Certainly one of the handiest dictionary tools for Chinese is Kingsoft’s Powerword – Jinshan Ciba (金山词霸). It’s an incredibly useful but very unfortunate piece of software. The way it works is that when you turn it on, all you have to do it hover your cursor over a word (or alternately hover and press an activation key, like Control), and up will pop a window, giving you a few options for translation. It works from Chinese into English or English into Chinese. It handles words, single characters, pulls from many dictionaries (see after the jump for a list), and even offers an audio pronunciation.
So, why do we call it a ‘unfortunate’ piece of software? Well, follow us beyond the jump for the downside.
There really are only two main problems, but they are doosies:
- You can’t have it. The most frustrating thing is that if you live outside the PRC, it’s going to be really hard to buy. See, they built this really wonderful online purchase/download system, but they only accept credit cards from mainland banks. Oh, they also accept some kind of Kingsoft Kash which I am going to buy into. Here’s a quick tip to the Kingsoft folks – There are people who would gladly pay for your software. I would love to buy this, but I can’t. So I won’t.
- What did you call me? Finally, and most tragically, there are major problems with some of the definitions provided by Powerword, especially with common words. You really need to have a basic understanding of the words you are looking up lest you make a very tragic mistake. For example, looking up the word 女人, you might expect the first option to be “woman.” Well, let’s see what we get:
Bimbo? Tit? Cummer?! I only wish I were joking.
So, it’s only a tool, and a very imperfect one at that. Don’t rely on it for important translations, but it’s a great option for reading online documents or scanning a text that you might want a good long look at later. I really do like Powerword a lot, and I might use it a lot for reference when I translate, but I fear for the poor sap that’s going to translate some important Chinese documents into English and run into er… ‘woman’ trouble.
Oh, yeah, Windows only – sorry Jobbites.
Some dictionaries that Powerword offers: