Pinyin is generally great for typing (learn it!), but there’s not much it can do for you when you’re trying to type a character you don’t know how to pronounce. This has always been the case, until recently, when a few of the popular pinyin input methods have started adding a few new tricks.
Basically, you first type “u” (a letter no valid pinyin syllable begins with), and then you type out the common names of the character components. You can see it in action in the image (the apostrophes are inserted by the pinyin input method itself to show how pinyin syllables are interpreted).
More text-friendly breakdown of what the image shows:
- 壵 (zhuàng) = 士 (shì) + 士 (shì) + 士 (shì) = u’shi’shi’shi
- 磊 (lěi) = 石 (shí) + 石 (shí) + 石 (shí) = u’shi’shi’shi
- 渁 (yuān) = 氵 (sāndiǎnshuǐ) + 水 (shuǐ) + 水 (shuǐ) = u’shui’shui’shui
- 淼 (miǎo) = 水 (shuǐ) + 水 (shuǐ) + 水 (shuǐ) = u’shui’shui’shui
- 萌 (méng) = 艹 (cǎozìtóu) + 日 (rì) + 月 (yuè) = u’cao’ri’yue
[Side note: best English translation for the slang word 萌 “adorbs”??]
The bad news is that this doesn’t seem to work on Mac OS X or iOS. I hear from reliable source that it works on Sogou pinyin for PC and Google Pinyin (for PC). Does it work on Android devices running Google Pinyin?
Let me know in the comments if it works for you, and share some interesting examples of what works and what doesn’t work. Thanks!