Posted by: manchucka | May 11, 2008

NCIKU: More than a dictionary

Now this is a dictionary. With an active community, customization, and most important, rounded corners, nciku is thoroughly web 2.0. But is it any good behind the nice window-dressing? Yes. See below for a visual walkthrough of some of its features.

  • The site revolves around the search box, which comes complete with timely suggestions (screenshot taken on Mother’s Day):

  • Below the search box you will find a sample conversation:

Mom, you finally came back!

  • Perfect for when your mom has been out boozing it up with her conspirators.
  • Searching will activate an auto-complete feature. See our sample search for chī 吃 (to eat):

  • Let’s follow the second auto-complete suggestion, 吃白食:

  • Or we can forgo the suggestions and choose our own phrase, 吃辣:

  • Let’s try the handwriting recognition feature. It is prominently displayed to the right of the search box:

  • Like the previously-mentioned program DimSum, the handwriting recognition function updates its search results as you add more strokes:

  • As we add more strokes, the results update in real time:

  • Reader will have to wait for another day to learn how to write characters as well as I do. Clicking on the desired character will place it in the search box, and you can search as normal from there. Let’s look at a portion of the results:

  • As you can see, results are given in both English and Chinese. Pinyin readings appear over Chinese characters with a simple mouse-over:

  • This is a good time to mention that the site is fully bi-directional, and you can change the layout from English to Chinese:

  • Another nice feature is a set of commonly-asked questions about confusables, such as 几 vs. 多少, 两 vs. 二, and the like.

  • Finally, let’s look at one of the most useful parts of the site, the forums. As you can see below, this is a treasure-trove of questions and answers to many of the more subtle issues related to learning Chinese:

  • At the time of this post, the forums seem equally travelled by Chinese and English speakers, so there is plenty of information to swap. Also check out their own walkthrough here.
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