Here’s some handy tools I stumbled across in my journey to becoming a Chinese speaker, fluent or otherwise.
Note: this is a severely dated article.
Update form the future: BabelFish was the go to translator before there was Google Translate. Now that there’s Google Translate, go there instead, or better yet, use the app.
If you translate sentences, you may find you end up with something you can’t use. Chinese ‘words’ come in anything from 1 character on it’s own, to 4 or 5 or more strung together to make up one ‘word’. Unlike English, they are not always separated by spaces to indicate this. So, if like me, you were speaking to a Chinese person using this translator, you will end up with some funny sentences which may, but probably won’t, be what you intended.
Translating individual words, and then stringing them together yourself, might make for more correct sentences. Might work for beginner too lazy to learn more, and for the purpose of a casual online chat perhaps. A basic understanding of the language structure will go a long way.
Use Pin1Yin1 for when you’ve got Chinese characters, but no idea how to pronounce them. Pin1Yin1 not only helps with that, but context too.
And if ultimately you want to be able to speak, you must be able to pronounce. The links above will help you translate your character to Pinyin – which is the Romanisation (or representation with the western alphabet) of Chinese characters. Of course, the help of a Chinese native is vital, because words are pronounced much unlike you would imagine they would from the way they are written. ‘You’ for instance, is pronounced ‘yow’.
Hmmm, my first non nonsense post. Hope it helps at least a bit. Oh, and when you’ve laid your hands on a Chinese song or so and you’ve got the hang of the tools above, pay a visit to Ting Dong (http://www.powersugoi.net/tingdong/) and source the words (and meaning) of your favourite song.