Monday, October 26, 2009

How to help your students practice typing Pinyin on a computer with FREE tools and native computer input methods

I've talked with quite a few teachers about how to help the students practice typing Pinyin as part of their Chinese language learning experience. Many teachers believe that they will have to purchase one of the products on the market for practicing typing Pinyin.

Let's think about this - the reason students need to learn typing Pinyin is because at certain point they need to be able to "type" Chinese characters on the computer. If that's the objective, why don't we get them to use the native Pinyin input already available on Windows and Mac, instead of using a third-party tool that is not going to be used in real life for inputing Chinese?

Some teachers would like the students to see the Pinyin annotation along with the Chinese characters. That capability is also available online for free. Why spending hundreds of dollars buying a piece of software while you can train the students using Pinyin in the natural way for no cost? This blog explains how.

First, you need to set up the computer operating system to allow students to type Pinyin to enter Chinese characters. Click here for the FAQ on step by step instructions.

Once set up, students can enter Chinese characters in MS Word or a text editor with Pinyin.

To see the Pinyin annotation along with the Chinese characters, we recommend the following free on-line tool.

Make sure you use the following options:
You can then have the students input Chinese in the text box with Pinyin input method available with Windows or Mac.

Once they finish inputing the text, they can press the Go button to get the Pinyin annotation. See the example below:

There are some other nice features like mouse over to show English translation. Next to the Go button, there's a button to bring up the character writing/recognition interface to allow students to enter Chinese characters through a writing pad and character recognition.

Hope your students will enjoy using the tools and learn the Chinese character input skills that they can truly utilize in the future. In today's economic environment, being able to do this without costing anything is certainly a nice bonus.

I look forward to hearing your feedback of my blog. You can use the comment link below to provide your input and ask me questions.