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Slow Chinese 11
Chinese writing input methods
Typing on a computer is called “inputting”. If I were to give you the usual type of keyboard filled with Roman alphabet letters, would you know how to type Chinese characters?
There are thousands of Chinese characters. If the keyboard were to be marked with Chinese characters, how big would it have to be? Therefore Chinese people have invented ways of inputting Chinese characters, called Chinese input methods. The principle is similar to searching a dictionary. There are many Chinese input methods, the most commonly used being the pinyin input method. There is also the five stroke input method, the character stroke input method, the numerical input method, etc.
The pinyin input method is the most widely used inputting method. The pinyin input method is very simple; it is the method used by people who have learned pinyin. To input a character, you have to type it out in phonetic order on the keyboard. However there are lots of characters with the same pronunciation. Characters with the same letters will appear arrayed on the computer screen, so what you must do is press the number key that corresponds to the correct character. Being able to pick out characters is one of the pinyin input method’s strong points. To improve inputting efficiency, software designers insert the most widely used characters first. Today’s software is becoming progressively more intelligent. It can recall the most commonly used characters and correct inputting mistakes. The pinyin input method I like to use is Sougou, whose interface is very beautiful. Additionally, there are the Ziguang, Weiruan, and Guge input methods etc. They are all very useful. By the way, Weiruan is Microsoft. And as you probably guessed, Guge is the Chinese name for Google.
The five stroke input method is based on the writing and composition of Chinese characters. The “five strokes” are the “horizontal-vertical-diagonal top right angling down to the left-diagonal top left angling down to the right- sharp turn” five basic types of stroke. To learn the five stroke input method, a special keyboard is required; a keyboard which is not marked “abc”, but rather with the key radicals and strokes of Chinese characters. People must also memorize a number of mnemonic rhymes for recalling stroke order. In this way, they can more quickly locate the correct key. Once used to the rules, one is able to more swiftly and accurately input Chinese characters, since the five stroke method does not require you to choose one character. Thus at one time, the five stroke method was very popular. But it necessitates people spend so much time learning its rules that the number of people using it is decreasing.
The stroke input method and the numerical input method are not popular input methods, and are used only in special circumstances. There is one other way of inputting Chinese characters and that is to write them by hand. But about this I hardly need say more.
Neil Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org)