I learn from sites like these two:

Both of them use http://mandarinspot.com/api

So when I click any mandarin, I automatically see something like this: enter image description here

I want it because many Chinese Language Stack Exchange answers don't have pinyin, just raw Chinese.

  1. I could copy-paste into a translator; this is tedium.
  2. I could transcribe it from the site into Google Translate; this is useful but it takes time.
  3. I think the best is a Javascript popup with pinyin and definition (maybe I am spoiled)
  4. The original poster, or original answer-er could post their Pinyin. But this is unnecessary burden, IMO. And we can't enforce it.

I am not affiliated with MandarinSpot (But I find it convenient :) )

Please advise. Thoughts? Is this something moderators / admins could do?

  • Shouldn't this be on the CSE Meta Website?
    – Tommie C.
    Aug 10, 2014 at 2:21
  • I agree @TommieC. , do you have a link to that? I've also seen in the past some admins can "migrate" questions. Aug 10, 2014 at 3:36
  • Thanks, tried that. Aug 10, 2014 at 3:42
  • This is very similar/the same kind of question as: meta.chinese.stackexchange.com/q/315/3561
    – Ming
    Aug 12, 2014 at 8:15
  • @Ming , you're right, it seems similar. But that question requires that the posters still include pinyin, right? My question requests automatic pinyin, to remove the burden from the original poster (incidentally pinyin shows in some popup, but it could be ruby as in the other question). These two different options should be considered together. Aug 12, 2014 at 15:05
  • 2
    @TheRedPea yes, this is true. Have you tried a Chrome/Firefox addon such as Zhongwen Chinese Popup Dictionary or Perapera Chinese? You can find links in this Resources Q/A here: chinese.stackexchange.com/a/1325/3561 I use the Zhongwen one purely because it explicitly says it's using CC-CEDICT, where Perapera doesn't mention that (though I suspect it is exactly the same) and they both will automatically pop up pronunciation and definition on hover.
    – Ming
    Aug 13, 2014 at 1:27
  • @TheRedPea one nice thing to note about explicitly defining the pinyin yourself is, you can accommodate for tone sandhi. Dictionaries won't do this. Though, the other edge of the sword is that you could just incorrectly add pinyin >_<
    – Ming
    Aug 13, 2014 at 1:28
  • You're right about tone sandhi, Ming. I think improving a single tool / extension / script is better than making humans provide pinyin with possibility of error. Or even allow humans to "direct" the tool with HTML Ruby tags. Sounds like Jens requested this. Aug 14, 2014 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


I oppose. My reasons are:

  1. If information in the popup is relevant, it belongs in the post, not hidden in a popup.
  2. Perapera has the same functionality already implemented for Firefox and Chrome
  3. Javascript popups overlap with Perapera popups.
  4. More Javascript increases server load and page load time.

You do have a point about the tone sandhi. I contacted the Perapera developer and suggested that Perapera recognize ruby tags.

  • In my mind, it's not a question of pinyin's relevance. Pinyin is always helpful for me, and except for tone sandhi an automatic tool can provide it for me so OP isn't obligated (and doesn't err). But since I just said "for me" twice in a sentence, I agree with the rest of your points. I think an extension is a nice solution (vs script injected into every page) so users can opt to have it, and I think an extension may not slow page-load time in the same ways. Aug 13, 2014 at 16:28
  • Just my luck, I try to install Zhongwen Chrome Extension, but my administrator has disabled this level of privilege :P Aug 13, 2014 at 16:31

I think this is a good question whose benefits seem obvious but we should also consider the drawbacks related to adding this feature.


Automation of pinyin can be problematic as this would introduce another component into the CSE. More components increase the number of breakage points. What happens when some folks enter pinyin? (does it break the javascript) or when the pinyin is wrong? (For example there are many occasions when a tonal change occurs based on a characters context. The pinyin engine would have to handle these issues). Javascript that is loaded from a different domain may also be blocked by countries. Javascript can be blocked by institutions and browsers as security risks.

Other Options

Existing tools can handle this based on browser and even operating systems. I've setup my Mac OS X for example, to speak highlighted text in Mandarin, English, or Cantonese (using keyboard shortcuts). Other tools that I have setup for the Mac include convert selected text to pinyin and lookup words in Chinese-English dictionary.

The benefits of using external (integrated) tools is that site clutter is reduced on CSE. Fewer javascript means less code, fewer errors, and less work having to be done by the browser. I haven't figured out all of the equivalent tools on Windows yet but I would not be surprised if there are already available assets.

In fact, one interesting tool that I find useful is to collect phrases and store them in the Google Translate Phrasebook. Using that tool one can also capture the valid pinyin and save resulting phrases across many devices. Phrasebooks can also be saved as cvs files so offline uses are possible.


Sometimes the benefits of a process outweigh the drawbacks and in those cases one should take action. The question becomes is this benefit significant enough to outweigh the drawbacks of the effort to design, implement, and maintain a viable solution. If not then action should be constrained. From my perspective, given my existing toolset and other options, I cannot see a demand to proceed at this time. I am however open to change if a sufficient argument can be made to proceed with this option or even with a different existing tool.

  • You're right. But I like Jens' list better. :) I regret installing browser extensions is prohibitive if I'm at a work computer or I'm on an Android, but maybe I need to learn more. Aug 13, 2014 at 23:33

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