Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to Write in Chinese on Your Laptop or Desktop Computer

Writing Characters- I think most people would agree that the most difficult thing about learning Chinese is learning how to write the characters.  The complexity of the characters and their number can be overwhelming.  So how can we encourage our children to go beyond the mainland Chinese pinyin system or 注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) and move on to using characters?  It is a truth that children will be able to recognize a particular character before s/he is able to write it.  This has to do with dexterity, but also with how our brain processes characters (or letters).  So I would encourage you to *install a Chinese font and type set* that allows you to type characters by typing the 注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) or mainland Chinese pinyin.  At the bottom of this blog are instructions on how to display both the character and its pronunciation (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin) so that your child can type and then later go back and easily read what s/he wrote.

If you have an iPad/iPhone, please refer to this post- Chinese Characters- How to write in Chinese on your iPad/iPhone

Typing  注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇ) on your Keyboard
Following these instructions on your laptop or desktop computer will allow you to input Chinese characters.  You will also need to install a Chinese font.  If you are looking for a font that will also provide both the characters and their pronunciation, scroll down to my suggestions below.
My kids keyboard for practicing Chinese.  
I have a separate one for English.
  • Directions:  Different computers use different operating systems (Window vs. Mac) and different versions of the operating systems (Windows 7, Vista, etc.).  The directions for each are a little different.  If you use Windows, you are in luck!  Below are three videos showing you how to enable Chinese input.  Find the video that matches the version your computer uses and follow the steps as they are shown to you.
  1. Widows XP 
  2. Windows 7 
  3. Windows  Vista
  • Note:  Once you have enabled the Chinese font on your computer, you will notice that your physical keyboard is still in English.  This is fine if you are using the pinyin pronunciation system.  However, if you are using ㄅㄆㄇㄈ, you will need to help your kids figure out which keys represent which ㄅㄆㄇㄈ sounds.  There are stickers you can buy to make it easy for your children to locate the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ keys.  You can perform a search for "Chinese stickers for keyboard" OR make your own stickers by using address labels.  As you can see in the picture, I chose to make my own labels and created labels that covered the whole key (store-bought labels generally attempt to include both the Roman alphabet and the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ letters on each key, which causes the letters to be smaller).  I had an extra keyboard, so I made this one the "Chinese" keyboard; we have another that still shows the English.  It is easy to plug/unplug the keyboard I need. 
Downloading the Chinese with 注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇ) font 

  • Notes:  For the most part, this font works very well.  However, there are particular characters such as 星期 that may use a different tone than what you have learned.  星期 is said with two first tones in mainland China.  However, this font requires you to mark the tones as first and second (as it is said in Taiwan).  There are not many of these differences, but there are a few. 
Downloading the Chinese with Pinyin font
  • Here's the best I can do at this moment.  I'll keep looking into finding a font and posting better directions.  For now, here's the font I use (DFPHei-W5J-Pinyin1UUA).  You'll need to do a search online to locate this font.

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