User:Vuara/The best chinese dictionary

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What Character Is That?: An Easy-Access Dictionary of 5,000 Chinese Characters by Authors: Go Ping-Gam Released: November, 1997 Paperback

Sales Rank: 16,352

List price: $19.95 

Our price: $13.97 (You save: $5.98)

Customer Review #1:

What Character Is That? Chinese dictionary by Go Ping-Gam 

This dictionary is a ¡°must¡± for all Americans who want to easily learn to read ,write and speak Chinese. To tour and work in mainland China, I needed a dictionary which would allow me, a non-native speaker, to read Chinese characters on maps, street signs, menus etc. I found all other ¡°Chinese to English¡± dictionaries at bookstores in the USA totally useless to me. Why? They were organized phonetically by Chinese words in alphabetical order. This meant I had to already know Chinese to find out what the character meant! I was a Yale language major many years ago, joined the Foreign Service and taught English in Brazil. Several years ago, at age 64, I returned to my earlier profession and taught English in southern China. With the help of this extraordinary book, I was able to read and write letters in Chinese characters. It also helped me learn to speak Chinese at the basic level in both Mandarin and Cantonese dialects. I am now 66 years old and continue to learn.

Recently I happily married a Chinese woman from Beijing who is only 50 years old. Without Mr.Gos books, I doubt that my new, great happiness in life would be possible.

Customer Review #2:

A Quick, Easy Guide Worth the Money 

I was looking for a dictionary with maximum characters, and I found this one to be a great resource if you can pick out the character radical right away. Its much quicker than my other dictionary, and used in tandem with something like Oxfords Chinese Dictionary, it can cover all the bases of most characters you will encounter. My main need was a book that gave me less common characters used to transliterate foreign names and for characters that I couldnt find in my main dictionary. This book breaks down the radicals so simply that I think it makes them easier to learn as well. If you dont know the radical or cant easily identify it, I found I still needed the Oxford. As for the other reviewers who complained about the printing and the fact that it was self-published, I would recommend this book anyway because it doesnt look bad at all and the information is well worth the purchase.

Customer Review #3:

The Best Chinese Dictionary for an english speaking person. 

I practically collect chinese dictionaries and books and this is the best book on the subject I own. Its the easiest dictionary to use for an english speaking person because its alphabetically arranged around the *english* names of the radicals and words. If I would have to keep only one of my books and dictionaries, I would keep this one and I wouldnt miss a thing.

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Langenscheidt's Pocket Dictionary Chinese/English English/Chinese by Langenscheidt Staff, Langenscheidt Publishers, Langenscheidt Editorial

List Price: $13.95 Price: $11.16 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.

15 used & new from $9.55

Edition: Paperback

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Paperback: ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.02 x 6.14 x 3.90 Publisher: Langenscheidt Publishing Group; Miniature edition (February 15, 2001)

The Perfect Dictionary For China, December 14, 2002 
Reviewer: Matt (see more about me) from Portland, Oregon  

I took a quick course in conversational Chinese. Being a bad student, all I really learned was basic phrases and how to read pinyin. Suddenly I was offered a chance to go to Shanghai for two months to stay with a friend of my Chinese teacher. His friend ran a middle school and wanted an American to talk with the students. I agreed, but between the time I agreed and when I arrived in Shanghai, the agreement changed from talking with the students to teaching four hours of classes a day! Having very bad Chinese skills (almost none), this was a little daunting. I somehow managed to get through teaching 13 year-old Chinese students with only a few years of English training, even while I knew almost no Chinese. There is one main reason I was able to do this: Langenscheidt's Pocket Chinese Dictionary. This book saved me every day, and that is no exaggeration.

The book gives single words, but it also gives common phrases in which that word is used. The radical index is pretty good, though like others have said, it leaves some characters out. Most of the ones I couldn't find were (I discovered) local characters used mostly in the Shanghai area. When I was standing around trying to read signs, I often would consult this book. Since I had a conversation class, I didn't know how to read anything when I arrived. Once I was able to learn how to pick out a radical, though, I was usually able to find out what the word was just by using this dictionary. During class, when I had written an English word on the board and wanted to write the Chinese word, all I had to do was look up the English word in here. You not only will find the Chinese pinyin next to it, but also the character(s) for writing it. When I wanted to find something, I could do the same thing. Even if I didn't say the pinyin right, I could point to the characters in the book, and almost always people would immediately know what it was and would help me get it.

Like others have said, the cover is rubbery, and stands up well to wear and tear. As I accidentally found out, this also means you can cover it with marker writings, or spill coffee and tea on the cover, yet it will wipe away clean.

In the back of the book is a quick number section for dealing with all numbers, big and small. It also shows you the characters for writing numbers on checks, which are different than the characters for the regular use of numbers.

The book also has the Chinese way of saying a lot of useful in-country phrases, like Communist Party, CCTV, People's Republic of China, and other things like that. It has slang and formal words in it, and covers thousands of words. I cannot believe how many things the dictionary has. I was teaching 13 year-olds, and like most kids that age, they wanted to know how to say some rather weird phrases in English. When they would write the Chinese, I could use the radical chart and look it up. Or, if they spoke it, I could find the pinyin using the Chinese side of the dictionary. I still cannot believe how many seemingly random words were in there. I'd say I could find any word (and I mean ANY word) about 95% of the time (one notable lack I found one day: "caravan" - can't have them all I guess). It is amazing.

I have put this book to the test. The sides of the pages are covered in dirt. The blue L on the front is slowly starting to wear off (not surprising after all I put it through). Physically, as well as language-wise, this book is great. I used it every day, flipping through and referencing it nearly non-stop. It has pulled me through every time.

I've never really used another dictionary much, but I've never really had to. This one is great. If you are going to China and need a quick, handy, durable, and travel-friendly dictionary, this is what you want. Believe me, after two intense months of being one of the few English-speakers in a suburb of Shanghai, I know for a fact, this dictionary is good. Get it. You won't be disappointed.

OUTRAGEOUSLY GOOD, August 17, 2002 
Reviewer: A reader from Midwest  

I found this dictionary very help for beginning Mandarin. I thought I once bought a better dictionary but they are almost exactly the same. I reccomend this dictionary to anyone.

Probably The Best, Still Not Ideal., March 5, 2002 
Reviewer: BENJAMIN GEORGE (see more about me) from Richmond, TX United States  

I've been studying Chinese in Suzhou (Jiangsu State) for about 4 months now, and of all the dictionaries I've bought this one has the most China-street-grime on it's pages. It is my everyday dictionary, I use it all the time.

It's layout is nice and clean, no eye straining here, the character lookup uses a nice big font. I LOVE the tough rubber cover, it's nice and rugged.


1: A Traditional character lookup.

2: A Stroke order index for characters with obscure radicals (the ABC Dictionary has this). Many of the very most common characters have very weird radicals.

3: Markings for the different types of Chinese parts of speech, as a previous reviewer also noted, the parts of speech in Chinese are a little different. For example: "tiaowu" means "to dance", but is it's "le" form "tiaowule" or "tiaolewu"? Help us out here folks, just mark it as a splittable verb.

4: Update the vocab. When you wanna say "cell phone" you say "shouji", but that's not the word they give, and in fact if you go to lookup "shouji" it's not there. All in all though this book has the most up to date lexicon of any of the dictionaries that I've seen. And like a previous reviewer said, it has all the words that other prudist editors leave out.

5: More usage notes on the grammer type words, less on the nouns, I don't need usage notes for "banana" or whatever, but i would really like it if they told me how to use "chule" (kinda like "unless" but not exactly)

6: Mark which single character entires can be used alone and which must be used in combo with other characters. But for Pete's sake DON'T get rid of the single character entries, they are invaluble for learning Chinese, even if you can't use them on their own. More single character entries would be better.

7: Do a little more research on the frequency of words, I always end up sounding [bad] cause I use some stodgy word, while the dictionary doesn't even HAVE the common way to say it.

8: Mark written-vs-spoken words. Chinese has a big split in the written and spoken languages.

Hmm, everyday I think of other ways to improve this dictionary, but the fact that I use it everyday tells you something, the other dictionaries sit at home on my shelf.

very good over all but a few things missing, September 4, 2001 
Reviewer: John Williams from Austin, TX USA  

This is the best Chinese dictionary I could find when I shopped around at several local bookstores. It covers simplified Chinese organized first by pinyin romanization and then by tones, which is generally helpful except when looking up multicharacter words because all entires starting with the same character do not always fall together.

The type face is very clear and easy to read and the entries are clearly laid out, presenting all the necessary information (including liberal usage notes) with no frills (such as pronunciation of English words, etc.) It is clearly designed more for English speakers than Chinese speakers. The vocabulary seems up to date (including, for instance, DVD) and also includes all the "dirty" words that prudish editors leave out. The book focuses on words used in mainland China but has a three-page appendix of Taiwanese equivalents of some terms.

I like the small size of this dictionary, and the plastic cover means it's probably durable enough to survive being carried around in a book bag quite a bit. My main gripe is that "Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary" spoiled me--I miss the character etymologies and having multiple indicies for looking up characters, but in practice the single radical index in this dictionary seems to work just as well if not better. I gave this dictionary four stars instead of five because I would have liked some treatment of traditional characters, an appendix listing measure words like in the compact Oxford dictionary, and information about parts of speech that more closely reflects Chinese grammar instead of just the standard English parts of speech.

An excellent little dictionary, July 26, 2001

Reviewer: hbridge from New York, NY USA  

I bought this dictionary a month ago, in preparation for a trip to Beijing. Many people who study chinese are probably familiar with the "little red" chinese dictionary, this one is superior for a number of reasons.

First of all, the size is slightly wider and thinner, which is much less akward to carry around.

Second, it's translations are usually more accurate; Time and time again have I looked a word up in english with other dictionaries, only to be scolded by my chinese teacher when the meaning wasn't quite right - this books example sentences are very... didao.

Also, for someone who speaks less chinese this dictionary is far better because it is orgainized completely alphabetically by pinyin - not by pinyin then leading character. This could be annoying for someone who speaks the language (especially for writing), but for someone new to it, it's a blessing. The organization is the only reason i give it a 4, not a 5.

Langenscheidt is logical, May 8, 2001 
Reviewer: z_simpsoncv (see more about me) from Auburn, Alabama USA  

I use this brand for latin and spanish as well. the dictionaries are laid out very logically and easy to understand.

first half is eng to chinese and the second is chinese to eng. However until you know chinese pronouciation rules for pinyin. it is difficult to actually speak it for chinese people to understand you. How ever if you merely show them the characters that correspond to the word you looked up the people instantly know what you are trying to convey. Some of my friend who went with me on the trip bought dictionaries overthere but they are not as good.


Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary by Rick Harbaugh (Editor)

Paperback: 545 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.10 x 6.90 x 5.01 Publisher:; 1 edition (August 1, 1998) ISBN: 0966075005 Book Description: This dictionary is specially designed to help students understand, appreciate and remember Chinese characters. It has the following features: • Every character entry includes a brief traditional Chinese etymology. • Genealogical charts highlight the connections between characters, showing the creation of more than 4000 characters from less than 200 simple pictographs and ideographs. • Mandarin standards in China and Taiwan are distinguished. • Simplified forms for each character are given. • Character entries list all words which use the character in any position, allowing a word to be found even if the first character is unknown. • English definitions are referenced in an English-Chinese index. • A word pronunciation index allows students to directly search for an overheard word without having to guess the initial character. • A stroke count index lists every character by number of strokes.

About the Author: Rick Harbaugh started the dictionary many years ago while a graduate student in economics at National Taiwan University. He now teaches economics and strategy at the Yale School of Management.

Customer Reviews A great addition to my collection, January 28, 2003 Reviewer: A reader from Seattle, WA USA This book is one of my favorite Christmas presents! I've been interested in Chinese language for a number of years, and particularly in the written language and its history. I'm certain my Chinese friends have gotten tired of my questions: How did this evolve, when did this enter the language, why, etc. Now I own a book that will help me solve some of the puzzles. Very interesting, accurate, and fun to explore.

extremely useful, January 21, 2003 Reviewer: esseyo from Jersey City, NJ United States The traditional way of ordering Chinese characters is so woefully inadequate and antiquated. It is so much easier to find the character you want using this dictionary. The typography is very nice and easy on my eyes.

The online version is a very handy supplement because you can click on any Chinese character in the entry and it will take you there (no more looking in the indices). Additionally the associated etymology tree is right there underneath (not on the next page or 3 pages back). Additionally for each character there is a link to the Cantonese pronunciation (.wav file) as well as various other dictionaries/db.

If you need more words, I suggest complementing this book with the FarEast Books' Chinese-English dictionary (one version in traditional, another in simplied (with traditional characters listed for reference but referred to as "corrupt forms"), and several pocket-size versions (but you shouldn't need to consider those)). It has much more depth than any other Chinese-English dictionaries you normally find.

Fascinating and Unique Approach for a Dictionary, September 2, 2002 Reviewer: professordavid from Zionsville, IN USA Guess I should have gathered that from its title, but my initial mistake was thinking it was a traditional dictionary. I am now in my second year of learning Chinese. Two titles are indispensible, this one and the brief McNaughton one (revised, 1999). I continue to see increasing value in the Harbaugh approach: variable ways to find words and a thoroughly exhaustive entry on a word. As pointed out by other reviewers, entries include permutations of the word you are looking up with other words (in any order). Examining the genealogy helps you remember the character because of its origins, similar to McNaughton (but perhaps not with the humor that McNaughton displays occasionally).

On the down side, definitions don't give many contextual examples, so occasionally you might mis-use a word. This is a problem with any dictionary however, so I'm not sure it's a fair criticism.

Not to labor the point, this book dramatically improves with one's own knowledge of Chinese. It's remakably complete given its size and your ability to actually see the type.

I've used both the paper-edition and the online edition. I think the paper edition is easier to browse.

Now, if he only had an accompanying CD with all the words pronounced, I would be in heaven. But this book is a deal...

Great for searching and mnemonics; NOT accurate on origins, May 2, 2002 Reviewer: Kent Suarez from Taipei Taiwan This a superb book for finding characters you don't know, when you only know one part of them (not necessarily the dictionary classifier, often mis-termed ¡§radical¡¨). It's also great as a mnemonic device, breaking characters down into their parts to help you learn them. The innovative organization into family trees teaches you the graphic relationships between the modern forms of the characters, although the reader should be forewarned that some of these relationships are spurious; they don't necessarily mean the characters originally had any relationship between them.

A caveat is in order: the so-called ¡§etymologies¡¨(explanations of character origins) in it are based on an out-of-date, 2000-year-old book, the Shuowen Jiezi. Some are even misreadings of Shuowen. Harbaugh unfortunately totally ignores the last hundred years' research based on oracle bones (Shang dynasty writings from ca 1300 BCE on turtle shells and livestock scapulae), which gives us a better picture of the true origins of the characters. While this was also a fatal problem with Wieger¡¦s Chinese Characters (and Wilder and Ingram¡¦s Analysis of Chinese Characters, which is a Wieger re-hashing), it is perhaps forgivable for Wieger, who began writing so soon after the oracle bones were found, around the turn of the 20th century. But it is much less forgivable for more recent authors like Harbaugh, and Tan Huay Peng, who did the Fun With Chinese Characters cartoon books (Straits Times Collection).

In fact, decent books on Chinese etymology are virtually non-existent. The best I¡¦ve found are Teresa L. Wu¡¦s out-of-print Origin and Dissemination of Chinese Characters (1990; Caves Books, Taipei ISBN 957-606-002-8; fairly good; if you find a used copy, snap it up!), and Xie Guanghui¡¦s fairly good and in-print Composition of Common Chinese Characters: An Illustrated Account (Peking (sic) University Press; ISBN 7-301-03329-x; 1997). I can't say I agree 100% with the etymologies in Wu and Xie, but they're as good as it gets, in English works. They both have examples of old forms for each character: Wu consistently has the oracle bone, bronze, seal, and clerical forms (hand-copied), while Xie tends to list fewer (but in facsimile).

No disparagement of Harbaugh is intended; his work fulfills admirably its goal as a tool for non-scholarly, graphically based character searches, and the etymologies in it are mnemonically useful. But it most definitely should NOT be

relied on or trusted as a real reference on etymology.

Find a character with ease, March 15, 2002 Reviewer: solidoak from Pennsylvania & Taiwan What a cleverly designed book! • Search by pinyin (romanization) • Search by bopomofo (zhuyinfuhao) • Search the English word list • Search by THE PART OF THE CHARACTER YOU RECOGNIZE (doesn't have to be the radical) • Or, ok, search by stroke or radical • Another way to search, not mentioned in other reviews or even in the intro to the book itself: search by looking for a character that goes with the target character (i.e. I have no idea what this character is, but I just saw it printed right after the word for water. Fine, I'll just look up water, and there's my mystery character). And the definitions show plenty of combinations as well. After all, what is a zi (character) by itself?

With this book, you will not be squinting through row after row of tiny characters as with, say, the Far East brand dictionary. You can find a word or combination in seconds, I promise.

Focuses on "traditional" characters, as used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc, the same characters that have been used for the last 2000 years. Also, includes simplified form in brackets, which have been used in Mainland China for 50 years.

If you don't care about written Chinese, and you just want to look up what you hear, then John DeFrancis' ABC Dictionary is surely the book for you. (It has simplified characters searchable by pinyin combinations).

If you love Chinese writing, and long to look up every word you see, but are tired of asking your friend to explain it to you, then this book, 'Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary by Rick Harbaugh' is perfect.

One thing on the website which is missing from the book: reference numbers linking the character to Wieger's etymology, which (correctly or not) attempts to further explain a character's origins with samples of gu-wen (ancient writing).

Notice that this book currently takes 1-2 weeks to ship.

The best Chinese dictionary I've met so far!, February 16, 2002 Reviewer: sema I do not speak Chinese, just use this book to read the legends on old money which I collect. It's also helpful when I have to read the coin catalogs in Chinese. Though I have some other dictionaries, this one is the best.

Easy to use even for a person who does not know Chinese!

This dictionary is great organized for searching the traditional characters, but it also gives simplified form for these characters.

Useful in some respects, February 7, 2002 Reviewer: mizhi from Easton, PA United States

I bought this book when I began studying the Chinese language and after I had become acquainted with the author's excellent website. Unfortunately, this book is mostly useful for students learning the traditional character set. It does include the simplified versions of characters; however, the layout and organization are heavily biased towards the traditional way of writing the characters. For those students who are learning the simplified way of writing characters (the set used by mainland China), I recommend the Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary by Oxford University Press that can be found elseware on amazon.

zhong wen zi pu, December 13, 2001 Reviewer: beiyiyang from USA

This book is the most consisce ans efficent Chinese dictionary out there. due to it's layout it is perfect for memorizing characters, their roots, and meanings.

Most useful dictionary for a foreign student of Chinese, November 27, 2001 Reviewer: Christina Ng Bergstrom from New Orleans, LA United States This dictionary is compact, so it is easy to carry in a bookbag or while travelling. But perhaps the most important part is that it is extremely easy to use. There are indexes to search for words via radicals, the bopomofo alphabet, total stroke number, pinyin, and english. Moreover, the dictionary is organized "etymologically", that is, characters with similar stems are located together. For example, (if you're a student you may know these words) cheng-to become, cheng-honesty, cheng-city all have a common stem. They are all on the same page. I found this vastly interesting in terms of learning how characters were formed (each definition contains a brief etymological description). Additionally, by viewing easily mistakable words in this context I was better able to distinguish them later, and this process has given me a better understanding of the written language.

The particular organization of this dictionary also speeds up the process of finding words that I don't know. For example, say I didn't know the word cheng-honesty, but i recognize that it resembles cheng-to become. I can look up cheng-to become phonetically, find it in the dictionary and voila there is cheng-honesty. For someone unaccustomed to the seemingly impossible practice of searching via radicals, this method is extremely useful. I

took this dictionary with me when I travelled in Asia. I highly recommend it.

i planned to use it as a dictionary, November 8, 2001 Reviewer: Tom Anderson from Stamford, CT United States but there are others that are better for that purpose