Monthly Archives: January 2014

Chinese character posters

A little while ago I bought some physical Chinese character posters containing the most common Chinese characters and radicals, which I put up on my wall at home. I didn’t really think they’d be much help; it just seemed like it would be cool. They weren’t very expensive so I figured I’d just go for it.

The posters on my wall.

The 1,500 most common Chinese characters on the left and the 100 most common radicals on the right.

The large poster was laminated and came with a whiteboard marker so that you can circle the characters you’ve already learnt (and erase with ease). It’s not shown in the photo above but I found this to be a great thing to do! It really is satisfying seeing your progress visually up on the wall. If you learn all the characters on the poster, you’re well on your way to fluency (assuming you have the grammatical and composite word knowledge to boot).

Where to get posters

There are a number of places out there:

  • Based in Taiwan, this is the one I used and I was very happy with it. They have a nice-looking web site, lots of different kinds of posters to choose from and excellent customer service (all mine happened via their Twitter). The posters were delivered securely in a hard cardboard tube and arrived in perfect condition. If you send them a photo with your poster they will put it in their gallery (see if you can spot mine).
  • Based in Beijing, I haven’t tried this one but they have also have a lot of poster configurations, with a special focus on HSK vocabulary. They’ve also posted fairly high-resolution images of all their posters to give you a very good idea about what you will be getting.

Posters are a good way to measure your progress (helping you stay motivated) and are a great conversation starter, especially when you have Chinese people over! They’re not a replacement for flash cards but are are a nice way to explore the landscape of characters that you will be learning with them.

Feel free to comment below if you have any poster recommendations of your own!

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How to type pinyin tones on Android

How do you type pinyin tones on Android devices? I’m talking about creating pinyin text (with tone marks), not using pinyin to create Chinese characters.

Examples of various pinyin characters with tone marks

Update: 13 November 2014

Google has released their updated keyboard app in preparation for Android Lollipop (5.0). Finally, this keyboard allows us to type pinyin tones! The app is compatible with Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) onwards. You’ll probably want to grab both the updated keyboard app and the updated pinyin input method.
Android Pinyin Tones

Once you have the updated keyboard and input method installed:

  1. Switch to the pinyin input method.
  2. Switch to “English mode” (the “En” button next to the “中”).
  3. Type letters as usual, but for letters that need tones, long-press the letter and you will be presented with tone options.

I’ve heard you can also do this with the updated zhuyin input mode, but I haven’t tried it myself.

Original post: 10 January 2014

As far as I’ve been able to tell from my own research, there’s no way to type pinyin on an Android device (unlike iOS devices). This includes the default input methods provided by Google, up to and including the latest version of Android (4.4 on my Nexus 4), and any third party keyboards (that I’ve been able to find so far).

The only conceivable method I know of is to load up a web site like this Pinyin editor in your Android’s web browser, type the pinyin with numbers (e.g. “ma3” for “mǎ”) and then copy & paste the generated text to where you need it.

This is a rather sorry state of affairs. I’ve done a little bit of Android development and have pondered whether I could make something (either an Android keyboard, or an app similar to Pinyin Typist for iOS). However, I’m not sure how much demand there is out there for it.

If you’re interested in something like this, please leave a comment! Feel free to include what kind of solution you would most prefer (custom keyboard, standalone app, etc.).

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Photographing Shanghai from a skyscraper crane

One of my favourite photo sets from 2013 has to be the Shanghai crane operator 魏根生‘s photos from ~500 metres in the air. Here’s just one example:

Shanghai from a crane

This story circulated widely around Internet news sites. The best coverage I found was the Daily Mail’s, despite referring at one time to the photographer as “Mr Gensheng” instead of “Mr Wei”.

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