Teaching and Learning with Technology

Computing With Accents and Foreign Scripts

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Chinese (Simplified & Traditional)

Table of Contents

  1. Script Basics
  2. Activate Keyboards for Typing
  3. Browser Recommendations
  4. Web Development and Language Codes
  5. Other Chinese Languages/Dialects
  6. Links

Script Basics

The Chinese script is a logographic script structured so that each character represents a single concept; characters are then combined to form compound words. Although there are several distinct languages (or "dialects") spoken in China including Mandarin and Cantonese (Hong Kong), they can all read the same "written words" because it is based on meaning, not on sound.

See the links below for more information

Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Pinyin

There are several variants of the the Chinese script used in different locations.

  1. Chinese Traditional is the older form of the script and is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other locations outside of China, including various "Chinatowns" in the West. Chinese Traditional characters are more complex and more numerous.
  2. Chinese Simplified was developed in Mainland China (and adopted in Singapore) as a way of simplifying the older system in order to increase literacy. As part of the of the simplification, several Traditional Characters were collapsed into one character in Simplified. Although it is relatively easy to convert from Chinese Traditional to Chinese Simplified, the reverse is not always true. Therefore, it is recommended that computers support both Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional.
  3. Pinyin is the term used to refer to the system of writing Chinese words in the Latin (English) alphabet. This was developed in the 1950's in Mainland China to help increase literacy.
  4. Wade-Giles is the older transliteration system for writing Chinese words in the Latin alphabet. For instance, Peking and Canton are Wade-Giles, but Beijing and Guangdong are the pinyin versions. Most specialists use pinyin to transliterate Mandarin Chinese.


See the Other Language/Dialects section for information on forms like Cantonese and Wu.

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Activate Keyboards for Typing

In order to integrate foreign scripts into your computer, you must set up "keyboard" or input utilities in your operating system. These utilities will allow you to switch between typing English and other languages in word processors and Web tools. This process will also make sure the correct fonts are installed and available on your operating system.

See instructions for Setting up Keyboards for details.


Microsoft Keyboard Utilities

Microsoft provides a variety of free keyboard utlities, but they must be installed from the disk, then activated from the Regional Control Panel.

Step 1 - Install Utilities

Student Computing Labs - The utilities are installed in the University Park Student Computing Labs, but students must install the utlities by going to the Start menu then International Language Support » Microsoft » Office Microsoft Office Asian Character Input Support.

Home Computers - Several Asian and Middle Eastern keyboards are available in Windows, but you may have to install it from the Windows System disk because it is a complex script. After that you can activate the keyboards from the Regional Control Panel.

See Windows East Asian Keyboards for detailed instructions with screen captures.

Step 2 - Activate from Control Panel

Once the keyboards have been installed, they must be activated in the Regional Control Panel. Read the summary instructions below or go to Windows East Asian Keyboards for detailed instructions with screen captures.

  1. Go to Start then Control Panels then Regional and Language Options. Follow the instructions for Activating the Language Bar
  2. While in the Regional and Language Options control panel, click on the Languages tab, then the Details button.
  3. Click the Add button and select Chinese (PRC) (Simplified) or Chinese (Taiwan) (Traditional) from the Input Language pull down menu.
  4. There are several options available for configuring input keyboards (e.g. by stroke or by Roman phonetics).Place a check in the Keyboard layout/IME box and select an appropriate option from the dropdown menu. See the following external links for further details on which settings you can configure.

  5. Click the OK buttons until you have exited the control panels - this will save the changes in your Profile.
  6. To use the Chinese input editor, open any Windows application then make sure the Language Bar menu on top is set to CH.

See Detailed Windows Instructions for complete instructions with screen capture images.

Additional Information

Read Pinyin Joe Com for more information

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Student Computing Labs - Many language keyboards have been activated in the labs and are available through the flag menu on the upper right. Skip to Step #4 in the instructions below.

Home Computers - A variety of keyboards are available from Apple, but you may have to install it from the Macintosh System disk then they can be activated through the International System Preferences. See details below.

To Use Keyboards

  1. Go to the Apple menu and open Systems Preferences.
  2. Click the U.N. flag icon on the first row of the Systems Preferences panel which is either the Language & Text settings (System 10.6/Snow Leopard) or the International settings (System 10.2-10.5).
  3. Click the tab for Input Sources (System 10.6/Snow Leopard), Input Menu (OS X 10.5-3) or the Keyboard Menu (OS X 10.2) tab and check the keyboards you wish to be activated.
  4. Close the System Preferences window.
  5. Open a software application such as a word processor, spread-sheet or any other application in which you need to enter text.
  6. On the upper right portion of the screen, click on the American flag icon (U.S. Flag Icon). Use the dropdown menu to select a script or language.
  7. The keyboard will be switched and an appropriate font will be selected within the application. A flag icon corresponding to the keyboard will be displayed on the upper right.
  8. To switch back to the U.S. keyboard or to some other keyboard, click on the flag icon on the upper right and select a keyboard from the dropdown menu.

See the Macintosh Keyboard Activation for complete instructions with screen captures.

Additional Resources

Pīnyīn Tone Marks

For Unicode Compliant Applications, you can activate the U.S. Extended keyboard (10.3/10.4) or the Extended Roman keyboard (10.2) to type the long marks, but only some applications such as Microsoft Office 2004, Text Edit (free with OS X ), Dreamweaver, or Netscape 7 Composer /Mozilla Composer support it.

Once you switch to the Extended keyboards, you can use the following codes

Mac Accent Codes, X = any letter
Macron Ā,ā Option+M, X
Circumflex Â,â Option+6, X
Acute á,Á Option+E, X
Grave À,à Option+`, X
Umlaut ü,Ü Option+U, X

See the Extended Keyboard Accent Codes for more information.

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Browser and Font Recommendations

Test Sites

If you have your browser configured correctly, the Web sites above should display the correct characters. If you have difficulties, see list below for font and browser configuration instructions.

Simplified Chinese - www.mjclub.com (Mahjong Network)
Traditional Chinese - tw.news.yahoo.com (Yahoo Taiwan News)

Browser and Font Setup

Please note which fonts are needed for each platform before viewing instructions to configure your browsers in the Preferences or Tools menu. Most browsers are recommended, but older browsers like Netscape 4.7 may need more adjustments.

Traditional Chinese Fonts by Platform

Simplified Chinese Fonts by Platform

Additional Utilities and Fonts

Recommended Browsers

All modern browsers support this script. Click link in list to view configuration instructions. In some cases, you will be asked to match a script with a font.

Manually Switch Encoding

If you see Roman character gibberish instead of Chinese (such as at www.csssm.org) you will need to manually switch from Western encoding view to the Chinese Simplified (or Chinese Traditional) encoding under the View menu of your browser.

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Web Development

Chinese Encoding and Language Tags

See Using Encoding and Language Codes for more information on the meaning and implementation of these codes.


These are the codes which allow browsers and screen readers to process data as the appropriate language. All letters in codes are lower case. Note also that a Chinese encoding system also includes the Latin alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, Greek alphabet, and other scripts. These are included to enhance comparability with non-Chinese files.

Note on GB18030 Encoding: The People's Republic of China has mandated that any newly developed 18030 encoding.GB 18030 compliant fonts are available from both Microsoft and Apple.

Language Tags

Inputting and Editing Text in an HTML Editor

One option is to use Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression or other Web editor and change the keyboard to the correct script. This will allow you to type content in directly with the appropriate script. However, it is important to verify that the correct encoding is specified in the Web page header.

Another option is to compose the basic text in an international or foreign language text editor or word processor and export the content as an HTML or text file with the appropriate encoding. This file could be opened in another HTML editor such as Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expression, and edited for formatting.

Other Web Tools

For Web tools such as Blogs at Penn State, Facebook, Twitter, del.icio.us, Flicker, and others, users can typically change the keyboard and input text. In most cases, this content will be encoded as Unicode.

Vertical Text

For best cross-browser support, horizontal text is recommended. There is a way to specify vertical text in CSS, but it's only supported in Internet Explorer for Windows.

Using Encoding and Language Codes

Computers process text by assuming a certain encoding or a system of matching electronic data with visual text characters. Whenever you develop a Web site you need to make sure the proper encoding is specified in the header tags; otherwise the browser may default to U.S. settings and not display the text properly.

To declare an encoding, insert or inspect the following meta-tag at the top of your HTML file, then replace "???" with one of the encoding codes listed above. If you are not sure, use utf-8 as the encoding.

Generic Encoding Template

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=??? ">

Declare Unicode

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8 ">


The final close slash must be included after the final quote mark in the encoding header tag if you are using XHTML

Declare Unicode in XHTML

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

No Encoding Declared

If no encoding is declared, then the browser uses the default setting, which in the U.S. is typically Latin-1. Some display errors may occur.

Language Tags

Language tags are also suggested so that search engines and screen readers parse the language of a page. These are metadata tags which indicate the language of a page, not devices to trigger translation. Visit the Language Tag page to view information on where to insert it.

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Other Chinese Languages/Dialects

About Chinese Dialects

Spoken Chinese comes in a variety of "dialects" which are so distinct, linguists classify them as a series of closely related languages. "Standard" Chinese corresponds to Mandarin, but each city in China has its own language. Examples include Cantonese of Hong Kong and Wu of Shanghai, but there are about seven to ten language groups in total. Chinese communities in the United States, Britain, Australia, Singapore and elsewhere often speak one of these forms at home.

Because Chinese is not phonetically based (particularly Traditional Chinese), these speakers can read and write Chinese, but not necessarily speak with each other. The spoken form is fairly standardized, but there are occasional regional differences.

Language Codes

Since all the language forms use the same script, development of the pages is much the same. However, you can can add a language code for pages for different dialects, especially when words are spelled out phonetically in a Roman script.

The script tags are

There are currently two standards available, the IANA standard which adds "variety" tags to the base zh tag or the SIL ISO-639-3 standard which treats dialects as separate languages.

Note: A -- indicates no IANA or ISO-639-3 code registered.

Regional Chinese Codes
Variety IANA ISO-639-3
Mandarin zh-guoyo or
Cantonese zh-yue or
Gan zh-gan gan
Hakka zh-hakka hak
Huizhou -- czh
Jinyu -- cjy
Min* zh-min --
Min Bei -- mnp
Min Dong -- cdo
Min Zhong -- czo
Min-Nan zh-min-nan nan
Pu-Xian -- cpx
Wu zh-wuu wuu
Xiang zh-xiang hsn

* Min includes Fuzhou, Hokkein, Amoy, Taiwanese

Links on Chinese Dialects

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Chinese Computing





Additional Fonts

Chinese Language

Script Basics

Chinese Dialects

Web Development Tips

Technical Issues

Encoding Issues


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Last Modified: Tuesday, 04-Jun-2013 12:39:39 EDT