"In the last two months I have learned more using Clavis Sinica than I did in two years of college Chinese."
—Martin Colwell

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Chinese Character Learning Software

Learning Chinese Characters

Learning Chinese characters is the most difficult part of mastering the Chinese language. The Chinese written language, of course, has no alphabet. Instead, each character is an ideographic symbol representing a single, one-syllable word. Characters are combined into compound words of two, three, and sometimes four characters. A student must learn between three and four thousand distinct characters and tens of thousands of compounds in order to read a modern newspaper with any proficiency.

Clavis Sinica is a powerful new software package that makes the task of learning Chinese characters far more efficient, rational, and enjoyable. The program combines a Chinese text reader with an extensive Chinese character dictionary, enabling the student to read and translate any digitized Chinese text with relative ease. Clicking on an unfamiliar character in a Chinese text instantly displays the pinyin pronunciation and meaning of both the character and the compound word in which it is being used. Clicking again brings up additional information about the character, including an analysis of the character into its radical and phonetic parts, stroke count, etymology, usage frequency, and links to lists of other characters using the same radical or phonetic and compounds using the character. The program will also pronounce any Chinese character or compound included in the dictionary and create custom vocabulary lists of characters and compounds learned using the program.

Clavis Sinica Character Learning Features:

  • Built-in Chinese text reader provides instant access to the meaning of any Chinese character and its associated compound in any digitized Chinese text
  • Character information window displays the following information for every character in the database: simplified and traditional character forms, pinyin pronunciation(s) and corresponding English definition(s), radical and phonetic parts, usage frequency, stroke order, stroke count, Xin Hua radical number, and Kangxi radical number. For 500 of the most commonly used characters, a brief etymological note is also provided
  • Radical information window provides a list of all characters using the same radical as a selected character
  • Shared phonetic window provides a list of all characters using the same phonetic as a selected character
  • Compound window lists all compounds and phrases using a selected character.
  • Comprehensive analytic dictionary of more than 25,000 entries includes over 4,000 characters and over 21,000 multi-character compound words, phrases, and idioms
  • Dictionary includes complete vocabulary from ten commonly used textbooks at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels
  • Powerful search functions permit searching the dictionary by character or compound pinyin, radical number, number and/or order of strokes, or English word or phrase
  • Audio functions allow user to hear the pronunciation of characters, words, and phrases in the natural voice of a native speaker.
  • Custom vocabulary lists allow user to keep track of Chinese characters and compounds learned using the program. Lists can be viewed within the program, printed out, drilled with the built-in flashcard tool, or saved for later use.
  • Built-in flashcard tool allows you to drill yourself on groups of radicals, characters, or compounds that you want to learn. You can use the flashcard sets provided with the program, or create your own sets based on unfamiliar characters and words in any Chinese text.