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The Wenlin Computerized Chinese - English Dictionary



If you have any need to translate from English to Chinese or from Chinese to English,  get this program
It's fantastic.

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. 

Note the instant lookup area here.

Going up to the Dictionary menu gives you this dropdown.....


Click on Look up word... and you get this Wenlin dialog box,  with your cursor in place and ready to go.

So let's type in the word "dog".





Because my screen shots don't show you my cursor,  you can't tell that my cursor is hovering over the word I just typed in.  This is called a "mouse over".


That's all it takes to get us a translation of "dog" into Chinese.  It's down in the Instant Lookup window at the bottom of this page.






That Instant Lookup window is a big reason why I love this program.  Simply mouse over any word,  in English or any Chinese character,  and you get an instant translation in that window.

Click Okay on the Wenlin dialog box and you will get the same screen I'm going to get to by going through a search for the Chinese character.

But first,  let's find the Chinese character for the pinyin word gŏu.


This comes in really handy if,  for example,  you knew the pinyin for the word "dog" was gou,  but you didn't know the tone or Chinese character.

Type "gou" in the Wenlin dialog box, then click on Convert.  The program converts the pinyin into Chinese characters,  and brings up a list of all 32 character which have "gou" as their pinyin.

Simply mouse over each character on the list until you find the one that means "dog" and now you know the correct character for "dog",  "gŏu" in Chinese.

Again,  you can't see my cursor in these screen shots,  but I'm mousing over the first character in the list and it's meaning is being displayed in the Instant Lookup window.

Mousing over to number 3 would give me the one I'm looking for,  the one that means "dog".

Once you have found the character you want,  click on OK on the Wenlin dialog box, which puts that character down into the main screen,  along with all the essential information about that character. 

It's Chinese sinogram is shown as a nice big clear graphic.

Next are the radicals that make up the character and the meaning or function of each radical.

The strokes and stroke order.

And a number of fantastically useful lists such as: characters containing the word as a component,  and words made up of gou in combination with another character.

By the way,  you would get this same screen simply by typing in the English word "dog" and clicking Okay.

But wait,  there's more....

Clicking on the stroke arrow on that list will bring up this box,  with the character displayed stroke by stroke,  as fast or as slow as you want to see it.

This is really beautiful,  easy to find and easy to use.



Clicking these buttons takes you through the strokes one by one.  It's all very intuitive. 



Let's look up a slightly more complicated word,  the one that the CD-628pro translator totally bombed on.  Let's try to find the Chinese for the word "helicopter".

 Back to the dictionary drop down,  select Look up a word,  and type "helicopter" in the Dialog box.

Again,  though you can't see my cursor on this screen shot,  I'm doing a mouse over of the word I've just entered and the translation of "helicopter" is already showing up in the Instant Lookup box at the bottom of the page.

There it is,  Chinese simplified characters,  Chinese traditional (unsimplified characters used in Taiwan,  Hong Kong and Vancouver) and the pinyin with the tones.

The program even has an option to show the unsimplified characters first, for those who are learning the traditional character set.

Let's click Okay now and see what happens.

Well,  that didn't give me anything more than I had from the Instant Lookup window.

You'll notice that the screen for "dog",  "gŏu", is still up.  It's being overlapped by the new screen for "helicopter",  and it's going to stick around until I click the X to close that screen.  This can be tiny bit annoying until you get used to it.  But once you catch on to going from screen to screen,  it's great because it gives you all the words you've been looking at and working with until you decide to get rid of them.

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 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:

Next lets click on our favourite list:  A. Radicals by stroke count.

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 yu (Learning to See Chinese Characters Part 1),  moon.  So we will click on the yu radical to give us this screen....

Scroll down to get the list of characters with yu as a component.

Open that list and scroll down until we find our character.  It's not all that difficult to find.

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 hand writing screen is intuitive and easy to use.


Clicking OK on the Handwriting screen gives you a list of all the characters that might resemble what you were trying to write.  The character you want is usually on the list.

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.

Bottom Line: 

Great program.  The best we've seen.  If you are using a computer AND a "dead tree" Chinese-English dictionary,  buy this program. 

You won't regret the purchase.


*Note:  the version of Wenlin we have is 3.0  I see they are up to 3.4 now. 


Reviewed by David James Scott,
aka Zale R. Dalen,
aka 大大卫
aka The Man in China


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