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Chinese Language Guide

Overview

So you've set up your computer for typing in Chinese. (If you haven't, please go to the "Setting Up Your Computer" section, under the "Getting Started" tab at the top of the page.)

How do you actually use these input methods?

The links on this page will help you learn:

  • What are input methods?
  • Windows methods
  • Mac methods

For beginners, we recommend you start with the Microsoft Pinyin IME (Windows) or Simplified Chinese - ITABC (Mac).

More advanced learners may want to experiment with the different methods, or ask your Chinese instructor or Chinese-speaking friends for their recommendations.

Input Methods for Typing in Chinese

What are Input Methods?

An "input method" is a way of using a standard computer keyboard to type hanzi (Chinese characters). Many of these methods use "pinyin," a system for writing Chinese words using the roman alphabet. With a pinyin method, you type the pinyin (roman letters) and the computer searches for the hanzi (characters) that match. Usually, it will give you a list of possible matches/combinations to choose from. Different pinyin methods vary in terms of how you type tones, typing shortcuts, etc. In addition to pinyin methods, there are also a variety of other systems. For most Chinese language learners, a pinyin method is easiest way to get started.

The links below give an overview of the different types of input methods available for Chinese, as well as more information about pinyin itself.

Windows: Input Methods for Typing in Chinese

Windows: Input Methods for Typing in Chinese

On Windows computers at MHC, we have activated 4 input methods for typing Simplified Chinese, and 2 methods for Traditional Chinese (these methods were chosen by the Chinese faculty as some of the most commonly used and useful). All of these methods are pinyin-based; see the links above for more info about pinyin and pinyin typing methods.

Image of a page in a Chinese book

Simplified Chinese (People's Republic of China)

  • Simplified QuanPin

  • Simplified ShuanPin

  • Microsoft Pinyin IME

  • Google Pinyin: This input method doesn't come with Windows, but it's free from Google. When it's installed in your computer, it will be listed in Chinese characters as 谷歌拼音输入法. See the link below for download and more info.

Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)

  • Traditional New Phonetic
  • Traditional Phonetic

Mac: Input Methods for Typing in Chinese

Mac: Input Methods for Typing in Chinese

On Macs at MHC, we have activated 3 input methods for typing Simplified Chinese, and 2 methods for Traditional Chinese (these methods were chosen by the Chinese faculty as some of the most commonly used and useful). Here is a brief overview of how each of these methods works; below are some links to more information and tutorials to learn how to use these methods.


Simplified Chinese (People's Republic of China)

  • ITABC: ITABC is a pinyin method, so you type the Romanization of the Chinese words, and it gives you options for characters which match that pronunciation. This may be the easiest method for a beginner to start using, if you are already learning pinyin. Unlike some other pinyin methods, ITABC doesn't use numbers to represent the tones; instead, numbers can optionally be used to show the shape/strokes of the character.
  • Wubi Hua: Wubi Hua is based on the strokes of a character; you use just 5 number keys to type the first, second, third, fourth, and last strokes of a character. It's described as the "simplest" Chinese input method because it uses only 5 keys; however, you need to know the correct stroke order for a character to be able to enter it. Also, you must use the number pad to type (it doesn't work with the numbers above the keyboard).
  • Wubi Xing: Wubi Xing is like using a special Chinese keyboard. Each key on your keyboard is assigned to a basic character (and several other related characters as well); to type a particular characters, you break it down into its component or root characters and then type the keys associated with those roots. Wubi Xing is described as the fastest way to type Chinese, but it's also probably the most difficult to learn because you need to memorize what characters go with each of the keys on the keyboard.

Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)

  • Zhuyin: Zhuyin (also called BoPoMoFo, which are the sounds of the first 4 symbols) is special writing system of 37 symbols used to express the pronunciation of Chinese characters. It was formerly the standard in Taiwan, mainly used for teaching children to read (Taiwan adopted Hanyu Pinyin, the system used in PRC, as of January 1, 2009). Each of the zhuyin symbols is assigned a key on the keyboard; you type the zhuyin, and it gives you options for the Chinese characters which match that pronunciation.
  • Pinyin: Another pinyin method, but for the traditional versions of the characters used in Taiwan. Unlike the ITABC for simplified Chinese, this method uses numbers (optionally) to represent the tones.

Note: after you change to any of these input methods, you will see additional options appear in the Input Menu, including help functions.

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