8 GREAT reasons to use the online English-Chinese dictionary – MDBG.NET

MDBG Homepage

“Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life.” –



For anyone who is learning Mandarin, a dictionary will certainly be one of your best friends. You will undoubtedly be using several versions of dictionaries at that. I personally have used different combinations of them from the traditional compact dictionary to the more modern and more powerful electronic dictionary to of course the online dictionary.

One of the top online dictionaries is MDBG.NET. Despite the complicated sounding name, this site is rather easy to use and has been ranked highly by students learning Mandarin Chinese.

Let’s take a look on what makes this site so great:

1. Simplicity

Don’t let the simple interface fool you. It definitely packs a punch. You type in English, Pinyin and/or Hanzi (Chinese characters) on the very same search box without the need to switch modes. This increases the convenience factor and saves you plenty of time. One thing I wish they could add for the search results is a better way to ranking them. Say for example when I searched for the word “book”, it showed several results but the actual word book which is “书”came in fifth on the search results. It even has “八卦“which is the local term for gossip ahead of it.

MDBG Search Box

2. Use of both traditional and simplified characters

The site recognizes both styles of writing. Plus, if you choose one style let’s say simplified, it still provides you the its equivalent in the traditional style. Hence, allowing you to slowly learn the intricacies of both styles at the same time.


3.  Pronounces Hanzi Characters

You may choose to have the characters pronounced for you through an audio file. This allows you to have a solid understanding of the proper pronunciation of the characters, especially those you are encountering the first time. A cool feature here is the inclusion of the Cantonese version of the audio file.

Listen to the proper pronunciation of words here

4. Color-coded Pinyin Tones

This is a neat feature that allows you to visually identify the proper tones based on the color the characters are presented. It especially helpful when reviewing terms you are already accustomed to but are still having problems with its tones. It provides a visual cue that allows you to forego looking at its pinyin to look for the appropriate tone.

Color-coded Characters according to tones

5. Handwriting Input

Sometimes there are just characters which we see randomly that we just need to find out what it means. Without knowing its pinyin pronunciation and definition, the only way to get the answer is by writing it out and asking someone who can explain it for you. Fortunately, this site includes a handwriting input system that allows you to write the strokes of the character. This is a very convenient feature indeed. A word of  warning though, you must write the character in proper stroke order in order for it to appear among the choices.

Handwriting Input

6. Sentence Translation

Occasionally, we’ll need to translate whole sentences. This site provides that service as well both for English – Chinese and vice versa. Personally, I believe the best use of this feature is for translating Chinese characters to English. Per my experience, when I compose my Chinese sentences, I don’t totally rely on the result of the English to Chinese translation. It’s because it has the tendency to be too literal and the system may not select the appropriate word for the thought you may want to convery.

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7. Practice Lessons

More than just being a English Chinese translation dictionary, this site also allows you to practice your Chinese vocabulary via quizzes and lessons. My favorite is the Chinese Character Quiz, which probes your knowledge of the proper tones and definition of the Chinese characters. It allows me to learn and retain Chinese vocabulary better since there will be a grade at the end and I definitely don’t want to embarrass myself. You could control the level of difficulty as well as the number of characters you want per exam.

8. Daily Web Feeds

Taking short lessons everyday could prove to be valuable for your long-term retention and learning of Chinese. This feature allows you to receive new words on a daily basis via e-mail or your feeds. In addition, you may also set the level of difficulty once again or have a mixed set of words from different levels sent to you. It is a wonderful way of updating your vocabulary and learning new words all at the same time. Having this sent to you gives you a daily trigger and hopefully makes learning automatic.


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In learning the language we will need all the help we can get and this is a useful too in your arsenal. It is especially helpful when chatting with friends or watching movies online where you need instant translation and answers fast and convenient.

“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.”

~Author Unknown


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  1. I’m such a fan of this website!!! And I know Cheng is too.

    • Yes I actually learned about it from her as well and have been a fan ever since. Definitely the go-to site especially when watching Chinese movies online.


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