I have been using bopomofo more in my Chinese learning lately. In case you haven’t heard of it, it is a phonetic system for Chinese sounds that was designed to teach Chinese-speaking children how to read.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how using bopomofo helps my brain switch to Chinese more thoroughly. When I posted that blog, one of my daughters sent me a link to some keyboard bopomofo stickers she had looked at. It didn’t take me long to decide to buy some.
Up until now, I have been using the keyboard viewer option in my keyboard drop drop menu if I wasn’t sure which real-life computer key resulted in which bopomofo symbol. I could just click on the virtual keyboard.
If I hit “return” next, the bopomofo symbol stayed on the page.
If I hit the space bar, it changed to which ever Chinese character the combination of symbols represented.
Since I, so far, still prefer to use pinyin to type my Chinese characters, I only use the bopomofo for pencil-in-hand writing (it is faster than pinyin) or for keyboard translating presentation, much like my tutor uses it next to characters she is teaching me.
My typing of Chinese may change with my new bopomofo stickers applied. I can tell that my fingers are already starting to remember where certain bopomofo symbols are.
Whoever designed the bopomofo/Zhuyin keyboard for my Mac computer did a good job. The arrangement is a mix of association with the phonetics of the English alphabet, what the bopomofo symbols look like, and where there are extra keys in the number or symbol regions. By the time the tone keys are added, there are 15 more keys used for the bopomofo than the English letters.
I should point out that the arrangement on my keyboard program seems to be different from what the stickers sheet was expecting. As shown on the photo below, the placements did not match.
I found the easiest way to get them on the correct key was to start from one end, press one key at a time to verify the symbol, then attach that particular sticker. That, of course, after following the recommendations for cleaning the keyboard. As you can see, I got it done:
The stickers are made of a semi-stiff plastic. There was no issue whatsoever with the sticker folding over on itself, but it was flexible enough to assume the exact shape of each key. The feel of my keyboard is the same, too. I had to place most of the stickers to the right and slightly toward the bottom to leave the original letter in clear view, but that was part of the instructions. I doubt all keyboards have keys the exact same size.
At first, it might seem like a code within a code, since we are used to our English letters, but when you come to realize how rich the Chinese characters are, the utility of the bopomofo is easy to understand.
Edit May 2019: I finally purchased some stickers for my laptop, too. There are some stickers with white symbols that show up on my black keys.