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Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Get Your Bopomofo Level Up Now

Since China is the coming thing, it might be useful for all of you out there to start to work up your bopomofo now. Pardon me, your what?

Once I get settled down, the first language thing I'm going to do is learn bopomofo. Bopomofo is a 36-character "alphabet" which is used to write out the pronounciation of words in Chinese. It's not at all used in mainland China and hasn't been used in the US for goodness knows how many years. My primary objective in learning it would be so that I can type in traditional Chinese characters in my cell phone and on computers. Unfortunately, you can't type fanti zi using pinyin unless you're using special software. Also, the Tower Records here in Taipei organizes Chinese artists by bopomofo. I was chatting with a Taiwanese person the other day about how they write SMS, and she told me people typically send them in English or using something like wubihua, where you're not typing a transliteration of the sounds, but rather are literally forming the characters stroke by stroke.........

The weather (in Taiwan - Edward) is ridiculously oppresive. I spent a couple of hours yesterday in a McDonald's just because I couldn't bear to leave the air-conditioning. Considering that in terms of restaurants McDonald's is the cheapest place that's air-conditioned and that they don't mind if you hang out there for a little while...........At least it gave me a chance yesterday to work on my bopomofo.............After an hour, I was able to get all the vowel sounds and most of the consonants. For any of you who are interested in the linguistic/phonetic side of Chinese, you'd probably find bopomofo fascinating. For instance, the sound ce is written as a combination of ci and e. If you listen to it carefully, ce does indeed sound like ci and e smushed together. For people familiar with the Roman alphabet, bopomofo is harder to learn than pinyin, but I'm wondering whether it would be more advantageous to learn bopomofo because it would be easier to get the proper pronounciation of the different sounds down.

However, even after getting completely familiar with the actual symbols, it'll still take a little while to get used to typing it in, since the layout of bopomofo on the keyboard makes absolutely no sense. For instance, you'd think that they'd map the symbol for f on the letter f. No, they put the symbol for f on the letter z. The symbol for z is on the letter y (as opposed to the symbol for zh, which is on the number 5). The symbol for y is on the letter m. You get the idea.
Source: Better Tomorrow

1 comment:

LIDO said...

You are absolutely right. It is hard, very hard indeed to type using bopomofo. But it is a must learn for anybody who is planning to stay in Taiwan for a long time.
I was hoping that there might be a software out there that can help practice, as there are many to help learn touch typing.
I have not found any yet though, if you do, let me know.