Reivew: Youdao (有道) Dictionary Pen Version 2

Monday, March 1, 2021

Chinese is the nemesis of many in Singapore. It is a beautiful language but sadly, there's just insufficient time to expose ourselves to the beauty of its origins. Growing up, I struggled with the language as my family spoke predominantly in English. The closest to getting myself interested was when Aaron Kwok, Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai and Andy Lau graced the airwaves. I was smitten and obsessed with their songs and wanted to learn the lyrics. However, knowing the pronunciation of each character was painful, and searching up the words in a paper dictionary was agonizing.

Fast forward many decades later, with the advent of technology, dictionaries have evolved. No longer do we rely on the paper dictionary. There are now apps, reading pens and most recently discovered -- the OPTICAL YOUDAO (有道)DICTIONARY PEN!

Photo credit: @elitechinese

The Youdao (有道)dictionary pen is such an awesome invention, I wished it was available when I was taking my PSLE. 

Prior to owning it, we had a series of aids ranging from the electronic kind of dictionary (BESTA), some random reading pen bought from Taobao to the reading pen given by Berries (a local Chinese enrichment centre). 

The BESTA electronic dictionary was one recommended by our Primary school but it is sadly, the most underutilized. It is a chore to key in the word in question and as such, it has pretty much been a white elephant in our home. Big K has a huge aversion towards it. Consequently, I do not see an improvement in her comprehension where there are generally some words that are out of the syllabus. Try as I might, she simply refuses to pick up her dictionary. I don't blame her. 

When presented with the optical reading dictionary pen, she was instantly enthralled. It was love at first sight. She badgered me to allow her to bring it to school. I'm also seeing how independent she has become, reaching out the pen whenever she is attempting a composition or comprehension. A testament to the joys of using this gadget was that she discovered the use of voice recognition! How smart! Should you not know how to write a certain character, you may simply speak to the pen and the word cum definition would instantly pop up! This is way better than Google Translate, Pleco or the C-Pen, which several forums rave about.

It is able to scan and translate sentences

Did you know that Youdao is a New York Stock Exchange-listed company, which brands itself as a leading intelligent learning company in China? It also developed a neural network translation engine (有道词典)which seems to host a tonne more words than many other sources we've tried.

Below is a summary of the pros


1) AI Voice Assistance

This is a very useful feature when you wish to search up a word. But do note, your pronunciation has to be accurate lest it gives you the wrong word. However, it is said that through the high-fidelity speaker, pronunciation can be learned accurately.

2) User friendly

All you need to do is scan and translate. It is very idiot proof. 

3) Works on handwritten text

4) Reads out sentences or even paragraphs

Scans and translates multi-line or sentences fluently. It reads fast too. At 15 words per second, this definitely satisfies the need for speed.

5) Provides definition in Chinese and English

In some words, they even provide other variations and examples on how to use the word or how it is matched as a phrase. It is compatible with loads of picture books, newspapers and textbooks. All these provided the fonts are small enough. (Less than 2cm). It is also able to recognise various types of fonts. 

6) Portable

You can carry it around anywhere! Just put it in your pocket!

7) Clear audio

Unlike several other pens which made me cringe when listening to their English diction, this doesn't. It is crisp and clear.

8) Translates Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese & English words

Its translation is up to 98%

9) Shows 多音字

10) Suitable for both right and left-handers. 

It reads from left to right but has both left and right orientations.

11) Light and rechargeable using USB

After charging, one is able to use it offline for 8 hours 

12) Add words to favourites

You may add words to your favourites and revise them in the future. It has a big storage for learning.

13) Bluetooth & Type-C Connection

Connects with your Bluetooth or type-C headphones easily.

14) Sleek Design

I love how sleek it looks coupled with the colour, it's classy. I know I sound shallow but such things does affect my joy in using. 

With every technological gadget, there are bound to be some flaws. Youdao (有道)Dictionary pen is no exception. 


1) As it is made in China, for China, certain local (Singapore) phrases cannot be found. For instance, you are not able to find the phrase 巴刹 in it as over in China, they call it 市场. 

2) It can only read texts that are less than 2cm. Optimally about 1.2cm in height. Hence, it would not be compatible with several flashcards which we own. That said, at a higher level, they are generally faced with words which are small in font size.

3) When scanning a sentence, you may not know what you are looking for and accidentally scan a word or two before or after the actual phrase or sentence. Therefore, you may need a few trials to get the right characters in to make sense out of things.

4) Pronunciation may not be picked up. Big K tried saying a word or two, unfortunately her diction isn't accurate enough for the pen to pick up the correct character. I managed to breeze through. In a way, this may aid her in correcting her pronunciation. Probably a pro more than a con  if you think of it positively?

What we currently have is the Version 2. There is apparently another model Version 3 where one main difference is its interactive reading function. They have collaborated with Scholastic Inc to allow visual interactions for point reading for specific picture books! This is quite a draw for the younger kids but in my opinion, the Version 2 suffices for the general public. 

There are massive resources to tap on for the Version 3 and you may check out more about the Version 3 over here if you are keen.


It is clear that the Youdao (有道)Dictionary pen is our hot favourite of the moment. It really works for us and is igniting Big K's interest in the language. It is a huge step towards our efforts in self-directed learning. I would strongly recommend it for kids above the age of 6years old as then, they may be able to read more of the definition. It is also a great tool to have to encourage older children to read chapter books. Definitely a useful device to have to support your child's learning journey. So far, our other pens were mainly able to read only the books that are within their limited database of prescribed books. The quantum leap in technology and innovation today is undeniable. Such gadgets are a necessary evil. Being raised in a digital era, the Youdao Dictionary pen is here to stay and will gain traction and inspire many to embrace the language.

Disclaimer: All photos are property of www.themishmashmess.blogspot. We are gifted the Youdao Dictionary Pen 2, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the product. Please seek permission before reposting and give due credit when doing so.