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Get daily Chinese handwriting practice with Google Pinyin IME on Android

Getting daily handwriting practice in Chinese can be a bit tricky if you don’t tend to handwrite things that much. You can’t practice writing Chinese by typing, but handwriting things on paper just isn’t practical for most people today.

Even Chinese native speakers have this issue: a lack of daily handwriting practice in most people’s lives leads to the problem of 提笔忘字 (tí bǐ wàng zì) : picking up the pen and forgetting the character.

You can practice your Chinese handwriting with tools like Skritter and Anki, but wouldn’t it be cool to bring real handwriting back into your day-to-day tasks?

Get handwriting practice on your phone

I knew this was a possibility for a long time, so I don’t know why I didn’t set it up earlier: you can get Chinese handwriting input as a general input method on your Android phone with Google Pinyin IME. Despite the name, this IME actually gives you a choice of four Chinese input methods and two English ones.

Selecting Chinese handwriting input in Android

The Chinese handwriting input is the one we’re interested in to get some daily handwriting practice, though. Once you’ve activated the Google Pinyin IME as an input method, you just select the handwriting pad and you’re good to go. Also, it takes about two seconds to switch to plain pinyin input if you do forget a character.

Obviously, using handwriting input is much slower than pinyin input, but that’s the price you pay for this daily hanzi practice. You do get faster quite quickly, particularly once you realise that you can write in a spidery, cursive scrawl and the IME usually still gets it. Even so, scribbling out 你好 will never be as fast as tapping nh.

Handwriting 修

There’s my horrible but legible . You really can get quite (spidery) with your handwriting, though, and the IME will still get it right. I’m quite curious as to how it works, actually.

我 in Chinese handwriting input

There’s an even more horrible , which the IME recognised without any problems. The IME allows you to input simplified and traditional hanzi without any settings changes: you just write them. You can also just write any punctuation and digits you want, and even other symbols like ♡. Seems like it’s quite a robust image-recognition system.

Google Pinyin IME settings

This isn’t a new thing at all, but it’s worth setting up if you enter Chinese text on your Android phone to get real handwriting practice every day. I’m also wondering about the possibility of combining this with AnkiDroid to get free SRS hanzi writing practice on my phone.

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