Typing in Chinese: Keyboards & Tips and Tricks

We know many of you are curious about how to type out Chinese characters on a device. What does a Chinese keyboard look like? What if I don’t know how to write Chinese characters but I do know pinyin? How to type in Chinese more efficiently? Let’s find out!

What keyboard and input method should I use to type in Chinese?

1. If you are using a computer, …

The Chinese keyboard looks exactly the same as the English keyboard (as shown in Figure 1). The only thing you need to learn is pinyin (拼音, pīn yīn), which is a method to pronounce Chinese characters. Here we are talking about simplified Chinese (简体中文, jiǎn tǐ zhōng wén) which are often used in China mainland.

拼音 (pīn yīn)
简体中文 (jiǎn tǐ zhōng wén)
Figure 1. Chinese keyboard

With using the same keyboard, we also have got another input method called Wubi method (also called five-stroke input method, 五笔输入法, wǔ bǐ shū rù fǎ). This method is based on how to write Chinese characters, which was popular in the 90s. As shown in Figure 2, nowadays most Chinese use pinyin input method (拼音输入法, pīn yīn shū rù fǎ) instead of Wubi.

Figure 2. Choosing pinyin input method
拼音输入法 (pīn yīn shū rù fǎ)

2. If you are using a cellphone, …

We also have got pinyin input method (which is called pinyin-QWERTY on a cellphone). Besides, we have another keyboard version called pinyin-10 key (we call this version as jiǔ gōng gé “九宫格” in Chinese), as shown in Figure 3. Some Chinese people love to use this version as they are used to typing with it.

Figure 3. Pinyin-10 key (九宫格拼音)
九宫格 (jiǔ gōng gé)

But some elders are not good at pinyin due to their strong accents from their dialects, so most of them choose handwriting input method, (手写输入法, shǒu xiě shū rù fǎ) as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Handwriting input method
手写输入法 (shǒu xiě shū rù fǎ)

We suggest Chinese learners use the fundamental version – pinyin QWERTY, which is the same as English keyboard, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Pinyin QWERTY

How to Type in Chinese?

Once you have chosen your preferred Chinese keyboard, you can now type in Chinese. If you already know how to pronounce Chinese characters with using pinyin, just simply type the pinyin of the characters you want, and ignore the four tones in Chinese at the moment.

If you are using a computer, …

When you are typing, several Chinese characters will appear in a small window, you can choose the one you want and type the number of it. Then the character that you want will be typed out. (If the number is 1, you can just press space bar instead.)

For example (shown in Figure 6), if you want to type the character “” (zhōng), you can type “zhong” on you keyboard, and a window will appear as shown in Figure 6, then you can type the number “3” to choose the character “”, this character will finally appear on the screen.

Figure 6. Typing “zhong”

(If you are using a cellphone, you can just press on the Chinese character, no need to press any numbers or space bar.)

If you are typing a slightly complex or not that common Chinese character, for example, “”, you might not find it in the window, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Typing “yue”

If you are using a computer, you can press “+” to search more Chinese characters with the same pinyin (as shown in Figure 8); if you want to go back, you can press “”.

Figure 8. Typing “yue” and then press “+” (if using a computer)

If you are using a cell phone, similarly, you can press the arrow beside the row of the Chinese characters to look for more characters (as shown in Figure 9); you can also press the arrow again to go back.

Figure 9. Typing “yue” and then press the arrow (if using a cellphone)

How can I type in Chinese faster?

(The tips below is the same for using a computer or a cell phone.)

Tip 1. Type phrase by phrase

If you want to speed up, you can type the pinyin of each phrase as a group.

For example (as shown in Figure 10), if you want to type out a sentence “我正在学习如何打出中文字” (wǒ zhèng zài xué xí rú hé dǎ chū zhōng wén zì, the translation is “I am learning how to type in Chinese”), you can type like “wozhengzai”, then press space, continue typing “xuexi”, then press space, continue typing “ruhe”, then press space, continue typing “dachuzhongwenzi”, then press space.

(In Figure 10, the quotation marks will automatically appear when you are typing, which is to separate the pinyin for each Chinese character. You don’t need to type them by yourself. )

Figure 10. Tip 1 – Type phrase by phrase to speed up

Tip 2. Type less letters

In addition, to speed up more, you can type the first letter of pinyin for each Chinese character in a phrase, then the most common Chinese phrases related to this pinyin will come out.

For example (as shown in Figure 11), still using the example above, to get “我正在学习如何打出中文字” (wǒ zhèng zài xué xí rú hé dǎ chū zhōng wén zì), you can type “wzz”, then press space, continue typing “xxrh”, then press space, continue typing “dczwz”, then press space.

Figure 11. Tip 2 – Type less letters to speed up

Tip 3. Make use of fuzzy pinyin

“模糊音” (mó hú yīn, the translation is fuzzy pinyin) refers to some of similar pronunciations in Chinese, and sometimes even make Chinese people confused, especially for the people who often speak with their dialect so they have a strong accent.

模糊音 (mó hú yīn)

For example, many people from Shanghai or Zhejiang can not pronounce the pinyin of “ing” properly, but pronounce it like the pinyin “in”, so they are set as one group of fuzzy pinyin. Other groups of fuzzy pinyin are shown in Figure 12.

Hence, to type in Chinese more efficiently, you may want to turn on the function of fuzzy pinyin in the settings of input methods or keyboard (as shown in Figure 12).

Figure 12. Tip 3 – Turn on the function of fuzzy pinyin

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