Inputing Chinese fast by speaking Cantonese (voice dictating) on your mobile or Mac
Nearly 2 years have passed since I wrote my previous blog post on Inputing Chinese and in a computing world, there should be much more improvements. I’m going to introduce what I consider the fastest input method for Chinese characters available now (Jan 2017)- by voice dictation…
Voice typing or Dictation input (NOT voice recording) is not new, there have been heaps of previous speech recognition software, some nearly 10 years ago, and including the more famous ones like Dragon Dictate, etc which dated back around 2011. Earlier iterations of these mainly were on English input and in fact, Apple Dictate for English input has been in place since mid 2012 under Mountain Lion (and later for Chinese including Cantonese, e.g. under iOS8) and has been perfecting resulting in rather good accuracy. Google on the other hand has spent excellent efforts as the pioneer in exploring to support other languages including the popular Chinese input, and has made continuous improvements, they are the first to provide such in Windows and Andorid (phones) environment with practical accuracy. Recently, in around 2016, Apple has also come up with Apple Dictation for Cantonese Chinese characters input with encouraging improvements (from my experience) such that I can recommend it now- I mean I found it to be the fastest way for input and now at a stage with considerable accuracy (around average 85 to 95% for Chinese, English better) to be practical (using some personal tips below, and will improve as you use it more). If after you voice-type, there are some wrong characters (typically those words with the same pronunciation), you can correct it using hand-writing method, overall, a much much faster input method (especially for longer messages) than any other method I know of.
How to voice-type Chinese with better accuracy? Below are some personal experience (based on speaking Cantonese and English) to share:-
- speak clearly to the mic in a normal speed, don’t be too fast and no need to be very slow too;
- the longer your phrase, the better the accuracy and chance of getting it right as the computer can intelligently decipher the meaning and find the best/most logical/meaningful phrase for you.
- for easily confused (e.g. many versions with the same pronunciation) words or short abbreviated phrases, speak a short phrase (typically 2 characters) instead of the 1 character shorter form, this would help the computer to choose the right word, e.g. speak 確切承認 for確認, 充值 (instead of just say充), say ‘現金時間’ when I couldn’t get “現時” . You can then delete the superfluous characters if you want.
- Cantonese slangs are OK, e.g. 你係唔係講笑, 都係嗰句, 有冇搞錯, 冇事啦, 大家咁話, 有無咁着數, 你係咪傻咗啊, 咪搞我, 你先啦, 係咪真架, 快啲啦, 好話唔好聽, 成日都係咁樣, 好好嘢, 頂呱呱…. – all are recognised right-away!
- you can have some simple English (e.g. “OK”, English names, etc) words amongst Chinese sentences too. E.g. “12點半響銅鑼灣等,OK?”; “Mary,究竟你幾點鐘到?”
- punctuation marks can also be used, like say ‘逗號’ for “,”; say ‘句號’ for “。”; ‘問號’ for “?”, say ‘感嘆’ for “!”
Now if you’re convinced that this will work for you, and remember, the more you use it, the better it becomes. Once it learn your ‘new’ (new for the device) word, it remembers it for the next time. Below are installation methods:-
For iPhones – you have to set Cantonese (Chinese – HK) as the default language for Siri. Go > Settings > Siri > Language (choose Chinese (Cantonese – Hong Kong). That’s it. then when you want to voice type in Cantonese, just go to the Chinese keyboard (where you normally hand-write), click the ‘mic’ icon at the left bottom (left of the space bar), and speak your Cantonese sentences! Inter-mixing short English phrases in Cantonese sentences are OK too.
For Android phones –
- install Google input (Cantonese, or pinyin if you use Putonghua), and
- Active the Google voice typing under Settings > Language & Input, see here for details.
- Under Settings/Keyboard, Add google Voice typing- In Google Voice typing, include English and Cantonese (HK Chinese).
- To simplify interface, in Keyboard, just choose the 2 – Google ‘Cantonese’ input and Google Voice Input, then you only need to switch between English, Chinese (including hand-writing) and Voice input (by clicking the mic on right).
- To voice type, just Select the Language from the keyboard top, then click the “mic” (see photo at top)
- If and when voice detection detect a different language from what you want (sometimes this happen), just click the ‘globe’ for language selection in the keyboard and stress/click the language you want again before going back to voice type.
For Mac computers, see this for details, >Apple > Settings and Preferences > Keyboard OR Dictation > and use ‘Chinese HIK SAR’ (for Cantonese) – see photo above. Invent a short-cut for yourself to activate this ‘Dictation input” (I use double ‘command’ key, punching it twice). Note that once this is on, the other sound output would be disabled, i.e. the song you’re playing would be paused, so make sure you click “Done” in the icon to disable it in order to get back the sound when you play music or your Youtube.
Notes: I’m using a ‘generic’ Android phone (OnePlus 3T) and Android 7.0 Nougat, some other versions may be slightly different. The above were also tested OK for my iMac (with OSX version 10.11.6), and an iphone 6 (iOS version 10.2)
Sources references : Apple Support Site, Dummies.com (http://www.dummies.com/consumer-electronics/smartphones/droid/google-voice-typing-on-your-android-phone/)