How to use Pleco to drastically improve Chinese reading speed and comprehension.

If you’ve been studying Chinese for any length of time you’ve certainly come across the Pleco Chinese Dictionary. It’s hands down the best bi-lingual dictionary app for learning Chinese and has a wide range of impressive features (both free and paid). The synesthesic color coding of tones, an audio feature that reads entire example sentences out loud, the clipboard reader and many other features make Pleco a great way to help master character recognition. Today I’d like to overview a small fraction of these features to illustrate how you can make Pleco’s powerful software improve your reading in Chinese.

First, you need to find an article, novel or forum thread that you would like to read. Then highlight the text and click ‘copy’ (on an iPad/iPhone you can sometimes select everything by dragging the box to the very top). Next open up your pleco dictionary and at the top left hand corner you will see three blue bars.


This will open up a grey menu with many options.


In this menu click on the button under Reader than says “Clipboard Reader.” This should automatically take whatever text you have copied and display it in front of you beautifully. The font and character size in this reader renders gourgeously, and now that you are in this screen you can tap/click on any character and the dictionary will create a pop up screen with the English definition and pinyin. The pleco software is incredible at linking two character words and recognizing four character idioms. Now while you are reading, if there is any word/character that is unfamiliar you simply click on it to receive the pinyin and accompanying english definition. Along with example sentences and further options for researching single characters. The wonders of technology!



In your own head you should be reading the text in “pin-yin sounds.” Occasionally you will recognize a character’s meaning but forget/not know the pin-yin. You should click on these words and remind yourself of the pinyin so you will recognize the word when it crops up in speech or you need to vocalize it.

As you devour articles and books in Chinese, many commonly used words will repeat naturally. You now have an organic SRS built out of custom content that you choose your self. Nice!

Within the Clipboard reader you can also save articles and it will automatically store a large number of previously pasted texts within the history button to the right.


I used to copy and paste entire novels into the notes app on my iPad for future reviewing or I would make my own pdf file. This was a little time consuming but limited the ‘copy and pasting’ to one sitting. Now I just bookmark the tab where the book/article comes from and allow the history button within the pasteboard reader to automatically save whatever I was reading yesterday.

If you need places for content now that you have the ability to read I can recommend some Chinese language websites:

天涯 : A Chinese language forum where people talk and post about a broad range of topics. There are boards for discussing travel, love, finance and much more. This is a great site for peering into the Chinese collective unconscious and seeing what is important to everyday Chinese people.

南方周末: A Chinese newspaper that swings a little right for Chinese standards. Has interesting in depth pieces about issues important in China.

观察者 : A nationalist paper in China that abounds in xenophobic comments. An interesting peek into the hyper patriotic undercurrent in Chinese discourse.

纽约时报 : The New York Times Chinese edition.

百度百科 : The Wikipedia of mainland China. Great for researching people, events or books.

新浪微博 : The twitter of China. Microblogs are quicker and easier to digest when you don’t feel like long form content.

努努书坊:An online book repository with works of literature and famous novels both Eastern and Western.

Have fun reading and good luck on your journey!




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