`In the Peoples’ Republic of China, most computer users type out their Chinese in transliteration, using the standard Roman alphabet keys on a QWERTY keyboard. To generate a character, you type out its sound according to the same spelling system—called Pinyin—that represents the name of China’s capital with the word “Beijing.” The computer automatically converts the Pinyin spelling to the correct Chinese characters on the screen.
Or at least it’s supposed to. There are lots of Chinese words that sound similar but look different on paper. If you’re using the Pinyin input method, you’ll have to put in some extra effort to make sure the right characters show up onscreen. First, you can follow a syllable with a digit, to indicate which of several intonations you want. If the computer still doesn’t have enough information to pick a character, you’ll have to choose from a pop-up list of possibilities.’