How to switch from simplified to traditional characters while using pinyin keyboard in Windows 10


AKA: How to change the Character set to traditional characters while still using Microsoft Pinyin as an input method in Windows 10

Here is a much needed, step by step guide to how to make your keyboard write traditional characters while using the pinyin input method. I myself struggled with the problem after moving to Taiwan, since my laptop language settings were set for simplified Chinese characters, which to some extent differ from the traditional ones used in Taiwan. As for someone who’s limited Chinese reading and writing is based on the simplified system, as well as using pinyin instead of Bopomofo, which requires its own physical keyboard with the symbols on the keys,  I had two main problems:

  1. How can I continue using pinyin as an input method, since I don’t have a local keyboard, and

  2. how can I make my keyboard settings stay the way they used to be, but the characters appear as traditional, not simplified?

In case you didn’t know, the difference between the simplified (a newer one) and the traditional system (the old ass writing system used at least in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) is pretty much the same if all you knew was block letters, and then someone wrote you a letter using old school cursive. Initially, the characters are the same, you pronounce and read them the same, but the traditional is just way prettier and has a shit load of more lines, dots and strokes. Taiwan stuck with the old school system just to piss off China, and now there’s a compatibility problem: sometimes your system may not understand one or the other, and the same applies to people reading it.

Simplified set
Traditional set

It is also a fact that here in Taiwan you need to know your traditional chartacters, and be able to use them on your computer and cell phone if you are to write emails, chat online or read anything. Knowing and using the simplified ones can only take you so far. This left I and the enginerd with the question: How to change the settings in Windows 10 to use cursive instead of block letters?

Start here!!

At first, you might think it’s just about a font. As that in a way is true, you cannot simply change your keyboard to use Comic Sans instead of Arial all the time (or maybe you can, but I can’t). Then, as we found out, it’s not about changing the input method, either. See, I got as far as to figure out you can write traditional characters with Windows Bopomofo keyboard. But as mentioned before, it requires you to have a special, local keyboard with the funny symbols to represent the sounds or something. However, even as we tried to change the keyboard use pinyin, or traditional characters, all we got was an input system which wouldn’t allow you to see a numbered list of choices for characters to pick from (which is crucial when you have a language where one syllable can mean a million different things and you could only tell them apart by reading the characters). So that was a no go.

So, how did we do it, then?

  1. If you already have the Chinese (Simplified Pinyin) Microsoft Pinyin keyboard, that’s all you need. For some reason, all the suggestions we found online told us to change settings in your Taiwanese keyboard, but you just simply do not need it. In case you don’t have it, here’s how to download it.
  2. Go to the language settings in the far right in your task bar, select Language preferences
  3. Under Languages, select 中文(中华人民共和国) (Chinese)
  4. Go to Options
  5. Under Keyboards, select Microsoft Pinyin Input method editor
  6. Select Options
  7. From Character set, select Traditional Chinese
  8. Close Settings
  9. You’re all set!

And, in case you decide to email anyone in mainland China, you can just follow the same steps and switch back to simplified.

PS: If there’s any mistakes or incorrect terminology in this post, please forgive me. Unlike my husband (who was the one actually figuring this whole thing out), I am not an enginerd, or a language specialist, for that matter 😦