I got confused. So I used the Dianhua dictionary and have been happy with it.
This app is a huge time saver. It lists every train, at every station, in all of China. (In english.) You can not only see the times and the route, but price and seat availability. Even when I had just a iPod this app came in handy quite a bit. It saves waiting in the long train station lines only be told your destination is sold out. They have also added planes and hotel reservations, but I haven’t used that so I can’t comment on it.
Come back in a few days because I’ve got some more apps to recommend both for learning Chinese and non-china specific apps to make your life in China easier. Do you have a Chinese app that you absolutely love? Tell me about in the comments!