Kajeet Smart Phones Speak Chinese, Too!

December 12, 2012

Check out this special blog post from a Kajeet customer!

As an avid Chinese student surrounded by English speakers, I am constantly searching for ways to practice and improve my Chinese.  Unfortunately, most of the Western world is not well designed for Chinese language use. Because Chinese has a writing system that uses one character for every word, instead of letters representing sounds, typing in Chinese can be very inefficient.  When my friends and I texted one another in Chinese, we had to write the pinyin (approximate Western transliteration) of our texts. These couldn’t include the tone marks on the words, though incorrect tone marks can change the entire meaning.

When I got the Kajeet Samsung Galaxy SII (my first smartphone!) last week, it didn’t take me long to start looking for better ways to use my phone for Chinese.  It also didn’t take long to find, download, and install the Google Pinyin IME app from the Google Play store.  Shortly thereafter, most people on my contacts list started receiving excited text messages sent in Chinese characters.  (Not all of the receivers actually even spoke Chinese. Hey…I was excited!)

The range of inputs for IME is phenomenal.  For starters, I can simply type pinyin and then select the appropriate character.  Alternatively, I can use the touch screen to write out the character strokes.  Writing Chinese on a touch screen is not only great practice for character-writing, but it is also, objectively speaking, considerably more fun than writing with a pencil and paper.

The last option — and this is most impressive to me — is that I can speak Chinese into my phone and have the words transcribed.

The brilliance of the speech part is that it is context-based, so it does a remarkable job of guessing the correct word, even when there are many Chinese words pronounced the same way.  I tested it by speaking random words, (mother, rope, horse, curse — all pronounced “ma,” but with different tones) and it had a lot of trouble figuring out the difference until I used them in a sentence.  My guess is that the microphone technology is probably not sophisticated enough to pick up differences is tonal quality, so the app has to make up for it with contextual intelligence.

The Pinyin app works no matter where you want to enter text: it actually installs another keyboard on your phone, and you can switch between input keyboards at any time (The same way you can switch to Swype.).

My overall review: 比切片麵包更好!

(Much better than sliced bread!)

How to get GooglePinyin IME on your phone:

1. Go to the Google Play store. Search and install the app.

2. When you are ready to type, select the text box to open up a regular keyboard.

3. Touch and hold the “Swype” symbol.

4. Touch “select input method.”

5. Select “Chinese Pinyin”

6. Touch the “back” hotkey, and start typing!

–Amelia H., Brooklyn, NY

Thanks for sharing, Amelia! Kajeet customers — do you have a story to share with us, too? Let us know!

Kajeet – the smart phone for kids

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