How to Type in Chinese Characters on Your U.S. Keyboard

By C. Taylor

Windows 8 enables switching between multiple keyboard layouts for quick changes in language input, such as when drafting a bilingual document. The Chinese language offers a special challenge, because this character-based language cannot be directly typed on a physical keyboard. To work around the thousands of Chinese characters, or hanzi, you must type the phonetic "pinyin" spelling and then select the matching hanzi from the list of suggestions.

Step 1

Press "Win-C" to open the Charms bar and then select "Settings | Change PC Settings | Time and Language | Region and Language."

Step 2

Click "Add a Language" and then choose either "Chinese (Simplified)" or "Chinese (Traditional)." If you're not sure which option to use, choose the Simplified option, which uses the modern form of hanzi and is more widely used. However, the traditional form is still used frequently in some southeast areas, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. If you need access to both forms, you can install multiple Chinese keyboards.

Step 3

Select the area-specific setting, depending on the region for which you're writing. If you chose the simplified form, you can choose Singapore or China; in most cases, you should choose "Chinese (Simplified, China)." If you chose the traditional form, you can choose between Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. Once you make this selection, the keyboard is immediately available.

Step 4

Press "Win-Space" to quickly toggle between keyboards or click the "Eng" icon from the desktop's notification area and then choose the appropriate Chinese keyboard.

Step 5

Type the pinyin for the hanzi you want and then select the appropriate suggestion from the pop-up bar. You can also type the number associated with a suggestion to enter it without taking your hands off the keyboard.

Tips & Warnings

  • To fine-tune the input method from the Time and Language screen, select the Chinese keyboard and then choose "Options." You can also choose "Set as Primary" to make the Chinese keyboard your default. In Options, select "Microsoft Pinyin" and then choose "Options" to change the language rules and character sets.