The Chinese language is very complex. It is made up of around 50,000 characters and knowledge of about 4,000 of them is necessary for functional literacy. The characters are intricate and some take as many as 64 strokes to write.
So, how do they use keyboards? The primary way is by using an “input method editor” which is software which takes inputs and generates the characters. But, there is no standard method – so each keyboard may look different. Characters are not hardwired into each key. Instead, different combinations of keys generate different characters.
The most common input method systems used in in China is called “pinyin” whereby they type out the Chinese characters using our roman alphabet. Each character has a phonetic way of being typed using roman letters. So, for the character that sounds like “yong” you’d type “yong” and it would give you: 勇 And “bing” gets you: 兵 and “dong” is: 東
A big problem with pinyin is that many Chinese characters sound very similar, so the typist must take time to check that the correct symbol is being used.
Read more here: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2006/02/what_does_a_chinese_keyboard_look_like.html
I am assuming that the Japanese language is somewhat similar. I remember a meeting with A group of Japanese where they used an interpreter. It took the Japanese about 50% longer than the interpreter took to convert what they said to English.
HMMM – seems to me it would be a good time for the Asian world to convert to the Western worlds alphabet and abandon the character system. Do they write programs in character format?