How many times have you checked Facebook, Twitter or Instagram today?
If you’re like most people, then the answer is probably a lot.
Who can blame us? Social media is a fun and easy way to see what our friends and favorite celebs are up to.
For Chinese learners, it can also be a great tool to read authentic, informal Mandarin and even meet some new online language exchange buddies!
But it’s pretty tricky to accomplish all that if you’ve only got your English keyboard and some emojis set up.
If you really want get chatting in Chinese like a native, you’ll need to learn how to type in Chinese.
Fortunately, it’s simpler than you might think!
We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to installing and mastering digital Chinese keyboards on any mobile device or computer.
Getting comfortable with Mandarin typing will help you dive into Chinese content online, and it’ll also be useful for writing letters, essays, emails and more.
Ready to get tapping?
Do I Really Need to Know How to Type in Chinese?
- Knowing how to type makes it much easier to connect with Chinese speakers. Depending on where you’re located, it might be difficult or impossible to meet native Mandarin speakers locally. If that’s the case, learning how to type in Chinese will help you connect with people over the internet and social media instead.
Plus, you really can’t get the hang of Chinese slang unless you spend time on Sina Weibo for a while!
- Typing is great for learning characters and boosting writing skills. Using the following methods for typing in Chinese, you’ll need to know the correct 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization in order to type in 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters.
Therefore, you’ll be getting some much needed word-character association practice.
- It’s kind of fun to type in Chinese! Using the methods we’re going to cover in this post makes writing in Chinese online super easy and quick. It’s also kind of fun to figure out the right characters to use and write in a new language.
How to Easily Type in Chinese on Any Device
Below, we’ll show you how to set up and use Chinese-language computers on Apple, Android and Microsoft devices—starting with mobile devices and then moving to computers/laptops.
You can practice typing in Chinese with FluentU’s adaptive quizzes and flashcards.
Each video comes with interactive captions, flashcards and exercises to make sure you’re actively boosting your Chinese language skills while you watch. FluentU gives you a chance to study characters and tests you on your understanding of them. Try it out with a free FluentU trial!
1. How to Type in Chinese on Your Phone or Tablet
Installing a keyboard on an iPhone or other handheld Apple device:
Installing a Chinese keyboard on an iPhone is actually quite simple! All you need to do is access your keyboard settings.
- First, navigate to your “Settings” menu.
- Select “General” and then “Keyboard.”
- Next select “Keyboards” at the top and then “Add New Keyboard…”
- Scroll down and select either “Chinese (Simplified) or “Chinese (Traditional).”
At this point you’ll have a range of options for Pinyin keyboards and others such as “Handwriting.” “Pinyin” is definitely recommended—the others are a bit more complicated to use.
That’s all folks! Once you exit “Settings,” pop on over to your messages or any other messaging app that uses your keyboard.
You’ll find your new keyboard under the globe icon on the left side. You can easily switch between your English and Chinese keyboards by tapping the globe.
Installing a keyboard on an Android device:
Android users will have to download an additional app in order to type in Chinese and do a bit more work, but the process is still quite simple.
- In the Google Play store, search for and download the “Google Pinyin Input” app to your device.
- Once installed, pop on over to your phone’s “Settings” and select “Language & input.”
- Under “Keyboard & input methods” select “Current Keyboard.” This will likely be “English (US) – Android Keyboard.”
- Select “Choose Keyboards.”
- Look for “Google Pinyin Input” under the list of keyboard and input methods. Switch it on.
- When you go back to “Keyboard & input methods,” you’ll notice that there’s now a tab for Chinese. From there, you’ll find a ton of settings and options to choose from, but for the sake of simplicity, leave those settings as-is.
- Go to an app that uses a keyboard. Select the little globe on the left side of your keyboard.
- There’ll now be a 中 (Zhōng) — China and EN tab. Select the “中” tab.
- Select the “QWERTY” layout, as it’s the easiest to use.
That’s all for Android users! Like the iPhone, you can switch between keyboards using the globe icon on your Android device.
Start typing away on your smartphone or tablet!
For either device, activate the Chinese keyboard. Type out the pīn yīn you wish to translate. (Tip: remember that for certain tones like nü you’ll need to type out “nv” instead of “nu” to get the proper hàn zì options.)
Once you spell out the pīn yīn for the word, you’ll be presented with a list of hàn zì that could match that specific syllable.
There can be dozens and dozens of hàn zì that’ll pop up for a single syllable, so you’ll have to do some searching when first using the new keyboard. Luckily, pīn yīn inputs save your most used hàn zì for easy access once you use the keyboard for a while.
Select the hàn zì you wish to use and it’ll be inserted into your message. How easy is that?
2. How to Type in Chinese on Your Laptop or Computer
Need to type in Chinese on your office or home computer? No problem. It’s easy to set up a keyboard on your desktop computer or laptop as well.
Enabling Chinese input for your MacBook or iMac:
- Navigate to “System Preferences.”
- Select “Keyboard.”
- Select “Input Sources.” At the bottom left of the window, select the “+” symbol.
- Scroll down and select either “Chinese (Simplified)” or “Chinese (Traditional)” from the box on the left. In the box on the right, select “Pinyin – Simplified” or “Pinyin – Traditional.” Hit “Add.”
- Make sure that the input keyboard is now listed in “Input Sources.” To begin using this keyboard, make sure it’s selected before exiting.
Now you’ll notice there’s an “A” symbol in your upper right menu bar. Press this button and select the “拼” symbol. Your Chinese keyboard is now activated. To switch between keyboards, simply hit this button.
Enabling Chinese input for your Windows device:
- In your Cortana box, type “Region.”
- Go to “Region and Language Settings.”
- Select “Add a Language.” Choose “Chinese Simplified > Chinese (Simplified, China)” or “Chinese Traditional > Chinese (Traditional, China).”
- Select the available language pack. From there, select “Options” and wait for the download to finish.
- Go to “Keyboards” and select “Add a Keyboard.” Choose the “Microsoft Pinyin” input method editor.
- Select “Microsoft Bopomofo” as your preferred input method editor.
- From the “Microsoft Bopomofo” menu, select “HanYu Pinyin.”
- Close the “Settings” window.
On your Windows menu bar, there’ll be a little keyboard icon. Select this to switch between your Chinese and English keyboards.
Get to typing in Chinese on your desktop or laptop!
Simply type away in your browser or preferred word editing software. The enabled keyboard will detect that you’re typing in pīn yīn and will recommend hàn zì to quickly select.
See how easy it is to get started on your Chinese social media journey? Using pīn yīn and hàn zì with a virtual keyboard may be a little awkward at first. But with enough practice, you’ll be zooming through sentences in no time!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
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