Beginner in Chinese?

Sign up to get a free basic Chinese course complete with MP3 audio, 
plus learning tips and video lessons! 

How to use Chinese handwriting recognition on the iPhone/iPad

For iPhone / iPad users learning Chinese, it is possible to enter characters simply by writing them on the screen. You don’t even have to write them exactly right, even if you get the stroke order wrong or it doesn’t look pretty, the software can usually recognise what you write – and if you use this method to enter characters into a dictionary app like Pleco or a dictionary website like nciku, then it makes looking up characters much much easier than using a regular dictionary.

Some apps have their own handwriting recognition functions, but to get you started you can try the built in system you already have first.

Here’s how to get started writing characters into your iPhone or iPad:

Click on the Settings icon on the main screen, then click General, then Keyboard, then click on Keyboards

iPhone settings general

iPhone keyboards options











You will see a list of all the keyboards you currently have selected for use. Click Add New Keyboard

iPhone select keyboards

iPhone add new keyboards











If you are learning simplified Chinese, then click on Chinese (Simplified), or if you want to enter traditional Chinese characters, then click on Chinese (Traditional). You will then see a list of the input methods, for the Chinese handwriting recognition, click Handwriting. You can also switch on the Pinyin input method by clicking on Pinyin – QWERTY. The Chinese input method should now be switched on.

iPhone add new keyboards

iPhone Chinese keyboard selection











Now you can go to any dictionary app or any app where you want to enter text. Click on the globe icon on the keyboard and slide up to where it says 简体手写 (in the case of simplified Chinese handwriting recognition) or the corresponding name of the keyboard.

iPhone keyboard selection

iPhone Chinese character writing











Then go ahead and write a Chinese character on the screen in the box at the bottom. You will see some options of characters to enter appear, click on the right character that you want to enter. When you are done with typing Chinese, you can click on the globe bottom at the bottom of the keyboard again to switch the keyboard back to another language.

Hope you find this tip useful, and don’t forget to share it using the buttons below!

  • Pingback: How to look up Chinese characters / words in a dictionary - Fluent in

  • Kai Chung

    This is really good, as handwriting Chinese Input has a major advantage over pinyin input methods – because you are constantly drawing out the strokes of the Chinese Characters over and over, as you compose your text, it makes you remember the character’s strokes aided by Muscle Memory, which pinyin can never do. People who use pinyin have actually been known to forget the correct stroke order of the Chinese Characters over the years!