does using Chinese IME for typing break up the "flow state" when writing a long text?

I type in English pretty fast, and as far as I can tell subjectively, it seems to be happening on autopilot with minimal self-conscious control. Much like I don’t feel self-conscious of enunciating words, I don’t feel self-conscious of typing them. Naturally, this makes me very happy since I can focus on thinking about what I want to write and then the text or the source code just effortlessly appears on the screen.

So my question is, are people proficient in typing Chinese using IME also have the same sense of smoothly, automatically going through inputting words without thinking about it, free to concentrate entirely on the composition aspect of it rather than the typing aspect? Or does the need to examine proposed two or three syllable words based on the ascii input and then do the selection or confirmation action keep you from entering a similar flow state and generally keep you less-than-happy about the whole process?

I guess the ideal person to give the answer would be somebody highly proficient / fast in both typing English and Chinese, but not sure if such people exist in large enough numbers to occur here at SD. Anyway, so any input is highly appreciated.

Interesting questions; I’m curious as well. I’ve seeing video of people typing Chinese quickly and effortlessly, but they seemed very attentive and not as “autopilot”-y as I also am when typing.

The Chinese people I’ve seen typing have always seemed to flow pretty seamlessly.

Chinese is a language where predictive text really shines. The typing programs are very, very, very good at predicting what character you are looking for. If you type “I need to repair the washing…” it will automatically bring up “machine” as the first choice.

I’ll back up even sven on the coolness of predictive text in Chinese. Often, you don’t need to even type out all the pinyin - case in point: If I type “wbzd” I get 我不知道 “wo bu zhi dao” or “I don’t know.” It’s really good.

I don’t see how predictive text is relevant to the OP question. As long as you still have to look at what it predicts and confirm it, it sounds to me like a distraction. Or do people get used to this so well that they do it automatically without thinking?

I suspect the actual answer to your question is that when typing in Chinese (at least on a computer keyboard) native Chinese speakers would rarely be using the Pinyin-to-Hanzi IME you’re talking about (although I do agree with the others that it’s quite surprisingly effective.)

There are a range of other input methods that are more suitable for Chinese. Supposedly, proficient users of Cangjie can type faster than English speakers can type the equivalent English.

I was going to mention Cangjie. I think there are major regional differences in the popularity of different Chinese IME. If I understand correctly, pinyin based IME are very popular in mainland China. OTOH, Cangjie is much more popular in Hong Kong (and probably Taiwan too, which is where it was invented). Cangjie is based on the shape of Chinese characters, not their pronunciation. It does not require any character selection or confirmation most of the time, and people who are proficient in the IME have already memorised the correct choices for the few cases that matter. It is usually not necessary to stop and confirm what is proposed on the screen.

I can type fairly well in Cangjie, although I do think it demands more mental efforts than typing in English. I don’t think it is bad enough to interfere with my ‘mental flow’, though.

My wife (a native Mandarin speaker) uses the pinyin->character input method when she’s typing Chinese on our computer. It would definitely be less smooth than her English typing except for the fact that she’s constantly going back and correcting her English spelling.

yes, I am aware of the cangjie method. So, what are the proficiency levels in that art among the population? I mean, it’s not like all or even majority of educated English speakers have bothered to learn touch typing. So how many Hong Kong college kids and professionals mastered that much more complex method?

I can only give a WAG, but I would guess a significant number of people know it reasonably well nowadays. There are other ‘easier’ IMEs that are based on Cantonese, but I’ve never heard of anything popular enough to replace Cangjie as the de facto standard in Hong Kong. For example, no major operating system that I know of include such IMEs out-of-the-box.

follow-up questions on cangjie:

are those highly proficient people who type fast with it outliers or can a typical user who sticks to the training app hope to achieve comparable speed? In other words, what is the distribution of typing speeds, as opposed to the endpoints? E.g. for typing English I think the answer would be “anybody can learn to type at the modal 40-50 wpm, while a small elite might reach 100wpm”

so how much mental energy does cangjie involve? Can you be in the “zone” while doing that? Or does it keep the brain in overdrive just to handle the character to key translation process?

Wubi is quite popular on the mainland. I’ve watched people type very quickly using this input method. It was designed for simplified characters, and seems to be much easier to use than Cangjie.

It should be fairly obvious that the density of information per character is higher as the set used by a language gets bigger. That is, a single Chinese character contains as much information as a syllable or word in an alphabet-based language.

Using an example from Japanese (since I don’t know Chinese, although I think it’s the same character in this case):

人 means person. Using the standard hiragana Windows IME, that’s five keystrokes (j-i-n and then space and Enter to select the desired meaning, since the default wasn’t what I wanted).

The keystrokes for common words become second-nature to people who type in that IME, after a while. Japanese, and by extension I suppose Chinese as well, typists are not appreciable slower or faster than English.

I don’t type in Chinese, but I do use predictive text a lot as a programmer. Granted that there’s a much smaller set of possible words, I find it quite as natural as typing out full words now. Faster, really - that’s why I do it, after all. You get a really good feel for how many characters it takes to get a specific response - even for words that I use less often, I rarely actually select anything - instead, I just type until what I want is the top choice and use a hotkey. Very smooth, really.