nciku: Not for Minors?

I’ve been in China for over five years and my Chinese is still only at a conversational level. I’m nowhere near fluent. So since I’m not a natural language learner, I need to spend a little time each day either attempting to improve my language skills or just trying to prevent losing them.

I’ve been using nciku for about a year or so now. I find their site to have such a confusing layout that for the most part it’s completely unusable to me. For looking up vocabulary words though, it’s my #1 destination. The ability to input English, pinyin, or hanzi is incredibly useful, so decided to check out their iPhone Chinese-English dictionary application.

The first thing that struck me was the price. Considering their website and MSN bot is for free, $4.99 seemed a little too pricey; especially since I have a free dictionary from another vendor already. But as I was leaving the page, I noticed this:

Rated 12+ for the following:

  • Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References

So I have to ask, who is making these classifications? Is it self-imposed by nciku or just a general disclaimer put on to every dictionary by Apple? Other English-only dictionaries in the iTunes store don’t have a rating or are rated at ages 9 or above.

Since I don’t know the full story, I wont say this is political-correctness or legal protection gone awry. I’m just going to leave it as the quirky item it seems to be and be glad that I’m old enough to increase my vocabulary with my iPhone. Watch your kids folks, Merriam-Webster might soon get classified as a gateway drug.

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