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Everyone needs a Chinese dictionary. 

Probably the best choice for students of Chinese as an Additional language is


PLECO is a Chinese - English - Chinese Dictionary app.  


You can use Pleco on iPad / iPhone and Android products.


It supports Mandarin and Cantonese.


You can use PLECO  to find the pronunciation of a Chinese character, check a definition in English, find the Chinese word

for something or check a tone.



  • easy to use, fast and accurate and FREE (add-ons buy separately)

  • downloads onto your mobile device, so don’t need WIFI or data to check words

  • shows Mandarin Pinyin and two types of Cantonese romanisation – Yale & Jyutping

  • shows traditional and simplified characters


Getting Started: Language Settings


Click on the 3 bars at the top left of the screen.

Choose:  Settings

Choose:  Languages + Text

Choose:  traditional or simplified characters. 

If you choose traditional characters, the simplified version will appear in brackets - and vice versa.

You can enable Cantonese pronunciation and choose your preferred Cantonese romanisation - Yale or Jyutping.

How To Use

The quickest way to look up a Chinese character is to use your finger to write it onto the track-pad.  Choose the character on the bottom screen and click 'Done'. 

You can also use more traditional ways such as looking up by the radical or by typing in the romanisation.  You do this by clicking the 'radical' or 'keyboard' on the top bar. 

The track-pad is smooth and easy to use.  Even if you make a mistake with the stroke order, it can usually find the correct character. 


Enabling the Chinese writing track-pad...

To use the PLECO  track-pad you need to have the Chinese handwriting keyboard on your phone/device.  You can find this under your phone Settings / General / Keyboards.   

If you are not sure how to get the Chinese handwriting keyboard on your phone, click on the 'help' icon.

Other Features

Check Stroke Order

PLECO has a very nice stroke order app which plays the stroke order of any character in the dictionary.  You can stop and start at any time and even reverse by a stroke or two  - very useful for difficult characters.


Example Words and Sentences


PLECO shows you words and sentences that feature your chosen word.


This is useful because it shows you HOW the character/word is used.


Chinese teachers often ask students to 造句. This means they have to make sentences using some words chosen by the teacher. PLECO can help you make those sentences.


However, some words and sentences are taken from direct translations and in verbal Cantonese. Students should cross-check and use the examples carefully.


PLECO is a free dictionary app. And the free version will probably be enough to get your through primary school. But there are some useful paid add-ons. 

See the list of add-ons here: 


Full-screen Handwriting gives you a nicer track-pad and the ABC Cantonese Dictionary is useful for people interested in verbal Cantonese (but it's not necessary for dealing with Chinese homework, which is written in Standard Written Chinese). The flashcard app. allows you to import chosen characters to the built-in flashcard system, creating a useful revision tool for dictations and tests.  

Camera Function

Point the camera at a character and it shows the definition. It works really well, but is probably no quicker than using the track-pad and writing it yourself.

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