How to write Chinese with a keyboard

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Quick answer: People in China text in Chinese.

Long answer: The nature of this question hints that you want to know how keyboards or typing in Chinese works — since it’s done with thousands of complex characters instead of 26 letters. Here’s the best visual we can give you for now with an explanation.

Let’s say you’re typing on wechat or line on your Smartphone, which are by the way the most popular text message apps in Asia. If you open your keyboard, you’ll have several “Chinese keyboards” to choose from, based on your system setting. In case of Chinese, it is not going to only be for simplified characters — there are a few other methods for traditional characters.
  1Options 1 – Pinyin

Chinese pinyin uses the 26 English letters to mimic the sounds of the Chinese language and spell out Chinese words. Pinyin itself is a separate question, but essentially if you type in “wo” it sounds like the Chinese word for “me” or “I”. At the same time, Chinese is a tonal language and has several words that sound the same — but with a different tone. The keyboard solution to this is to list out the several “wo’s” in the top row above the keyboard. Then you can select from there.

 

2Options 1 – Bonus

Naturally, it wouldn’t be that fast to type in this way. Luckily, you can type several words in a row (full sentences even) and the keyboard will autocorrect and assume a complete, correct sentence. So, you can type “wo hui jia” and that full sentence will appear on the above line. Also, if you mistype — the autocorrect will do it’s based (like the situation below).

 

 

3Option 2 – Hand writing

The next keyboard option is to literally write the character on a blank square section. Chinese characters all follow a strict stroke order and a very balanced picture with specific placement for each stroke. The keyboard will do its best to understand what character you’ve drawn and again (like above) give you options for the either the word, sentence, or autocorrect.

Note, while there is autocorrect for this is well — stroke order is very important and may be something frustrating to Chinese as a second languages learners.

4Option 3 – Strokes and Radicals

Instead of writing the characters by hand, there’s another dictionary just full of the limited number of strokes available in Chinese. Pick strokes from the keyboard screen in the right order and the keyboard will help you along to construct characters and construct sentences.

Choose from those 5 strokes and you can make any Chinese Character.

What is more common?

These are 3 common methods of typing in simplified Chinese. Most western Chinese learners opt for the pinyin method (since English is more familiar to them) whereas older Chinese are so used to handwriting – they prefer writing the whole character out.

As we have mentioned before, there are other methods (traditional Chinese typically uses a ‘bo’ ‘po’ ‘mo’ method of typing) but this should be enough to open your eyes to some of the ways you can write Chinese with a keyboard!

If you want to learn more about Chinese and how to use Pinyin, check out our Homepage of TutorMandarin. We offer special Pinyin courses for Newbies. Not convinced? Sign up for a free trial to get to know our professional tutors in an exclusive one-on-one lesson at our virtual classroom.

 

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