Those pocket calculator language computer thingies

Hello all,
I was at the Nova in Taipei yesterday, just wasting a little bit of free time with a buddy. I came across a kiosk that sold those pocket calculator language thingies. The kind gentleman showed me the pride of his fleet, a Besta something or other (lost the model name). It had a function where I could write chinese characters into a little window, and it would translate them to English for me. That intrigues me, as I am always looking at signs and menus and wondering what the hell they say. I am a beginner at Chinese. I am always looking for more nouns and adjectives to add to my verbal dictionary.
Do these things help?
Will they also translate to Wade-gilles/Pinyin?
I don’t have the time for proper Chinese school, so this seems like a decent option at 6 grand.
I am good at sketching, so copying a character from sight is easy for me. I have a bit of chinese school behind me to back up the stroke order and all.
I want to go to a mechanic (by myself) and ask him to adjust the air/fuel on my carbeurator(sp!) to my specifications.
I want to order 100 yards of rough cotton bast for painting on.
I want to go to a paint store and order bulk pigments and latex base to make myself good, cheap paint for my hobby.
I want to have a mini-steadycam for my DVcam made that can bolt on to the frame of my bike.
I have taken Taiwanese friends and even patient girlfrinds with me to try and get these things done, but I’m a really particular guy about fullfilling my somewhat “out there” plans. My Taiwanese friends don’r really understand what I want properly. (not sure if I should try “where can I find”
I’m also running a Mac laptop on Tiger and would appreciate any pushes towards good software or even peripheral options this way.
I just feel like getting on it. I’m a bit of a loner, and patient as hell to a fault about things like this, but I wanna get busy on it!

I still recommend a Palm Pilot or similar plus one of the Pleco dictionaries. Those dictionaries are designed for foreigners to use, and they also have handwritten input, which is something you want. The translation machines are meant for Chinese, and sometimes that can cause problems. I’m not sure if the translation machines would have Pinyin or Wade-Giles but the Pleco dictionaries (either one) definitely would have Pinyin (which – she said editorializing – you should learn anyway as it is the international standard :smiley: ).

Thank you, Ironlady!

I have thought of having a palm pilot before, but they are not as mac friendly as they should be. I googled and it seems that there are many mac os EMULATORS out there, but no “Palm mac. OS”.
I am hardly a computer genius, but I do use Isync and Calandar, and lots of nifty applets to help organize my thoughts, budget, and whatever. It would be natural for me to plug a palm pilot into my dock and keep my thoughts on Chinese stuff organized this way. But if I have to run a Windows shell over Mac OS and all that other Gobblygook, I won’t be happy.
The salesman didn’t seem to know what I meant about “Pinyin”.
Pinyin is to me a western alphabet romanization of Chinese words. If I can see pinyin (with tones) and BOPOMOFO, I think I can do allright. He couldn’t show me that, and I Couldn’t explain properly. The thing just kept on giving me back Chinese Characters, and thats not what I reallt need right now. That machine would be OK if I wanted to type things into it and just show people the little screen, but I would probably get lazy about it. And the little voive that speaks the words out is pretty annoying.

I think My grammar is OK. I can read Children’s story books at a very slow pace if the BOPOMOFO is there, and I can have basic conversations here and there with the neighbors, and order lots of tasty treats that I couldn’r even 4 months ago, but I need to build vocabulary. Don’t have time for a university program, and I think any more of those Chinese cram schools would be a waste of money.

I love Taiwan and love to think about spending the rest of my life here, No kidding. It’s home. So I better learn the language!

thank you again!

Are you sure you need an emulator? I would think that Palm would have a “Palm Desktop” and conduit to synch the Palm for Mac without needing an emulator. Usually for the Palm community, emulators are used only by developers, not by garden-variety users. But I don’t run a Mac so I could be wrong.

For instance:

The other advantage to using a Palm Pilot or similar is that you can then use SuperMemo (discussed extensively on this forum before, just search for “SuperMemo”). It’s great if, as you say, you want to build vocab.

The Besta dictionaries have a function button that flips back and forth from characters to pinyin. I think it is one of the f buttons. I used one for a while and really liked it, but the size put me off. It’s like carrying around a small laptop! I ended up buying a really small black and white model by a company called Meijin. It has a touch screen that alows you to write charicters and translate them into English and pinyin. It’s much smaller than your average handheld too. Of course it doesn’t have all the fancy features of the besta, but most of those are aimed at English students anyway.

The older Besta models were large and heavy, and even then I carried it around. I have a much smaller, newer Besta now. Very useful.

However, the dictionary in it (which is very good) is exactly the same as with Dr. Eye (after all, they are both produced by Inventec), so I don;t use my Besta as much as I used to. But it is the best out there, in my opinion.

I have a Palm using Pleco, and a Mac running Tiger. For Mac you absolutely MUST get Wenlin ( It is a great dictionary/translation/flashcard application. I use it every day. If you bought your Mac in Taiwan then your keyboard should have BoPoMo on it. Under your International settings in SysPrefs you’ll be able to choose your Chinese input style.

I struggled with typing BoPoMo for a long while (can read it no trouble), and finally gave up in favour of touch typing PinYin. I can type Chinese now much faster.

Wenlin also has a brush tool that you can use to draw charcters with. I bought myself a Graphire tablet from Wacom for about 2,000 (can’t remember exactly), and use it for inputting those characters I don’t know. It can also be quite forgiving with brush stroke order, if you ask it.

I love Pleco on the Palm as well as all the other features of a Palm. I tried Dr. Eye but couldn’t get comfortable with it. Also, Pleco has a new version out (in Beta with free upgrades if you buy now) that uses the Wenlin dictionary. My Palm is too old and has too little memory to run the new version, but it looks very good from what I’ve seen. The old version uses the Oxford CE dictionary.

Thanks, everyone! Great advice all around. When I’m a little less busy I’m going to get back to this thread and get back on the “learning Chinese” thread. I would like one of those palm things more than a pocket calculator language thingy anyway. That software mentioned sounds great too.
One of the things that bugs me most about Taiwan is not understanding the plethora of signs everywhere. I’m a pretty observant person and I get along alright, but I need more!