Teochew Dictionary on Your Mobile Phone Part 1: 潮汕字典

The number of mobile apps for learning Teochew  language continues to grow. 

In the beginning of 2016 we at The Teochew Store reviewed Three Must-Have Mobile Apps for Learning Teochew Language - 潮語作田人 (TeoAPP)What Teochew Say (WhatTCSay) and 新概念潮州话.  About half a year ago we further introduced two apps, 汕头橄榄台 and 红桃粿,  which enable you to watch television programmes and listen to radio broadcasts in Teochew language.  

Since then two Teochew /Chinese dictionary apps have been launched out of China, and we present here one of them, 潮汕字典 ("Teo-swa Dictionary").

潮汕字典is an app described by its creators as a "must-have tool" for every gagi-nang. The app primarily allows users to find out the Teochew pronunciations of written Chinese characters.

The expression "Teochew pronunciations" is used loosely here, referring to not only areas that were part of the late imperial China Teochew Prefecture (Teochew 潮州 [meaning in this context Teo-ann 潮安], Swatow 汕头, Gek-yor 揭阳, Teo-yor 潮阳, Thenghai 澄海, Jaopeng 饶平, Namoa 南澳, Pholeng 普宁 and Huilai 惠來), but also adjacent Loghong 陆丰 and Haihong 海丰 districts that were briefly administered under Swatow, even though local speech has closer affiliation to Hokkien.

It is available for free to Android users on Google Play, while iPhone users have to fork out  ¥12.00 (about USD1.83) for a "professional edition" (专业版) on iTunes . How different are the two versions is not immediately obvious. Our review below is for the Android version.

The main interface of 潮汕字典 has a search-bar where you can choose to type in either a single Chinese character, or a string of characters. Be careful to enter your search by pressing the search button on your keyboard and not the one on the right of the search-bar, which is actually (and strangely) "取消" or "cancel".

The results appear together in a scroll-down page, showing for each character its Teochew pronunciation reflected by its transliterations in peng-im  and Teochew-Chinese characters (often a homophone), as well as audio sound (as available).  

When a particular character has more than one pronunciation, the district origin of each variant sound is indicated (for example 潮州音, 潮阳音, 汕头音, etc)  and  also marked, sometimes but not always, whether it is a literary reading (文), vernacular reading (白) , or surname reading (姓) etc.

Rather conveniently, searches can be conducted by other methods, including Teochew peng-im (潮拼查询 - this is really handy as so often we know the sound of a Teochew word, but not its written form),  and just like a standard Chinese dictionary Mandarin hanyu-pinyin (拼音查询) , the number of strokes of the Chinese character (笔划查询) and the character's component radical (部首查询).

These options are accessible by clicking the appropriate banner right below the search-bar on the main page.

On the whole, 潮汕字典 has a "clean" interface and is easy to use. It stands out in its containing audio readings in the various local sounds, particularly for Teo-yor 潮阳, Pholeng 普宁 and Huilai 惠來, which can differ significantly from high Teochew (based on speech in the old Teochew-prefectural city) and thus often omitted in dictionaries.

However in spite of its name, the app does not actually offer explanation of the meaning of the Chinese characters you are looking up, as a dictionary should. Moreover, the results do not show a character's corresponding Mandarin pronunciation(s). These are major shortcomings that severely limit the usefulness of the app. 

Another down-side is that only simplified Chinese characters can be searched. As a side feature,  潮汕字典's main interface displays a "Daily Teochew proverb" (每日潮汕俗语) that comes with a short explanation. Still, this does not save the app from falling short of its promise.

From an optimistic viewpoint, 潮汕字典 is work in progress and it should get better given the enthusiasm of its developers in starting it in the first place.



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