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I volunteer at a seniors' home in Canada, and am helping one (childfree, single) senior to buy a laptop. She speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, but no English. She needs a Chinese version of Windows, but doesn't know Pinyin or any Chinese keyboard input method. What will be easiest?

  1. Writing characters with a stylus on an USB drawing pad plugged into the laptop?

  2. Or learning some input method, and typing Chinese?

  3. Or some other solution?

  • 以我的年紀要學用中文鍵盤輸入法實在太難了, 這是我法在 iPad 上用手寫中文輸入的文字,也不會比鍵盤輸入法慢大多。 – Tang Ho Jul 23 '18 at 6:09
  • You need to specify if they can already write, in which case the answer seems trivial to me! – Ludi Jul 23 '18 at 19:12
  • If she's ok with writing on a touchpad, the answer is obvious. Most laptops come with one embedded, get that one instead of an external drawing pad. If she wants to and is able to learn, there are simple methods like wubuhua 五笔画 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroke_count_method – Vitaly Osipov Jul 28 '18 at 1:54
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Writing with a stylus would certainly be far easier than learning any input methods, especially for the aged, barring, of course, that they can’t already write. It is the same with smartphones and tablets at the moment. Many people in and above their fifties would rather write out the characters than type pinyin because of the unfamiliarity with Roman characters and pinyin in general.

  • @NumberTheory oops, fixed. – user3306356 Jul 23 '18 at 5:19
  • Having tried to write 汉字 with a stylus or finger on two kinds of trackpads, I can assure you that “not easy” is an understatement. On a tablet, you get to see the lines you are drawing where you are drawing them. On a trackpad, you do one stroke but since the stroke is shown only on the screen and not on the pad, you have to guess where to put your stylus/finger for the next stroke. For a laptop, better to learn pinyin, which is not hard to do. And then, the most complicated character is seven keystrokes or taps. Plus, the software is extremely good at guessing the next character. – 伟思礼 Jul 24 '18 at 0:43
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It's better to use handwriting tablet (not drawing pad), which is specialized on Chinese writing recognition.

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Hand writing with an electric pen/stylus would be easier to accepted by elders. Alternative way is finger writing on a touch screen or touch pad. However, you may also suggest another method -- voice input. Many Chinese IMEs (input methods) now support voice input, e.g. Sougou Pinyin; QQ Pinyin. Just click the microphone icon on the IME's bar, you will see the voice input interface. It's easy to record your voice and interpret it into text. Here is a step by step tutorial: https://jingyan.baidu.com/article/4ae03de31b67883efe9e6b43.html

Some prerequisites of using voice input:
1. Your verbal Mandarin should be good without too much accent.
2. Internet connection may be needed.
3. Your Windows/Mac device has a pretty good microphone.

These IMEs also support for writing Chinese characters by mouse device if you don't have a touch screen or pad. This is inefficient, but an alternative choice in some cases.

  • The voice dictation bundled with MacOS is quite good for Chinese and many other languages. I suspect Windows is almost as good. If not, buy Dragon from Nuance. It’s basically the same code that Apple is using. – 伟思礼 Jul 24 '18 at 15:07

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