Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Chinese Keyboard

A few days ago I installed my new Chinese keyboard that I brought back from Taiwan. Since then I have spent all my spare time working out how to use the thing only to finally come to the conclusion that it is so much easier to just stick to the Pinyin input method. In Taiwan it looked so easy watching other people use these keyboards and everyone there kept saying that it is so much easier to type Chinese using the Zhuyin fuhao method. However I now think that if you grow up in a Chinese speaking country and learn Zhuyin fuhao from early school it would be easier, but if you grow up in an English speaking country and learn the Roman alphabet from early school then Pinyin is easier by a very long way.

For those who don't know Zhuyin fuhao also known as Bo Po Mo is a phonetic alphabet containing 37 symbols that represent the 21 consonants and 16 vowels of the Chinese language. These are the symbols on the top right of each key in the above picture. It is really only used in Taiwan now days, and then generally only as a teaching aid in the early years of school and as a method of typing Chinese characters. The only real advantage I can see in learning Zhuyin fuhao is in that I have sometimes seen it used to write a word when someone has forgotten the correct character, which can happen suprisingly often when using uncommon words.

There are also two other input methods that can be used with this keyboard. The symbols on the bottom right of each key are for a method called Dayi which means "Big one" or "big easy", though I haven't been able to work out how to use this one yet. The symbols on the bottom left of each key are for an input method called the Cangjie method which at first I thought showed a lot of promise as far as helping to learn and remember Chinese characters was concerned. Each symbol represents a small group of symilar character pieces and a complete character is created by typing in each piece. A simple example is the character for vehicle, chi1 or 車. It is made up from top to bottom of 3 symbols 十,田 and 十. So to write the character 車 you just type 十田十 and space. I do suspect that if someone knew this system well then they would probably be able to type Chinese characters very fast, unfortunately for myself however it would take some getting used to and would probably involve pasting tables of characters all over my computer monitor.

So in the end I'm back to using the pinyin method again.


Blogger Chris said...

Wow that keyboard looks cool, but I don't think I would use it either. Good for leaving in front of the PC to freak out your friends though.

I had a brief look at other input systems but like you prefer pinyin. Other systems often seem to be designed for first language speakers (quite naturally). A bit of a chicken and egg problem when learning from scratch.

9:24 PM  
Blogger reyna said...

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12:17 PM  
Blogger John said...

Yes it looks realy good and I have descided to leave it on the computer. But I'm going to have to memorise how to type a few impressive looking characters, just in case someone asks me to demonstrate how to use it...;-)

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:21 AM  
Anonymous Edwin said...

Hi John,
Changjie used to be very popular in HK and Taiwan. I myself is still using it. Not sure if it is still popular anymore.

This method is very difficult. Even Chinese themselves find it hard to learn. But once you master it, you can type very fast. I can do about 20-30 characters per second. The experts can do 40-60 chars per second!

7:07 AM  
Blogger John said...

Hi Edwin,

I hope you mean 60 characters a minute.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Edwin said...

That's right, John. :P

10:38 PM  

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