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Review of Before You Know It - Language Learning Software for Mandarin Chinese

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


The Bottom Line

Before You Know It provides a basic vocabulary package free of charge. A paid version offers more vocabulary and features, but beginners can get their feet wet with the free version. Be careful, though. The vocabulary list is based on Mainland Chinese expressions which won't necessarily be understood in Taiwan, Singapore or Malaysia. Traditional Chinese characters (which are used in Taiwan) are not offered in this product.


  • Free
  • Audio files can help with pronunciation
  • Pinyin writing practice


  • Only uses simplified Chinese characters
  • Software seems a bit buggy
  • Only one voice for audio files


  • Flash card vocabulary lists
  • Audio files for pronunciation practice
  • Simplified Chinese characters only. Traditional characters (used in Taiwan) are not offered.

Guide Review - Review of Before You Know It - Language Learning Software for Mandarin Chinese

Before You Know It (otherwise known as BYKI) is a software package for learning languages. The 63 target languages are available as free downloads from the BYKI website.

The free versions of BYKI offer basic vocabulary in flash-card style. The Mandarin Chinese BYKI has 17 vocabulary lists which provide a good start for the beginning Mandarin student.

There is also a paid version of BYKI which offers more vocabulary lists as well as extra features such as more learning activities and support for portable devices.

How It Works

After selecting one of the vocabulary lists, you are presented with the Learning Modes screen. This allows you to select an activity such as "Review It," "Recognize It," or "Know It." Each activity displays the flash cards randomly, and the program keeps track of your ability to recognize the words and phrases.

The activities range from recognizing the English meaning of words and phrases to typing in the Chinese characters for each flash card.


Before You Know It can be a useful tool for learning new words and proper pronunciation. The flash card format is not very exciting, but can be effective with motivated students.

However, there are a few problems. For example, the software of BYKI has a few frustrating quirks. In the "Know It" section, you are asked to type the English translation of the Chinese phrase. Sometimes if you press the "Enter" key after typing your answer, the program goes into a loop and gets stuck on the same flash card.

Another problem is that the vocabulary is based on the Beijing dialect, and may not be suitable for Taiwan, Singapore or Malaysia.

BYKI only offers Simplified Chinese characters. Adding support for traditional characters would have made the product more versatile. As it is, I would not recommend BYKI for those headed to Taiwan.

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