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Using Pleco as Your Guide to Daily Life in China

The Pleco app serves as a dictionary for the Chinese learner allowing them to search by pinyin, or by radical. While the dictionary part of the app is free, it also has plenty of add-ons you can pay for such as an optical character recognizer and a full-screen handwriting function.


Thumbs Up:

– Quick to use in the middle of conversation
– Multiple different uses of words covered
– Example sentences provided
– Provides details on each character such as radicals/frequency of use
– Let you demo the add-ons before you buy it
– Let you see simplified and traditional versions of characters

Thumbs down:

– Add-ons are very expensive ($15 for both the recognizer and full-screen handwriting)
– Doesn’t help with speaking – there is no audio option to hear how words/sentences are said.


1– The brilliance of this app is that it is a quick way to keep conversations moving because as a dictionary, it functions brilliantly. You just type the pinyin at the top and get a lot of possible options for the words you are looking for.

– Therefore, the app is crafted specifically with the basic understanding that the English learner still thinks in pinyin, and allows you to search even with an imperfect knowledge of tones. As long as you have a good ear for initials and finals, you can search things upon hearing them.

– Problems arise however, when you want to search a character that you see in print. While the app does have many add-ons such as a recognizer and a handwriting function, these are both $15 each. While this might be a small expense in the long run, it does make the user wonder if it`s better to study harder rather than be so dependent on the app. Nevertheless, Pleco does realize that it would be hard for anyone to dish out the cash purely on faith. Therefore, it allows you to demo all of its add-ons. Furthermore, the big list of add-ons demonstrates that with unlimited funds, this app can provide one with everything they could want in the ‘ideal’ app.


– Pleco is a must-have for any Chinese learner. For cheapskates like myself, the dictionary functions are amazing and searching by radical allows me to save the cash I would otherwise spend on the add-ons.

– And for people with more flexible budgets, you can get all the add-ons you like making this a very useful application for much more than just listening but also for reading, and writing assistance too.

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Dhruv Chatterjee

Dhruv Chatterjee is currently in his third year in China. After spending two years as an English and Music teacher in a small village in Guangdong, he has spent the last year living and working in Shanghai. He enjoys writing, Chinese, music and exploring all the wonderful things Shanghai has to offer.

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