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Review: Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 (GROUP BUY CLOSES ON 6 MAY 2021, 2359H)

*Scroll to the bottom for the Group Buy Order Form, and a quick summary of this review!*

N’s Chinese has always been the main source of stress for us, and now that he is in Primary Three, it seems as though the standard of Chinese has risen quite significantly. He struggles to even read the words in his Chinese textbook, which means he doesn’t understand a lot of what goes on in his Chinese lessons, and therefore struggles when he has to do his homework.

He does have private tuition, but I know that learning languages is tough and cannot be done in 1.5 hours, once a week. (I also know of more rigorous Chinese tuition classes, but at the moment, I think that whatever interest in the language he may have, if any, will be killed if I send him to a tuition centre with longer sessions.)

N’s Chinese tutor advised me to get him to listen to more Chinese stories, and I’ve found the Ximalaya app very handy for that, especially when we are in the car. His favourite series is 米小圈 and the twins also enjoy listening to those stories, which is great.

However, he does need to be able to recognise, read, and understand Chinese characters, and that is where the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 from Elite Linguistic Network comes in.

With three kids, it is unrealistic and impractical for me to sit next to N whenever he has to do his Chinese homework or when he wants to read a Chinese book. I do read Chinese books to the twins, but N sometimes wants me to read books that the twins aren’t ready for yet, and I can’t split myself into two (or three) to be with each child.

N gets very frustrated and demoralised when he struggles with his Chinese homework, but now that we have the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3, he uses it to scan the words that he doesn’t know, reads the English translations/definitions, and figures out the answers by himself.

He used to refuse to even try reading the comprehension passages on his own, but can now “read” the passages with the help of the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3. Initially, he would scan sentence by sentence, and was so proud of himself for “reading” the entire passage, which isn’t the point of the assignment, since he has to understand it on his own, but I think that this is a baby step in the right direction. I’m now getting him to scan only the words that he doesn’t know, and the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 is basically serving its purpose as a dictionary for him.

One component of his Chinese homework also requires him to match words to form phrases, and I discovered that the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 is excellent for this exercise! I used to read and explain all the helping words to N, then read and explain each question, before asking him to try and match the words on his own. I had to “match” all the helping words to the first question, and he would have to tell me which one made the most sense. It was a very tedious process, and I would get so frustrated with him, because he took ages to think about the questions, and to figure out the answers.

Now, he uses the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 to scan the helping words and questions that he doesn’t know, and then when he has decided on which ones made sense together, he would scan them together, to check if the definitions were correct. You should see the joy on his face when he gets the questions right! I think there is a greater sense of achievement when he figures it out without Mummy prompting him, and hopefully, he will one day be able to work on this section without using the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3. For now, I’m just happy that he can do his homework more independently!

The Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 can also explain 成语, which N’s tutor says he has to learn, so I’m planning to let him use the pen when he is working on understanding the different 成语!

Apart from using the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 to help with his homework, N has also started using it to read Chinese books on his own. I can’t read Chinese comic books to him because they are just way too long, and I don’t have the time, energy, or even ability, to read all the books that he wants with him.

N goes to the library to pick out Chinese comics like Plants vs Zombies or this insect comic series that he found, because he likes them so much that he doesn’t mind not being able to read the text. He used to just look at the pictures, but now, he will use the pen to read the text as well. Of course, the translations aren’t always 100% accurate, but I think that the general meaning is usually conveyed, because I hear him laughing away when he’s “reading” the comics with the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3.

To be honest, I find myself turning to the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 very often, now that we have it. I used to go through the Chinese books before reading them to the kids, because I had to look up the words that I didn’t know, write down the hanyu pinyin and definitions, and practised reading them aloud, so that I would be able to read fluently to the children. With one kid, it was still doable, but when all three of them come to me with books that they’ve picked out on their own, it’s IMPOSSIBLE.

I struggled quite a bit with some of the Chinese words in the books that the twins bring home from school, to the extent that they told me to “ask your phone, Mummy”, because they knew I had a dictionary app on my phone. With the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3, I can scan the words on the spot to get the correct pronunciation, as well as translation, which really makes things a lot easier for me.

N’s Chinese tutor actually uses the Youdao Dictionary Pen 2 (not the 3 that we have), not for Chinese words, but English ones, when she reads with her daughter. Personally, I feel that the English to Chinese translation isn’t 100% accurate either, but again, it is definitely a lot more convenient to use, and the explanations are usually good enough.

Sometimes, N doesn’t hold the pen properly when he scans the words, so the words are not scanned correctly, and he gets weird combinations of words. If it doesn’t make sense, he usually takes a closer look at the words in the text, and compares them to what the pen has scanned, before scanning the text again.

The battery life of the pen has been pretty good for us so far, and comes with a USB charger. The protective case and pen pouch are both sold separately.

PS. You can watch videos of us using the pen on our Instagram account. The videos have been saved in my Highlights, under Youdao V3 Pen.

TL;DR: The Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 is a good investment for those who don’t have a very good grasp of the Chinese (or maybe even English) language. Younger children can use it to read Chinese storybooks, and click the translate button to hear the English translations being read aloud to them. Older children can use it as a dictionary when doing their homework, to read and understand more complicated Chinese phrases, and perhaps even to hone their critical thinking skills to figure out which words make the most sense when put together.

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THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT THE GROUP BUY 1. The closing date for this group buy is Thursday, 6 May 2021, 2359h. 2. Please only fill in this order form if you are DEFINITELY going to order the Pen 3. 3. The Pen 3 costs $259.20 BUT there will be at least a 10% discount for this group buy. At the moment, the pen will cost $233.28, but if we get more orders, the price will be lowered. I will inform you of the final price after the group buy has closed. 4. The protective cover and pen pouch can be purchased separately at $8 each. 5. Once you have submitted the group buy order form, it is considered that you have placed your order. I will contact you to let you know how to make payment. Please make payment within 24 hours of receiving the WhatsApp message, so that the supplier can be paid quickly, and everyone can then receive their pens 2-4 days after that.

PLEASE COMPLETE ALL FIELDS IN THE GROUP BUY ORDER FORM HERE.

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