Arts & CultureCultural Affairs

Dat App: Pleco

Android, iOS

Step aside Merriam-Webster, the old days of the basic paper lexicon are over. Now, the dictionary lives in the digital world.

Pleco is an app that includes an entire dictionary on your phone, all without looking like it was made to be displayed in the late ’90s. It’s pleasantly laid out, fitting a fair amount of information on a smartphone’s small screen without feeling monotonous or cluttered. But that’s note even the best part. Because Pleco isn’t just a regular dictionary, it’s a Chinese-English dictionary.

“But wait,” I can already hear you say, “Chinese is so complex! How do I even type it on my phone?” Fear not, reader, Pleco thought of that well before hand. Within the app, there are three different ways to input characters. There’s the traditional roman keyboard, where you simply type how the character sounds in Mandarin, and popular characters that sound like it will appear. One could also use the pinyin input style keyboard within the app where the pinyin is entered, and characters appear within the keyboard. You then choose the characters you wish to formally type. They even include an old-school list of radicals organized by stroke counts, where you find the character by how it’s written.

Something particularly spectacular about Pleco is how it automatically detects what language is in the entry field, without the need for a switch of some sort. Even if you type exclusively in roman characters, it will always accurately decide if the language is Chinese or English.

But what might truly be the master-stroke for Pleco, is that the entire dictionary is stored on your phone, without any sort of internet connection needed after the app is downloaded. Definitions, pronunciations, color coded characters to match meanings, it’s all there in the small space of 83.5 megabytes.

So, whether you’re learning Chinese, moving to Singapore, or calling out your “culturally aware” friend for appropriating a language incorrectly in their next tattoo, Pleco will always be there for you.

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