Every Chinese learner wants to connect with native speakers.
So at some point, we download Weibo, make an account, customize a cute profile and then…
We’re left clueless about how to type in Chinese.
Or maybe a learner does know how to type in Chinese, but their response times are slow due to lack of Chinese typing practice, and this causes the people they’re trying to connect with to give up.
It doesn’t have to be this way. All typing takes is a little know-how and practice.
If you’re learning Mandarin Chinese, you’re definitely going to need to be proficient at typing 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization and 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters.
Luckily, we’ve put together a guide packed with awesome resources to take you from novice typist to absolute pro.
Do I Really Need to Learn Chinese Typing?
Like we mentioned above, if you want to connect with others online in Mandarin, you’ll have to get the hang of typing in Chinese. Chinese typing practice will improve your fluency with characters and help you memorize individual hanzi as well as pinyin.
Additionally, applying for jobs that require Mandarin language skills or opportunities to study abroad is much easier if you can type in Chinese. You can still find these opportunities online without decent Chinese typing skills, but the horizon is a bit broader when you can execute a search using hanzi.
Chinese Typing Practice Plus: A 4-step Resource Guide
1. Get a great Mandarin keyboard.
You can’t get your Mandarin typing practice in unless you have a Chinese keyboard. But don’t worry about spending money on a physical keyboard. We’re talking virtual here.
Virtual Chinese keyboards can be installed to just about any device or operating system and allow you to quickly and easily input hanzi by typing out a particular character’s pinyin and selecting the correct hanzi from a list. We have a great in-depth guide about where and exactly how to install Mandarin keyboards.
That guide will walk you through how to enable Chinese typing on any device, but here are some great downloadable keyboards that are free to install:
2. Try an online typing test (or two).
What better way to bring your typing skills up to speed (literally!) than by using an online typing test? You can easily fit one of these awesome tests into your typing practice routine.
This super handy online test has a fairly simple interface. You can try out their one-minute typing test, go into multiplayer mode or design your own custom typing test.
To use this typing test, simply type out the pinyin for the highlighted characters. If you successfully translated the hanzi, the characters will turn green and you’ll move on to the next characters. If you’re incorrect, they’ll turn red and you’ll advance to the next set of characters anyway. This test analyzes your typing speed as well as the number of characters you correctly translated.
Plus, it’s free. That’s pretty cool, right?
This program isn’t quite a test, but it certainly can be used as one. Simply begin typing a word in pinyin and select the correct hanzi for the word by pressing 1, 2, 3, etc. This is really handy for learners on the go who may not want to actually install a Chinese keyboard on their computer but still want to flex their typing skills.
Start a timer on your phone and begin typing out as many hanzi as you know, or try to translate a page written in hanzi. This is a great way to add typing practice into your Mandarin learning routine and see how you improve over time.
This Chinese typing test assesses one’s speed and accuracy at typing in Chinese. Like with 10 Fast Fingers, you’ll type out the correct pinyin for the displayed hanzi. The main difference is that you’ll have the opportunity to correct yourself if you miss a character. You can do this during the test by pressing the backspace key. Different parts of this test are color-coded for efficiency. It definitely works more like a game, which can be very challenging and entertaining!
3. Find a course that includes typing, reading and/or writing in Chinese.
Taking a course that includes writing Chinese characters may be a great idea for further improving your typing skills. This will help you know for a fact that you’re reading, writing and typing Chinese characters correctly.
FluentU offers many different ways to learn Mandarin Chinese. It takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Through authentic videos and interactive captions, you can flex those typing, reading and translation skills with ease.
There’s a wide range of contemporary videos, as you can see here:
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language: FluentU makes native Chinese videos approachable through interactive transcripts and subtitles.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
The powerful learning program turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your studies and suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. That means every user gets a 100% personalized experience!
If you happen to be planning on traveling abroad to Shanghai, this course is definitely worth checking out! EasyMandarin Chinese Language School has a ton of awesome Chinese courses. One such course is their Hanzi course, which puts a special focus on reading and writing.
Learners will be taught hanzi writing skills, which include both typing and handwriting. Beginners will learn basic words, such as food items, street signs and numbers. Intermediate learners will be taught internet lingo and common Chinese words on television. Advanced learners will be taught how to write and read legal and business-related documents. All levels of this course are designed with the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Exam) in mind as well.
You have the option of taking this course one-on-one with a teacher or in a private group. Beginner, intermediate and advanced learners are all accepted for this course and you can choose the course start times.
This awesome online course is offered by Peking University via Coursera and is designed specifically with the beginner learner in mind, though we suggest taking a Chinese 101 class before taking this writing- and typing-specific course.
In this course, you’ll be taught basic Chinese stroke elements, 1200 basic Chinese words and 240 common Chinese characters. Exercises in this class involve actually translating English and pinyin into hanzi. Since this course is online, it involves almost exclusively typing.
Some course content is available for free, but if you buy Coursera Premium, you can access the course in its entirety.
4. Remember to practice handwriting and reading.
Yes, we’re aware that typing doesn’t have anything to do with handwriting. Not directly, anyway. But through writing characters out by hand using the proper stroke order, you’ll find that you’ve memorized a lot more hanzi and their respective pinyin.
Remember in grade school when you’d be made to write the same sentence or word over and over again? It’s the same thing—repetition is the best form of practice. Plus, knowing how to handwrite Chinese characters is a good skill to have in the long run.
Here are some great printable worksheets and books to help you practice writing in Chinese:
- Chinese Character Writing Sheets
- Free Chinese Printables
- Language Learning Notebook
- Chinese Practice Sheet Generator
Did this article help demystify Chinese typing for you?
There are so many awesome resources out there to help you become a pro at Chinese typing.
Good luck with your language learning journey!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.