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All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

March 16, 2006

Written by C.N.

Typing in Chinese

Have you ever wondered how people type in Chinese? In other words, while English (and other letter-based languages) speakers like us have only around 26 Roman letters to use, the Chinese use thousands of characters to represent their language. Do they have a giant keyboard with thousands of keys on it? Of course not — it’s actually quite simple and users have different options:

In the Peoples’ Republic of China, most computer users type out their Chinese in transliteration, using the standard Roman alphabet keys on a QWERTY keyboard. To generate a character, you type out its sound according to the same spelling system — called Pinyin — The computer automatically converts the Pinyin spelling to the correct Chinese characters on the screen. . . . If the computer still doesn’t have enough information to pick a character, you’ll have to choose from a pop-up list of possibilities. . . .

Speed-typists in mainland China use another input method called Wubi. To type a character in Wubi, you punch in a sequence of keys that corresponds to what it looks like and how it’s drawn. A Wubi-configured keyboard looks just like the Western version but is divided into five regions for different types of pen strokes: left-falling, right-falling, horizontal, vertical, and hook.

You “spell” a character by typing out up to four strokes, in the order in which you’d draw them on paper. If he knows what he’s doing, a Wubi typist can produce up to 160 characters per minute. . . . Older people who aren’t comfortable with typing might be more inclined to use an electronic writing tablet instead. The precise strokes of Chinese characters make them relatively easy for a computer to distinguish.

A Chinese keyboard © Slate.com

Pretty interesting, I think, to now know how more than a billion people do the same things we do but using a different method. To paraphrase the old saying, “different (key)strokes for different folks” — diversity in action.


Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Typing in Chinese" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/03/typing-in-chinese/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=217

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