I’ve just started learning Chinese in my spare time. Given that I studied Japanese for almost two years at university, Chinese has never been an entirely closed book to me in its written form (to me, obviously a 先生 is a teacher, but I had no idea until recently that the Chinese pronounce it xiānsheng, rather than something sensible such as sensei).
I decided to figure out how to write it on my computer from the outset – these days I hardly ever write anything by hand.
The most obvious way of typing Chinese is by entering the pronunciation in Pinyin and then have the computer display the various options. However, Chinese has so many homophones that it requires you to stop up and read the suggestions extremely frequently, which slows you down.
I therefore decided to learn a stroke-based method instead, and I decided to go for 五笔/Wubi, which apparently is the most widespread method in the PRC.
It’s an extremely efficient method – any commonly used simplified Hanzi can be written with four keystrokes or less.
As an example, here’s the first paragraph from Chinese Wikipedia’s article about Wubi:
According to Google, this is transcribed as follows in Pinyin:
Wǔbǐ zìxíng shūrù fǎ shì Wáng Yǒngmín zài 1983 nián 8 yuè fāmíng de yī zhǒng hànzì shūrù fǎ. Zhōngwén shūrù fǎ de biānmǎ fāng’àn hěnduō, dàn jīběn yījù dōu shì hànzì de dúyīn hé zìxíng liǎng zhǒng shǔxìng. Wǔ bǐ zìxíng wánquán yījù bǐhuà hé zì xíng tèzhēng duì hànzì jìnxíng biānmǎ, shì diǎnxíng de xíng mǎ shūrù fǎ. Wǔ bǐ zì xíng shūrù fǎ zhǔyào yòng yú shǐyòng jiǎntǐ zhōngwén de zhōngguó dàlù, guòqù, wǔ bǐ dǎzì bǐ pīnyīn fāngbiàn, dàn suízhe zhìnéng pīnyīn de xīngqǐ, wǔ bǐ yǐjīng bù jùbèi yōushì. Diàochá biǎomíng, mùqián, zài dàxuéshēng zhōng, shǐyòng wǔ bǐ de rén yǐjīng hěn shǎole. Érqiě, hěnduō shǒujī méiyǒu QWERTY jiànpán, wúfǎ zài shǒujī shàng shǐyòng wǔ bǐ, shì wǔ bǐ de jùdà lièshì.
I’ve written a program to generate the Wubi keystrokes to key this text (contact me if you’re interested in the program):
ggtt pbga lwty if j gyna d 1983rh 8eee ntje r ggtk icpb lwty if. khyy lwty if r xydc yypv tvqq, wjg adsg wyrn ftjb j icpb r yfn ujf t pb gae gmww tkh ntnt. ggtt pbga pfwg wyrn ttgl t pb gae trtg cf icpb fjtf xydc, j maga r gae dcg lwty if. ggtt pbga lwty if ygsv etgf wget tuws khyy r khlg ddbf, fpfc, ggtt rspb xx ruuj yywg, wjg bdud tdce ruuj r iw fhn, ggtt nnxc i hwtl wdrv. ymsj geje, hhue, d ditg k, wget ggtt r w nnxc tvit b. dmeg, tvqq rtsm imde QWERTYqvte, fqif d rtsm h wget ggtt, j ggtt r andd itrv.
Note how much shorter it is than the Pinyin version, and don’t forget that keying the Hanzi through Pinyin would require a lot of interactivity whereas the Wubi version can be keyed without looking.
However, I am finding the learning curve for Wubi to be quite steep. Lots of characters are really easy to type (w for 人, eeee for 月, wwf for 坐, and even khlg for 中国 are all easily learned), but can anybody explain to me why 气 is rnb in Wubi?!?