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There is no learn Chinese website so I figured I should ask here. Please let me know if this is not the right place to ask.

I'm learning Chinese and I aim to be able to type fast. I am considering learning one of Wubi or Cangjie (EDIT: or Zhengma now). My ultimate goal is to be able to read and type Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese. Can I get the pros and cons and comparison of Wubi based on this. (comments on any other input method, if helpful for typing speed are welcome too)

Specifically

  • Which is "easier" to learn. I'd like to know which one's rules are more intuitive than the other based on some pre-existing associations.

  • Which takes less time to learn? One may have simpler rules to decide components but have too large a number compared to ther

  • Which is faster to type? I'm not talking about the extreme case where that super character with 99 strokes can be typed using only 2 characters in Cangjie and 23 in Wubi or some such. I'd like if the relative frequency of the Chinese characters themselves is considered. I'm looking for a weighted average.

  • Which is more versatile. I am given to understand that both Cangjie and Wubi (recent versions) can type both Simplified and Traditional characters. Are there any major differences there? Also, is either good for typing the Kanji characters that Japan uses exclusively (I don't know how many of them there are)?

EDIT: There's also Zhengma which I hear is capable of typing the entire Unihan set.

Also, Wubi I believe is licensed on Windows so that's not an issue for me.

Mods: this can be seen as a discussion question but I think its a good question that some may like information on and removing it just because only one person will get those 15 points doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

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  • There are 2 types of IME in Chinese: phonetic and stroke analytic. If you are more confident with speaking or you know how the character sounds like but not necessarily how it is written, consider phonetic IME such as Pinyin(Standard Chinese/Putonghua/Mandarin), Bopomofo(Taiwanese Mandarin), JyutPing(Cantonese in HKied style), and they can be set up to output SC or TC. If you know better of how the characters are written, consider stoke analytic IMEs such as Changjie, Quick, Wubi, etc. – Daniel Cheung Oct 9 '16 at 6:16
  • Most (at least 95%+) people use PinYin in China, and if you have a good IME (like Sogou Pinyin), it's easy to achieve an acceptable type speed (80+ chars per minute for me). – xmcp Dec 20 '16 at 14:47
  • You might want to use general Japanese IME to output Chinese characters used in Japanese correctly. – Aria Ax Feb 5 '17 at 12:59
  • I had learned Wubi in school, after several years, I have switched to pinyin due to the 'smart composition of word', these days it is not necessary to learn wubi. – sunfy Jul 24 '18 at 4:16
  • Neither the Microsoft nor the Google Japanese IME let you input Kanji directly, unless by handwriting. When you input Japanese, you input the "reading", either with Romaji or Kana, then it will be converted into appropriate forms (including Kanji). Never used other Japanese IMEs, but they should be similar. (This is a comment as this is a site about Chinese) – fefe Jul 24 '18 at 6:27
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Wubi is indeed very fast, but the cost and benefit makes it less worthwhile. In fact, I'd like to argue most of the professional typewriting systems aren't worth learning. You get AI support on major sound-based IMEs and AI advances a thousand miles a day, soon they will be at least as fast as Wubi and its peers. I'd like to think Wubi is as dead as all those stenotype systems. You shouldn't use them if you want to be some sort of professional.

Also Wubi is a copyrighted system, though the copyright owner, 王永民, reluctantly gave out an earlier version for free (after losing a copyright lawsuit, which is kind of ridiculous because he should have won), the later versions are again copyrighted. No software company takes interest in buying the copyright and develop an IME for it, which means you're stuck with the so-called classic version which only supports a subset of simplified Chinese characters(it can support a bigger charset, but you have to work around a lot of issues, making it less of a choice for traditional Chinese). 王永民 made IMEs with his own company, but apparently he knew neither software nor business. Last time I checked, the company had only 2 part-time employees maintaining the website, nothing else.

The business is later transferred to 王's daughter-in-law, but she has her own business to take care of. Last year I wrote a tirade on the status of Wubi. She said she will do something about it, but nothing happened since then.

By comparison, the Cangjie inventor had made it to the public domain, and now it has a livelier ecosystem.

In general, Wubi takes less strokes to form a character, but Wubi's rule has more exceptions and therefore more difficult to learn.

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  • In reality, almost nobody in China uses wubi. – Zang MingJie Jul 24 '18 at 12:25
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All the comments above are great.

Though there is one thing that I seldom hear people mention, which is the benefit to your reading when you use a stroke-based input method. This is because fuzzy recognition with Pinyin and bopomofo (注音符號) allow you to type entire phrases barely considering the characters you type, except to the extent that you are diligent in looking for typos (though the will easily slip through with both methods). The use of sound-based ime's has resulted in a bizarre situation where most Chinese have a great deal of difficulty remembering how to write some of the less-common characters (in fact, when you ask them how to write a harder character, they will often instinctively reach for their mobile phone so they can type it in and see how it's written -- this happens much less frequently with the wubi & cangjie typists.

The stroke-based methods on the other hand force you to consider the characters you are typing, which allows you to maintain a better grasp of the characters.

I have been reading Chinese for over 20 years, mostly simplified until 2 years ago when I moved to Taiwan and then almost exclusively traditional. I had, however read a number of books in traditional characters, but reading became slower and more tedious. After switching to Cangjie, I found reading traditional all of a sudden became a lot more comfortable as I continued to cultivate a "relationship" with each character as I typed.

As far as speed goes, the both of the stroke-based methods are faster when typed by someone who really does a lot of typing, but pinyin uses the same layout as English and if you type fast in English, you'll most likely type at a pretty good clip in Chinese with pinyin. I tested myself typing pinyin just now and came in at 71 characters per minute, which is faster than some of my friends typing Cangjie, but i tend to have tons of often embarrassing typos.

I would not worry about typing speed right so much as not getting pinyin "stuck in your brain" which happened to me for years where I would actually think in pinyin rather than characters), which certainly happened to me for years.

If you are positive that you are going to continue to study Chinese and doing a lot of typing, then I can see the advantages of learning a stroke-based method earlier rather than later, but you will certainly want to have pinyin in the beginning.

As far as bopomofo/zhuyin (ㄅㄆㄇ/注音符號) goes, i'd definitely not bother with that, there is no advantage even when typing Complex characters in Taiwan. I had heard some arguments that it would help a foreigner with their pronunciation more than pinyin, but while i understand the rationale for that, it is nonetheless misguided, and while nothing compared to cangjie or wubi, there is nonetheless a learning curve as you have to learn new phonetic symbols and develop that muscle memory when you type. Also, bopomofo/zhuyin uses more keys which makes it a bit less ergonomic.

Regarding Wubi vs Cangjie: take a look at where you will be and which character set you will be dealing with. Do not learn Cangjie to type simplified characters (you can do it, but it is an unnatural workaround) and do not learn wubi to type traditional characters.

So I would strongly advise learning pinyin which you will naturally do when you begin to study Chinese (if you haven't already); in the meanwhile, you can make learning either wubi or Cangjie a side project to the extent that you feel it works for you.

I hope that helps!

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  • A couple more things to keep in mind: 1) If you find that you are interested in Cangjie, but still want to be able to type in simplified characters, the "Yahoo Key Key" (yahoo奇魔輸入法)allows you to type in the regular code for traditional characters while their simplified characters appear on the screen, which is a pretty nifty trick that doesn't require you to do any extra thinking. – David Harris Dec 11 '16 at 3:11
  • Also, Google's Chinese is a good Input method that allows you to type pinyin and toggle between complex characters and would be a good starting point. – David Harris Dec 11 '16 at 3:14
  • And finally, I am not sure i was clear on the "Yahoo Key Key" (yahoo奇魔輸入法)in that the option to switch between simplified and complex is a toggle button as well. One very nice thing about this method is that Yahoo released it to open source and it is part of the open vanilla project, so i would imagine that it will be around for a while. It shows up on a search of "best cangjie input method". – David Harris Dec 11 '16 at 3:20
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Use Pinyin. It's both faster, easier to learn, and more versatile.

By the time you start learning Chinese, you should have alread started learning Pinyin. So there is no additional "rules" to learn before you can type.

Speaking of speed, Wubi was fast in 1980s because Pinyin IMs had to deal with many characters with the same pronounciation, while Wubi rarely had two characters having the same 4-letter encoding. But thanks to the advancement of processing power and the machine learning technology, nowadays state-of-the-art Pinyin IMs lets the user type the Pinyin of a phrase or even a sentence rather than a character, and predicts the correct characters using advanced Markovian statistic language models (In layman's term, the program reads your mind!), and the accuracy is incredibly high. Basically you just keep typing. The longer phrase you type, the more accurate it is. And as the computer system supports more and more characters, and the IM starts to have bigger and bigger word lists, Wubi starts to have many words or characters having the same encoding, and it basically undermined its own advantage.

Most Pinyin IMs (such as Sogou Pinyin) let you toggle between simplified and traditional Chinese mode at any time with a hotkey. IOS (iPhone) also supports Pinyin for both simplified and traditional Chinese.

In conclusion, it's already the 21st century. Use Pinyin, and let the technology handle the rest.

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I will give a blanket answer to your question. This might seem like a discussion and sound harsh but I hope it helps.

Which is "easier" to learn? Which takes less time to learn? Which is faster to type? Both Wubi or Cangjie are hard to learn if you are new to Chinese. (I am basing this on your goal of learning to read and type Mandarin and Cantonese, fyi, character wise, they are the same, only with different pronunciation). I recommend regular pinyin or ㄅㄆㄇ for newcomers to Chinese because you will not know which character to type. (While a pinyin-based input method requires only that you are familiar with the pronunciation, Wubi and Cangjie require that you are already familiar with the characters you want to write.) Once you have mastered the characters, in terms of speed and which is faster, both are equally fast once you get used to it.

How long do they take to learn? Both takes about 1 month to "learn", but many more months to practice. This is only if you have mastered reading Chinese first.

Now you brought up typing Japanese. This will be a completely different input method so Cangjie and Wubi will not help. At the end of the day, typing is only an additional "soft skill" but you will have to master the "hard skill" of learning the language first.

Good luck.

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There are very very few people using wubi in Chinese, and zhengma is much less used than wubi. Because they are hard, and you have to learn them to use them. We use pinyin, because we learnt pinyin even before we started school. And it is fast if you use it for a long time. Also it can type simplified and traditional. Only old people use wubi in our mind.

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  • "old" people use handwriting. – fefe Jul 24 '18 at 6:23
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Pinyin would be easier to learn considering you (or so I'm guessing) are a native English speaker. I speak Mandarin and Cantonese so I can't tell you how much of my advice relates to learning Japanese.

While Cantonese and Mandarin are both Chinese dialects, they are very different in terms of tones and sentence structure. The same character 你 reads as ni in Mandarin and nhei in Cantonese, for instance. Generally speaking, a lot of Mainland Chinese people have difficulty communicating with those from Guangdong / HK.

My best advice would be to get your conversational skills down first. Writing/typing will get easier as you build your foundation. Translating your thoughts (from English) into Chinese words and sentences will take some practice.

I wish you luck.

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I agree with others that wubi is a mess which is why I stopped studying it... It's also proprietary and found almost nowhere.

Boshiamy is also proprietary and difficult to get.

Cangjie, by contrast, is extremely intuitive, ubiquitous, insanely popular (There's even a cangjie fan club in Malaysia as well as many spin off input methods such as sucheng and qingsong) , and very versatile.

You can type:

  1. Traditional Chinese
  2. Simplified Chinese
  3. Cantonese characters
  4. Ancient/rare variants
  5. Japanese variants.
  6. Chu Nom characters

(More than 70,000 total)

If you can visualize or see a character, you can type it.

I used to forget how to write characters, but now I remember them.

I often find myself picturing the characters in my mind as I type them and this visualization carries over into writing.

I learned the method in about a month with free resources online.

You can type characters you've never seen before fairly quickly.

And those you use often become ingrained in muscle memory.

Usually, I think of a sentence, and my fingers just start flying, spitting out the characters. If it's a character I haven't used for a while, I will visualize it to type it. There is no code memorization necessary.

Another advantage of Cangjie is its accuracy. Especially with names, it is very efficient vs. scrolling through pages of characters in pinyin input methods. For most common characters there is only one code. Some key combinations might yield 7 characters, but 6 are ancient obsolete characters. Table order doesn't change so I know that kb is 有 and kb2 is 冇. I can pretty much type with my eyes closed and know what's going to be on screen.

All this leads to very fast typing. Here is a 187 WPM Cangjie example: https://yewtu.be/watch?v=zHf6qNs3Qqg

(I've seen speeds higher than that on some Chinese blogs, but I can't remember now where I saw them. I'll add them if I come across them again)

Also, to type simplified characters in boshiamy, you need to type the traditional character and use a toggle switch to convert. If you only remember or see the simplified character, you're SOL.

It's my understanding that wubi traditional character support is the same with the added problems that many times 1 simplified character can map to many different traditional characters.

With Cangjie, you type whatever you see on paper or in your head. And you can't beat that in my humble opinion.

The Malaysian fan club has this online Cangjie 5 input http://chinesecj.com/ime/cj5.php (cutt.ly/oiar) You can also download and use it offline if you don't want to install extra packages.

fcitx cangjie5 packages include a pinyin option triggered by the ` key where you can use pinyin to type characters and lookup codes. You can also search partial codes using "?" as a wildcard character. CTRL+ALT+E allows you to display a character's pinyin, as well. You can toggle 漢/汉 to force output into traditional or simplified characters. And you can input quick phrases triggered by the ";" key.

I know some spinoffs have built in quick/abbreviated phrase functionality, but I'm less familiar with those.

Anyway, I hope that helps and the best of luck to you!

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I used to be a Wubi user when I was in high school, I had used it for 4 years before I started to use pinyin IME.

Wubi is fast cuz, like other IME based on forms(writings), it decreases 重碼(same encoding).

Many people think Wubi is hard to learn, though it is harder than pinyin IME, it is not that hard, it is like learning Cyrillic letters for English speakers I guess, by learning groups by groups, it is just a memory activity.

The pain of using Wubi is connected to its mechanism. Wubi isn't based on the rules of Chinese characters, Chinese characters have radicals, basic building blocks. Wubi doesn't respect them, it divides characters by its own rules, and the rules are vague and ambiguous on some characters.

I still remember one of these characters, 曹, it is one of the nightmares to type, I have to recall the cheatsheet formula, again and again, try to divide it according to these formulas, usually, I can only type it correctly after 10 miss typings. Luckily, I knew an IME called 极点五笔 2 years later from I used Wubi, it has a mixed-mode that allows user to type pinyin and it tells you what is the Wubi encoding for the character.

Later, there are some really "smart" pinyin IME, then I switched to them.

By the way, I tried some 双拼(double type pinyin IME), I even made one scheme by myself. But I didn't use it for 1 week. This additional memory mechanism is really easy to forget or stop you.

Finally, if your job is depending on typing like you are a writer, you may try Wubi, otherwise, I don't recommend it.

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My ultimate goal is to be able to read and type Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese.

Yep, if you really want to type both Chinese characters and Japanese kanji characters with only one IME, you really need to choose one of the Wubi, Cangjie, Zhengma IMEs. Because you cannot type a few Japanese kanji in Chinese Pinyin IME, and you cannot type a few Chinese characters in Japanese kana IME. three types of characters

You can choose either Wubi or Zhengma, but I don't recommend Cangjie, as it is is not compatible to how a character is normally written.

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