Pleco Review (MUST DOWNLOAD) // The Ultimate Guide 2024

A No Brainer || Download Pleco Today to Learn Chinese/Have as Your Companion (and thank us later)

Pleco Review 9.9/10
Whilst nothing is perfect in life, Pleco is close to it. It’s a Chinese – English dictionary with crazy accuracy and great add-on features. The only thing I’d change about Pleco is for it to just keep adding more features to it because everything that they do is great. You honestly cannot live without this app if you study Chinese or plan to be in China.

Welcome to the complete Pleco Review, one of the most well-known apps for foreigners in China.

How to learn a language at home - Pleco is your friend

SPOILER ALERT – this is probably the most important app for any foreigner wanting to learn Chinese or hoping to come to China.

In this review, we’ll explain why.

Pleco is so much more than just an app. It’s a lifesaver, and any foreigner who has spent even the shortest stint in China will vouch for that.

Many awkward situations can be bypassed using Pleco. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call this the most important app in any Chinese learner’s portfolio.

Pleco Review // Introduction (Why You NEED it)

Pleco Review // Costs (Worth Paying?)

Pleco Review // Features on Pleco

Pleco Review // The Only Shortcoming?

Pleco Review // Using the Dictionary

Pleco Review // Android or Apple?

Pleco Review // Conclusion

Pleco Review // FAQs

Discover ways to Learn Chinese for Free

Pleco Review // Introduction; Why?

Pleco Review - Why? Because it's great!
Pleco Review – Why? Because it’s great!

Pleco is a Chinese dictionary in your pocket put simply.

It will come in handier than you’d ever expect.

Think of the following situations:

  • At a restaurant trying to read a Chinese menu
  • In a taxi talking to a taxi driver
  • Chatting in the street with locals
  • Trying to find out how to say the name of a popular Chinese tourist attraction in Chinese
  • Trying to describe your day to a Chinese friend

The possibilities are genuinely endless. Pleco can help solve all the above problems in a heartbeat.

The great thing as well – Pleco is absolutely free if you want it to be.

There are add-ons we’ll discuss below, but for all the potential scenarios above, you needn’t purchase them.

Even if you plan on coming to China for a 1-3 week holiday, it’s worth taking 20 seconds to download it.

SuperTest HSK (formerly HSK Online) Review & Guide Thumbnail

SuperTest HSK (formerly HSK Online) Review & Guide

Today we’re going to do a HSK Online review. It’s an app dedicated to helping you learn everything related to the HSK Exam and passing it.

Pleco Review // Costs

It’s absolutely free!

The best thing about Pleco is the price. Sure you can upgrade with some add-ons but unlike other apps they don’t tie your hands with a limited number of words for example.

The usage, the content, it’s unlimited and it’s free which is fantastic.

Add-Ons (paid for)

However, you can up your Pleco game with a number of add-ons which include some of the following here:

All add-ons are a one-off purchase and honestly, it really depends on your goals and motives. I’ve been a Chinese language learner for 3 years and I’ve only purchased one, the Stroke Order diagrams which my teacher recommended I download.

It’s 4.99 GBP and gives you a great insight into how more complex Chinese characters are built.

A friend of mine, a very advanced Mandarin speaker, and learner of over 10 years, has purchased them all and I must admit it looks great. But isn’t necessary for most learners.

One add-on that really caught my eye was the OCR (Optical Character Recognizer) which allows you to use your Pleco as a camera, and highlight characters in Chinese. It will then translate them.

Note that Google translate also offers this service. However, Pleco’s is far more accurate. Google barely works when you are trying to highlight sentences or Chinese menus.

At 9.99 GBP, this is a very worthwhile purchase for Chinese learners at many levels in my opinion.

Flashcard Add-On

One other very popular add-on for Chinese language learners is the Flashcard System.

Again, it’s only 9.99 GBP and a one-off purchase, making it super cheap.

The idea is pretty simple and rather obvious in that you can use flashcards to learn Chinese characters. It’s a smart way to build your character knowledge no matter what stage of learning you are at.

Have you used Pleco before? Comment below with your rating!

Pleco Review // Features

The main feature of Pleco is to find the Chinese translation of an English word.

Currently, Pleco does not have functionality from other languages like Spanish or French to our knowledge.

When finding the word, you can see the Pinyin and Hanzi (Chinese characters) plus, in most cases, how that word is applied in sentences, and also other words that use these characters.

Features on Pleco Include;

  • Flashcards
  • User Dictionaries
  • Stroke order diagrams
  • Document Reader
  • Handwriting
  • TW/HK/Mainland China supported
  • Using camera to look up words
  • Audio
  • Links/cross-references
  • Merged search

Pleco Review // The Only Shortcoming?

One of the rare shortcomings I have found with Pleco at times is that, when searching a word in English, there are so many options that appear, sometimes the most used spoken version is further down the list meaning this can cause some confusion.

Let’s take two examples here:

We’ve taken two words, “birthday” and the adjective “clever”.

Now, if I am new to Chinese I probably assume the first option is the best/most used. After all, I don’t know any different.

In the case of Birthday – the first option is indeed the correct option. 生日. The good thing is if you cannot pronounce it, you can use the audio feature when you click the word to play it to a local speaker if need be.

In the case of Clever – the first option would not be the word we are looking for, but the 2nd choice. 聪明. This can lead to confusion and usage of the wrong word at times.

As you’ll see, Pleco does confirm if the word is a noun, adjective, verb etc… so this helps a lot.

This is probably the only place Pleco falls down, in what is an otherwise faultless app experience.

Pleco Review // Using the Dictionary

When finding the word you want, you can click on it and you’ll be faced with these options:

  • Dictionary (shows the meanings of the word)
  • Characters (shows how the character is built, including radicals)
  • Words (other words using this character)
  • Sentences (sentences including that word)

Note if you purchase add-ons they’ll sometimes be more options here.

These are all really useful features. Sometimes the sentences can be rather odd admittedly, but otherwise, it’s an invaluable way to piece together the giant jigsaw puzzle that is learning Mandarin.

In this example, we can see the word for “protect” 保.

When you see other related words you see a lot of them follow a similar sort of pattern:

  • 保持 – keep/maintain
  • 保护 – protect/safeguard
  • 保存 – preserve/keep

Notice how all these words fall under a similar meaning.

Therefore, we can guess when we see the character 保 in future, it has something to do with protection.

This, in a nutshell, is how Chinese works and Pleco is a great way of discovering all the different avenues with words in Mandarin.

Personalize your Pleco

In the SETTINGS tab, there are a plethora of ways you can personalize your Pleco.

You can do things such as:

  • Voice playback volume
  • Adding Cantonese
  • Changing font sizes
  • Enable night (dark) mode
  • Change text colours

It’s worth spending some time in there if you plan to use the app a lot. Make it personal and easy for you to use.

Pleco Review // Android or Apple?

Thankfully Pleco is available for download on both iOS and Android systems meaning everyone can benefit from the app.

Pleco Review // Conclusion

As apps come, they don’t get more important than Pleco.

We recommend this to any genuine Chinese language learner or even the tourist who just plans on spending 10 days in China, due to the fact it’s free for all.

Want to discover more apps for learning Chinese? Check out our review on the HSK Online app. Or our posts on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo!

If you’re learning other Asian languages as well, check out our favourite apps to learn Vietnamese, and Korean!

Pleco Review // FAQs

What is Pleco?

Pleco is a Chinese dictionary in your pocket put simply.

It’s an app for your smartphone and is hugely popular with students learning Mandarin.

Is Pleco free?

Pleco is absolutely free if you want it to be.

There are add-ons which we’ll discuss in this blog, but otherwise there are no costs involved.

Is Pleco available on iOs for download?

Yes it is.

Is Pleco available on Android for download?

Yes it is.

Is Pleco useful for real life situations?

Absolutely! Here are just 5 of many potential scenarios in which you can use Pleco.

1 – At a restaurant trying to read a Chinese menu

2 – In a taxi talking to a taxi driver

3 – Chatting in the street with locals

4 – Trying to find out how to say the name of a popular Chinese tourist attraction in Chinese

5 – Trying to describe your day to a Chinese friend

Want more from LTL?

We offer a 7 day free trial to all new students where you can study Mandarin 24/7. Come and check it out free of charge and see what you think.

We also offer immersive Chinese courses in China. You can learn more about those here.

Sign up below and become part of our ever-growing community.

I'm interested in:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Chinese Measure Words 🤔 12 Must Know (Plus 59 Frequently Used)

    […] TIP: If you select a word in Pleco many words will have the appropriate measure word at the bottom of the […]

  2. Recensione Mandawin (2020) 📱 : Nuova app per imparare il cinese

    […] link diretto a Pleco (molto […]

  3. 14 Day Quarantine in China - Everything You Need to Know

    […] Pleco translator as not all hotels have staff who speak English […]

  4. 14 Day Quarantine in China (for 2021) | Everything You Need to Know

    […] Pleco translator as not all hotels have staff who speak English […]

  5. Top Chinese Apps (for 2021) You Simply Must Have – Read Best Gadget Advice

    […] It is merely a must download for anyone coming to China, for long-term or tourism. For a more in depth look at this app, check out our Pleco review. […]

  6. Genuinely cannot understand how any foreigner would go without pleco

    1. Max Hobbs

      We second that Nige!

  7. Polly

    Need one for Korean!

    1. LTL Team HQ

      We'll drop a word to the Pleco team!!

  8. I started learning traditional and simplified together on Pleco, really helps

    1. Max Hobbs

      Well done Tom!

  9. Chinese Homophones // 116 Chinese Words to Watch Out For!

    […] Pleco is your best friend here. The app functions as an integrated dictionary, document reader and flashcard system with handwriting input, so it’s fully equipped to assist you with any of your translation needs. […]

  10. Lina

    Tolong min,,,, Arti didalam aplikasi pleco nya,,, diganti ke bahsa indonesia,,, gua tidak paham bahasa inggris