Learn Chinese on the go with Chinese Touch for Nintendo DS

If you don’t have an iPhone or other such smart-phone but still want to learn Chinese on the move, there is another option –  Chinese Touch.

Chinese Touch is homebrew application for the Nintendo DS that enables you to read and translate Chinese text and create custom classes right on your DS. With only one caveat, as this is a homebrew application, you will need one of the many catridges or storage devices such as the R4DS, that allow you to run unofficial programs on the DS. But if you already have a DS and an R4, then you are good to go. On the plus side – with it being a homebrew application you are essentially freed from the limitations that commercial applications/games impose.

The developer of Chinese Touch, Syslock, describes on of the main objectives of the software as:

to create a very generic and extensible learning tool, useful for any skill level

This is very much achieved with Chinese Touch. The user can essentially create their own classes or modules, consisting of texts, keywords, definitions and excerises. Also featured is a generic text reader, which when used in conjunction with a dictionary such as cc-cedit, can provide translations simply by clicking on the word.

If you want to just use the software to read Chinese text copied from the computer then the instructions are simple:

  1. Copy the Chinese text into a new notepad/textpad document
  2. Save the document as UTF-8 with the extension ‘.text’, and give it a number for a name 01,02,03 etc, for instance “01.text”  (This is very important)
  3. Copy the file to the CC-Cedict directory inside books: /books/cedict/

If you want to create a more complex ‘lesson’, then the file structure is as follows (it is the file extension that determines the which part of the lesson the file relates to). Each lesson has five parts:

  • Words (should be saved with the .dict file extension)
  • Grammar (should be saved with the .grammar file extension)
  • Text (should be saved with the .text file extension)
  • Exercise (should be saved with the .exercise file extension)
  • Configuration File (should be saved with the .conf extension)

The last file in the list is the configuration file (.conf) which contains a name and description for your lesson – although this file is optional. Chinese Touch contains 8 lessons to get you started and from these you will be able to see how to create your own lessons. The relationship between the files and their extensions, and the menu within Chinese Touch is represented in the image below:

There are currently two versions of Chinese Touch available on the download page, the stable version (currently 1.2) and the snapshot version. You can have both versions present in your Chinese Touch directory, so the best thing to do is install the stable version, then drop the snapshot version into the same directory and you can choose to launch whichever one you want.

The release version of Chinese Touch includes a set of basic Chinese lessons to get you going. After some analysis of these files and with the knowledge above you should be well on your way to creating lessons and reading Chinese texts on your DS.

For more information you can visit the following links:

It’s great to see some homebrew software of such high quality on the DS and judging by the regularity of Syslock’s updates to the software, it won’t be going away any time soon.

At first configuring custom lessons can seem complicated, but spend some time learning the file structure and usage of Chinese Touch and you should have little trouble getting it configured.

If you have any questions please leave a message below and I’ll try to help:

2 responses to “Learn Chinese on the go with Chinese Touch for Nintendo DS

  1. Dave,
    I am presently living in Taiwan. I Have for a few years. I lived in China for five years. I want to buy an electronic dictionary in Taiwan, however, I want pinyin not the bm. Do you know where I can find this and also the cost?

    I would prefer this instead of a program on the computer so I can take it with me when traveling around. Your website is quite good. Thanks, j.Parker

  2. I’m not sure if you’re reading comments to this old post, but I hope WordPress will let you know.
    So. the program is really great but actually I’m studying korean. I tried to create my own lessons and of course I have to write pronunciation in hangul (that tetris-like alphabet of korean). but it seems this program can’t show it right. I have question marks instead.
    Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Can I fix it by myself? Please help. 8(

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