Youdao Dictionary Pen Review: An Honest Assessment of its Accuracy and Usability

  • Post last modified:4 November 2023
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Back when I was learning Chinese, I used to have thick Chinese English dictionaries to check the meaning of English/Chinese words. They were super thick (like a brick) as half of it was English to Chinese, and half of it was Chinese to English. It was comprehensive but honestly quite cumbersome to use.

These days, second language learners have the luxury of using a dictionary pen instead, a slim pocket sized device that is portable and smart, and Youdao dictionary pen is one such nifty tool for second language learners. 

Please note that Youdao kindly provided me with the dictionary pen to try out and while they have been very kind and generous to contribute to my Mandarin homeschooling efforts (Thank you!) This review of the dictionary pen is my honest opinion and is not influenced by this generous act.

Mandarin Homeschool is reader supported. Please note that when you click on the links in this post, we may earn commissions for purchases made, at no cost to you. Thank you.

What is the Youdao Dictionary Pen?

The Youdao dictionary pen I am reviewing here is Version 3 of the product line, released in 2020. There is a cheaper and older version of the pen still on sale onsite, but really this is so reasonably priced, you should not be considering an older model.

Anyway, the Youdao dictionary pen supports 3 languages:

  • English
  • Chinese
  • Spanish

Basically the top 3 languages spoken by more than 50% of the world’s population!

Key Features of the Youdao Dictionary Pen

Some key features of the Youdao dictionary pen which is also listed on the Youdao website:

Translation Option 

The Youdao dictionary pen will translate 

  • English to Chinese
  • English to Spanish 
  • Chinese to English 
  • Spanish to English


But it will not translate Chinese to Spanish or vice versa, so do note that if you are purchasing it for this purpose. This dictionary pen is best suited for Chinese speakers learning English, English speakers learning Chinese and/ or Spanish, and Spanish speakers learning English. 

It supports scanning of both Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese characters. However, the output is always in Simplified Chinese characters.

Under settings, you can choose either English-Spanish, English-Chinese or English-English. The last option is for people with specific reading/language difficulties e.g. dyslexic or developmental delay. 

English Language options: You can choose the English language – either UK English or US English.

Other Settings

Volume control

Brightness control

Offline Mode

Once you have downloaded the software, you can use it on the go even without internet access.

Chinese Learning

When you scan a Chinese word, the Youdao dictionary pen will provide you with the English translation, pronunciation, character stroke order display and sample English and Chinese sentences. It supports both Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. 

Spanish Learning

Similarly with Spanish, once you scan the Spanish word, you should be provided with the English translation, pronunciation, conjugation of verbs and sample English and Chinese sentences

English Learning

When you scan an English word, you will be provided with a dictionary definition, translation into either Chinese or Spanish (depending on your setting) and opportunities to practice your pronunciation with the Youdao dictionary pen. 

Special Learning Needs

For people with dyslexia, the Youdao dictionary pen can be used to read out English text and provide much needed text to audio assistance. 

Long lasting battery power 

On the website, it says up to 6 hours of battery life. I can’t say for sure if it lasts up to 6 hours, but I can say for sure that I haven’t had to charge it constantly, which indicates that the battery power holds up pretty well.

Screen size

2.97 inches, which is bigger than its predecessor. 


You can scan horizontally or vertically, with yout left hand or right hand, the Youdao dictionary pen is smart enough to detect anything within its two little scanner pointers. It can scan on paper as well as screens i.e. phones and tablets. 


There are more than 4 million definitions included. And the main dictionaries used in the pen are the Miriam Webster Collegiate English dictionary (11th edition), Youdao’s personal dictionary, and its Chinese idioms bank.

What’s inside the Youdao Dictionary Pen package?

youdao dictionary pen

The Youdao Dictionary Pen 3, a Type-C charging cable, an instruction Manual.

Pronunciation of the Youdao Dictionary Pen

Chinese and English pronunciation of the Youdao Dictionary Pen sounds accurate to me so far. By default, it’s a female voice. 

I cannot comment on the Spanish pronunciation as I do not speak Spanish. If you do and have tried the Youdao Dictionary Pen, can you please share with me your honest view on it on the comments below. Thanks!

Our experience with the Youdao dictionary pen

It was love at first sight for me with the Youdao dictionary pen as I unboxed it. It was sleek, modern, slim and beautiful.

Set up was a breeze and once you’ve connected the Youdao dictionary pen to your wifi, it download the latest software and is ready to use within 2 minutes. 

In the initial screen, you are given four handy tips on the buttons and its functions. It’s really simple and straightforward. 

Then you can start scanning and learning! All you have to do to look up a word is to scan it. With each word that you scan, you will be provided the definition, translation to your second language setting (Chinese or Spanish), sample sentence, pronunciation.

How can the Youdao dictionary pen promote Chinese learning?

It’s surprisingly intuitive to use, so it was easy for myself and my children to just pick up and go. I only allow my eldest to use it unsupervised, as I wasn’t sure how handy the Youdao dictionary pen is. So far no scratches or damages a month in! 

For my son, the Youdao dictionary pen was very helpful in translating the Chinese words he didn’t know into English (his first language) and also to provide the meaning of it.

For me, it was great to be able to translate English into Chinese, especially when I was corresponding with fellow Chinese speakers and am “stuck” recalling the Chinese words. It was also a fantastic tool to check my translation on my printables.


We have used the Youdao dictionary pen primarily for Chinese to English translation and vice versa. I will explain in detail how both works. So first up, I will explain how the Chinese to English translation works.

youdao dictionary pen
Scanning one Chinese character e.g. ”黑“

If you scan one Chinese character

  • The Chinese character is translated to English
  • The Chinese character is pronounced clearly
  • Stroke orders of the Chinese character is displayed on the screen (once you press the play button, the entire stroke sequence will animate on screen)
  • Chinese phrases containing the key words are generated, along with the English definition
  • Sample Chinese sentence use of the Chinese character
youdao dictionary pen
Scanning more than one Chinese characters e.g. “黑影”

If you scan more than one Chinese character, then the following happens:

  • The Chinese character is translated to English
  • The Chinese character is pronounced clearly
  • Chinese phrases containing the key words are generated, along with the English definition
  • Sample Chinese sentence use of the Chinese character

However, the stroke order will not show on the screen. To view the stroke order or additional details on a particular Chinese character, you have to press the Chinese character to focus on it, then the stroke order, meaning, pronunciation etc. will come up on screen.

youdao dictionary pen
Looking up the Chinese words “货厢 ”

Then, I tested the Youdao dictionary pen on one of our favourite comic books, 屁屁侦探 (Butt Detective). To be truthful, there are some uncommon Chinese words in the book series that I don’t know of. 

Ok so far so good!


Ok, so now I will explain how the Youdao dictionary pen when translating from English to Chinese.

When you scan an English word,

  • Chinese translation of the word
  • English pronunciation
  • Chinese pronunciation
  • English meaning of the word
  • Bilingual examples

A few of my inadequacies in Chinese language is with technical terms, and my son is a huge animal lover, and at times will ask me what the words mean, and honestly I don’t know. Words such as “conservation status” or “carnivore” don’t come up in our every day conversations. So I used the Youdao dictionary pen on this wonderful book “The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals” by Sami Bailey.  

youdao dictionary pen
Translating "Conservation Status"
youdao dictionary pen
Translating "carnivore"

Use of Youdao dictionary pen on the Fun Chinese Pictionary

I then tried the Youdao dictionary pen on the Fun Chinese Pictionary to check how the Chinese translation of the word compares. You can see for yourselves what came up onscreen in the next three images, for the word “scooter”.  

youdao dictionary pen
youdao dictionary pen
youdao dictionary pen

So far, there has been no issues with the translation and meaning. 

Read this blog post to find out more about our favourite Chinese English bilingual dictionaries.

What we like about the Youdao dictionary pen

Accuracy and ease of use. You can trust that the Chinese and English definitions provided are correct and appropriate, which means you will not end up learning the wrong phrases and be embarrassed in your new language. 

Did I mention how beautiful this pen is? It’s simply gorgeous. 

It is also sturdy and portable, with a lot of functionality built into this palm sized gadget.


Improvements from previous flaws

Many of the flaws of the Youdao dictionary pen version 2 has been addressed and rectified in this new version. If you read or have read Chalk Academy’s detailed review of version 2 of this pen, one of the main flaws of this app was the poor translation of the Chinese idiom 马马虎虎 was translated as “wash your horse and wash yourself”. What?! That’s terrible…In this new version, the addition of the Chinese idiom dictionary thankfully means that embarrassing translation is a thing of the past. Please see the following images on what came up for 马马虎虎 on the Youdao dictionary pen Version 3. I’m was pleasantly surprised with the synonyms and antonyms. 

Being a portable gadget, you may have to compromise on size, and as the Youdao dictionary pen is nifty and palm sized, the screen unfortunately can’t be too big. Which was also part of the issue with version 2 of the pen. Thankfully, the screen size has improved! From 1.9 inches to 2.97 inches. The words are still small, probably font size 8? But definitely a step up.

youdao dictionary pen
English definitions for “马马虎虎” 1
youdao dictionary pen
English definitions for “马马虎虎” 2 and example of use
youdao dictionary pen
Definitions from the Youdao Chinese Dictionary on “马马虎虎”
youdao dictionary pen
It even gives you synonyms and antonyms Chinese idioms for “马马虎虎”

What we do not like about the Youdao dictionary pen

Due to its sleek design, it is not built for scanning picture books with large fonts! What you can fit within the scanner is what you can learn.

It does not scan handwritten words very well, so its use is limited to printed text only. 

For the stroke orders, which I think is very helpful for Chinese learning, it becomes fairly problematic for complicated Chinese characters. I do wish there was a way to zoom in to the character, so that it shows up on the entire screen instead of the little box.  


Non-Fluent Chinese/English/Spanish speaker

Obviously, if you are non-fluent, this is a great language tool. I can imagine a foreigner in China using this pen to translate the Chinese words off a menu to order a meal. 

Age – Older Primary Children and above

This is not a cheap device, and I would not let my younger children use it. I’ll happily have my 9 year old son and his daddy use it for language translation purposes, and while the Youdao dictionary pen does look sturdy, I don’t want to break it!

I personally use it to support my personal Chinese literacy skills when I read Chinese novels. It’s a great way for children to model a healthy attitude to learning. Parents don’t always have all the answers!

For those with specific learning difficulties 

I am a psychologist in training, and one of my key recommendations for children with dyslexia and reading difficulties is to use a dictionary pen as an aid for text to speech, and the Youdao dictionary pen is one that I would heartily recommend as it is easy to use and also small enough for everyday use in the classroom.

Where to purchase the Youdao dictionary pen

For sale on the Youdao official website or on AmazonAt the time of writing it is one sale at USD$199.99 (discount of USD$100) on the Youdao website. With my personal discount code 25MANDARIN (The discount code is only valid till 19/09/2023!), you can score an additional discount of 25% off the SALE price. It is an absolute steal when you can purchase it on sale and with the discount code! To sweeten the deal, worldwide shipping is free.

Additional reviews of the Youdao dictionary pen

Amazon reviewers gave it a 4.1 star (out of 250 ratings) which is a pretty good score. Most state that they like how fast and accurate the Youdao dictionary pen was, and compared to other similar dictionary pens, it was very reasonably priced. Similar dictionary pens were slightly more expensive than the Youdao dictionary pen and not as highly rated. 

You can read reviews of the Youdao dictionary pen version 3 on MBReviews and LahLahBanana.

Slightly older reviews of the Youdao dictionary pen version2  from Bilingual Kid Spot and Chalk Academy

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