Capstone Project: PinYinTir

The Chinese language is not a phonetic language, unlike Latin languages like English or Spanish. Words are pronounced differently depending on their written characters.

 Capstone Project: PinYinTir
Written by
Dominic Yeo
Last updated
Thursday, February 9, 2023

PinYinTir is the Chinese language learning buddy you wish you always had

Learning Chinese can be a big hurdle to cross for someone who is used to speaking phonetic languages and if they have yet to memorize or learn the Chinese characters.

What is 'pinyin' exactly?

In pinyin, syllables are enunciated or spelled out. Pinyin is an effective technique to express the pronunciation of Chinese words using the English alphabet. Just as how publications employ foreign phonetic symbols to demonstrate how English words are spoken, pinyin is particularly helpful for people who already know English and are trying to learn Chinese.

Why do we need PinyinTir?

  • As you encounter Chinese words on signboards and printed publications on your travels, it is not uncommon to feel completely overwhelmed. You might know how to say “washroom” in Chinese but you cannot confirm if that’s what it says on the sign in front of you.
  • Searching for words in most Chinese-English dictionaries requires you to know pinyin. Otherwise, you would usually have to search using “ character strokes”, which can be difficult for someone who only just started learning the language.
  • There is currently no similar, mainstream application which primarily provides pinyin translations from a captured image and then from subsequently to speech.
  • It also stores translated images and pronunciations of words that have been tagged as “important” by the users.

What does PinYinTir do?

PinYinTir allows you to  pinyin and standard Chinese translations using a simple camera on your phone. Just open the app, point your camera to the label or street sign and the app will overlay the Chinese letters with the translated characters within the image.

Not only that, it allows you to store or save the images and phrases that you use most, or are trying to remember. For instance, if you wish to know the pinyin translation of an important public announcement and all its details, you can store that image within the app for future reference. This would be useful for signages, or even grocery food labels.

Apart from that, the app also has an easy-to-use text to speech conversion which is great if you are trying to learn the exact pronunciation of the word/sentence in question.

Process of translating a public service announcement poster

Why 'PinYinTir'?

The application is a one-stop shop for everyone who is learning Chinese or navigating a Chinese-speaking environment. It has easy storage options for quick recollection of recurring phrases and images that you wish to translate. As an added bonus, just as how you can choose your own version of Siri, you can also customize your PinYinTir reader to voice back the words and phrases in your preferred tone and speed.

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