Travel words + Tools to 10X your language learning productivity
4 min read

Travel words + Tools to 10X your language learning productivity

Travel words + Tools to 10X your language learning productivity

👋 Welcome to this week’s issue of the Giant Mandarin newsletter. This week I cover words on the topic of travel. I also include my thoughts on modern tools to 10X your language learning productivity.

🎯 Words

  1. 旅游 lǚyóu - to travel; to tour; travel; tour
  2. 旅行 lǚxíng - journey; to travel
  3. 假期 jiàqī - vacation; holiday
  4. 箱子 xiāngzi - box; suitcase; chest; trunk 📦

行李 xíngli - luggage 🧳

行李箱 xínglixiāng - suitcase; baggage compartment; car trunk; boot

  1. 飞机 fēijī - airplane ✈️
  2. 火车 huǒchē - train 🚇
  3. 公共汽车 gōnggòngqìchē - bus 🚌
  4. 出租车 chūzūchē - taxi; cab 🚕
  5. 机场 jīchǎng - airport

车站 chēzhàn - bus stop; train station

火车站 huǒchēzhàn - train station

公共汽车站 gōnggòngqìchē zhàn - bus stop

票 piào - ticket; ballot

机票 jīpiào - flight ticket; air ticket; plane ticket

车票 chēpiào - bus ticket; train ticket

登记 dēngjì - check in; register

登机牌 dēngjīpái - boarding pass

登机口 dēngjīkǒu - boarding gate; departure gate

  1. 护照 hùzhào - passport
  2. 起飞 qǐfēi - (of a plane) to take off
  3. 下降 xiàjiàng - (of a plane, price, cost, value, amount and so on) to descend; to decline; to decrease; to drop
  4. 打车 dǎchē - to call a taxi; to take a taxi
  5. 上车 shàngchē - to get into or on (a car, train, bus and so on)
  6. 下车 xiàchē - to get out or off of (a car, train, bus and so on)
  7. 酒店 jiǔdiàn - hotel; wine shop; liquor store
  8. 宾馆 bīnguǎn - hotel
  9. 地图 dìtú - map 🗺
  10. 景点 jǐngdiǎn - tourist spot
  11. 风景 fēngjǐng - scenery; landscape

照相 zhàoxiàng - to take a (photograph, photo or picture) 📸

照相机 zhàoxiàngjī - camera 📷

  1. 照片 zhàopiàn - photograph; photo; picture

拍 pāi - to take (a photo); to shoot (a movie)

拍照片pāi zhàopiàn - to take a (photograph, photo or picture); to have a photograph (or photo or picture) taken

拍照 pāizhào - to take a (photograph, photo or picture); to have a photograph (or photo or picture) taken (common abbreviation of 拍照片)

  1. 导游 dǎoyóu - tour guide
  2. 游客 yóukè - tourist; traveler

💭 Thoughts

Good tools can increase your productivity by an order of magnitude - or more. The idea that tools can increase your productivity by 10 times or more applies to much more than learning Chinese and is a powerful idea.

Since this idea can be counterintuitive, consider the common task when learning Chinese of learning about the meaning of a new word.

In the past, learning about the meaning of a new word meant having to find that word’s entry in a paper dictionary hundreds (if not thousands) of pages long. Let’s say this task would take 5 minutes or 300 seconds. With the rise of dictionary apps - with the inimitable Pleco ( the indisputable go-to Chinese dictionary app - we could say this task would take 30 seconds - that’s 10-times faster than using a paper dictionary.

And with a dictionary app like Pleco, today’s Chinese language student has access to not only a single dictionary, but many at the same time and is able to search all of them simultaneously. If you had 10 dictionaries in your dictionary app - feasible in Pleco - then looking up the meaning of a new word using a dictionary app is 100-times faster than doing so using 10 paper dictionaries.

I think we all owe Mike Love, Pleco’s founder, our gratitude and thanks for starting, growing and supporting the product over more than two decades.

Dictionary apps included, there are at least seven types of Chinese language learning tools. Below, I summarize and provide recommendations for each of these seven tool types based on personal experience, which is to say there are many more great tools than the ones I recommend:

  1. 📚 Dictionary apps: Apps like Pleco ( provide access to many dictionaries, example sentences and much more. Pleco is a free mobile app with paid add-ons
  2. 🧠 Flashcard apps: Apps like Anki ( will enable you to efficiently create flashcards and make use of spaced repetition to study them. Anki is open source, free for desktop and on their mobile-friendly web app, with a paid mobile app
  3. 🌐 Chinese-English dictionary web browser extensions: Browser extensions like Zhongwen ( give you the functionality to hover over a Chinese word in your browser and have a dictionary entry pop up in a tooltip. Zhongwen is open source, free and available for Chrome and Firefox
  4. 📷 OCR (optical character recognition) apps: OCR functionality such as provided through a Pleco add-on ( (paid) or the Google Translate app ( (free) allows you to identify the meaning of characters, words and even sentences in still and live images
  5. 🔎 Search engines: Baidu (百度) ( (free), China’s leading search engine, is an invaluable tool for Chinese language learners. For example, searching a word in Baidu and skimming the results can teach you a lot about how native speakers use a word. Comparing the results of two similar words can also be insightful.
  6. ↔️ Translation apps: The translation web and mobiles app Google Translate ( (free), and Baidu Translate (百度翻译) ( (free), are immensely helpful. For example, if you’re struggling with a Chinese sentence, then reading a machine translation of that sentence in your native language can be helpful. You can also use these apps to convert characters into pinyin.
  7. ✍️ Character writing apps: Apps like Skritter ( enable you to learn to write Chinese characters, digitizing Chinese dictation-style learning and incorporating elements of spaced repetition. Skritter is a paid mobile and web app

👀 Recommendations

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (2001), Peter Hessler’s classic account of his two years teaching English in Sichuan in the late 1990s.

What did you think of this week’s newsletter? Please get in touch to let us know what you think. I’ll read every message.

Thanks for reading and see you next Thursday!

Giant Mandarin (@GiantMandarin) is written by David Wu (@davidwuio).