I guess first I should say that I’m not in any way affiliated with PenPower or any other company. I’m just writing this because I bought one of these things and I can already see it’s going to be tremendously helpful.

OK, so if you’re like me, you collect sentences in Anki at least sometimes. I do it for two purposes: 1) to help improve my Chinese (a la the AJATT 10,000 sentences method), and 2) to remember stuff I read, like important facts and concepts from books in my field. If the latter also helps with the former, all the better.

I highly, highly recommend getting one of those pen scanners by PenPower or the like. I ordered their WorldPenScan BT yesterday and it arrived today. The BT stands for Bluetooth, and I paid a little more for that functionality (4990NT vs 3990 for a USB-only pen).

It supposedly recognizes around 200 languages, though I haven’t tried them all of course. I have tried it with English, Chinese (both traditional and simplified) and Japanese, and it works incredibly well with all of them. In Chinese, it does best with standard 宋, 明, and 黑 fonts, and the only time I’ve really had trouble so far is when I tried scanning stuff from a comic book. That was partially due to the font, partially due to things like the outline of the word bubble getting in the way, and partly because I marked it up with a pencil, which also got in the way. So in the future, I won’t be underlining things I want to enter into Anki, but maybe making a note in the margin instead. It works with both vertical and horizontal text.

Another really nice feature is its translation function. You scan a word, and it gives you a “translation” from Bing (which I don’t pay attention to) and a definition (which is nice). You can set both the language you’re translating and the language you want to translate into. I’m not sure which dictionary it uses, but I just scanned 好 and it gives a ton of definitions in both Chinese and English, along with example sentences in both languages:

好1
Ⅰ形
1. (優點多的; 使人滿意的) good; fine; nice: 好姑娘 a nice girl; 好年成 a good year; 好天氣 nice [lovely] weather;好消息 good news; 人民的好兒女 fine sons and daughters of the people; 你幫他的忙, 真太好了。 It’s nice of you to help him. 莊稼長得真好。 The crops are doing well.
2. (健康; 痊愈) be in good health; get well: 就年紀而論, 他的身體好極了。 His health is wonderful for a man of his age. 你好 ! Hello! 她現在身體比去年好了。 She is in better health now than (she was) last year. 我的病好了。 I’m well [all right] now.
3. (親愛; 和睦; 友好) friendly; kind: 好朋友 great [good] friend; 他對妻子兒女很好。 He was kind with his wife and children. 他們從小就很好。 They have been close friends since childhood. 這兩個孩子又好了。 The two children have become friends again.
4. (用在動詞後, 表示完成或達到完善的地步): 計劃做好了嗎? – – 還沒做好。 Have you got the plan ready yet? – – No, not yet. 文章寫好了。 The article has been finished. 午飯快準備好了。 Lunch is almost ready. 坐好吧, 要開會了. Take your seats please. The meeting is going to begin.
5. (容易) be easy (to do); be convenient: 暖瓶放在這兒好拿. It’s handy to have the thermos here. 這本書可不好買. This book is not easily available. 這個問題好回答。 This question is easy to answer.
6. (用在動詞前, 表示使人滿意的性質在哪方面): 這本小說很好看。 This novel is very interesting。 這支筆挺好使。 This pen writes very well。 這支歌很好聽。 This is a very pleasant song。 這種魚很好吃。 This fish is very tasty [delicious]。
感歎詞
1. (表示贊許、同意或結束等語氣): 好 , 就這麼辦。 O.K., it’s settled。好了, 不要再說了。 All right, no need to say any more。 我打開電視機好嗎? – – 好 , 請打開吧。 Shall I turn on the TV? – – Yes, please。
2. (反話, 表示不滿意或幸災樂禍): 好 , 這下可麻煩了。 Well, we’re in for trouble now。
副詞
1. (便於) so as to; so that: 把她的地址告訴我, 我好找她。 Tell me her address so that I can go and see her。 把這件事做完, 好再開始另一件。 Finish this so that you can start another. 別忘了帶傘, 下雨好用。 Dont’t forget to take your umbrella in case it rains. 今兒早點睡, 明兒好早起趕火車。 Let’s turn in early,so as to get up early tomorrow to catch the train。
2. (用在數量詞、時間詞前面, 表示多或久): 好半天 quite a while; 好久 very long time; quite long; 好幾個月 several months; 她上街買了好好多東西。She went shopping and bought quite a few things.
3. (用在形容詞、動詞前,表示程度深,並帶感歎語氣):好大的工程! What a huge project! 好冷啊!How cold it is! 好漂亮! How beautiful! 好深的一條河!What a deep river! 你這個人好糊塗!You are such a fool! 前些日子我好忙了一陣子。I was quite busy some time ago. 這事好險哪!That was a near thing!
4. (用在形容詞前面問數量或程度,用法跟“多”相同):機場離這兒好遠? How far is the airport from here?
5. (用於套語):好睡!Good night! 好走! Goodbye!
動詞
[方言] (應該;可以) may; can; should: 時間不早了,你好走了。It’s getting late. You ought to get going. 我好進來嗎? May I come in?
名詞
1. (指表揚的話或喝彩聲);討好 curry favour with; ingratiate oneself with; 觀眾連聲叫好。 The audience broke into loud cheers.
2. (表示問候):你去見著他,別忘了給我捎個好兒。Don’t forget to convey my regards when you see him. 向你的父母問好。 Give my love to your parents.
好2
Ⅰ動
1. (喜歡; 喜愛) like; love; be fond of: 好表現 like to show off; 虛心好學 be modest and eager to learn; 他好開玩笑。 He is fond of jesting.
2. (易於) be liable to: 好發脾氣 apt to lose one’s temper; 好傷風 be subject to colds; 好暈船 be liable to seasickness; be a bad sailor
名詞
(姓氏) a surname: 好謙 Hao Qian

Pretty awesome, right? It also does images:

jxs1 jxs2 jxs4(all from 季旭昇:《說文新證(下)》 page 142)

Sweet. So sweet.

Like I said, I bought this to help with entering sentences into Anki. It does that much more quickly than I could type them. But I think it’s going to be useful far beyond that. For instance, I can see this being very helpful in grad school.

Anyway, it’s a bit pricey (4990NT is about US$166 right now), but I think it’s really going to be worth it, so I figured I’d share.