Cantonese on Android, Apple, and Microsoft Products

I find it interesting that even though we tend to deny Cantonese the same (if any) prestige that we give Mandarin in the world by not teaching it in schools or universities, calling it a “dialect,” and overall advocating the more “proper” use of Mandarin for economic upward mobility and business, quite prominent companies include Cantonese language features to attract consumers, perhaps indicative of the lucrativeness of the Cantonese-speaking market that predominantly resides in Hong Kong.

For one, Android products include Google voice typing using Cantonese, specifically labeled “粵語 (香港),” alongside Mandarin features for China and Taiwan. And while I don’t think Android includes a Cantonese language keyboard feature, one can use the free HKIME application to type using Cantonese romanization (I’m not sure if it’s Jyutping – it’s called “Canton Pinyin” on the keyboard), Cangjie, stroke, among others. There’s another application, Cantonese keyboard, that some reviews say works better, but I have yet to try it.

Meanwhile, while Apple [mobile] products evidently do not support outside keyboards, they include a “Chinese (Cantonese)” setting for Voice Control (on older products). Best of all, recent products include Siri in Cantonese. I personally feel that the inclusion of Cantonese in Siri language options demonstrates the influence/strength of the Cantonese language community (in terms of business interests): the languages Siri supports are English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese. For Cantonese to make this small group of perhaps the top nine languages spoken by the most potentially economically lucrative consumers seems a bit ironic considering that Cantonese is commonly considered a mere “dialect” in the eyes of the world. Additionally, Cantonese is listed by Apple as the language for Hong Kong with no mention of China; in one sense, it might be too repulsive for China to recognize Cantonese as a language, but in another, this goes to show recognition of the financial success of, and thus, large consumer market based in Hong Kong.

Finally, just recently, I realized that Microsoft has supported Cantonese for a few years now in more recent updates. Apparently, Windows 7 supports Cantonese Jyutping input, and even those with older versions of Windows can download a package that supports Cantonese Jyutping input (I just did). It’s called “Microsoft Office IME 2010,” but apparently it can work on Windows in general even for those who don’t have Microsoft Office; the Cantonese option is contained in the InputMethodEditor x86 zh-tw.exe or InputMethodEditor x64 zh-tw.exe file (according to if you have the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows).

Previously, the Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set provided by the Hong Kong government could be downloaded to allow use of unique Cantonese characters in conjunction with the standard Mandarin/written Chinese set, but I believe this is not necessary now. Although a bit confusing, the Cantonese Jyutping option is called “Hong Kong Cantonese 2010” and is listed as a keyboard under “Chinese (Taiwan),” rather than “Chinese (Hong Kong S.A.R.).” This may make it easier for those who may wish to switch back and forth between Cangjie and Jyutping or Jyutping and Pinyin.

Interestingly enough, it feels a bit unnatural typing using Cantonese romanization after previously having to use Mandarin romanization or the IME pad or my limited Cangjie to type Chinese; it’s also a bit confusing grouping Cantonese sounds with the “standardized” Jyutping consonant and vowel values. I still feel that “y” should go in place of the silent “j” and it’s overall a bit awkward typing “ngo” for “我” and “m” for “唔.”

Overall, I find it intriguing that such prominent companies treat Cantonese as a language in providing native language options in their products for people of different regions or cities; while this can be attributed to Hong Kong’s international city status, it is quite significant that there is such financial incentive for a “language” rarely considered a language in everyday life (by non-Cantonese speakers and some Cantonese speakers alike) to have its own voice and keyboard options. This further highlights the often under-emphasized differences between Cantonese and Mandarin (and other “dialects”), and that Cantonese is largely not considered a language for political reasons.

I knew there were voice options on Android and Apple products, but the addition of a Cantonese keyboard put out by Microsoft portrays Cantonese as a true standardized language with even a correct written form, even as I hear colloquial Cantonese often times called “slang” (perhaps arising from the lack of wide recognition of Cantonese in official or “proper” use). With the recognition of Cantonese by companies and their manufactured electronic products like this, I cannot help but hold onto my sliver of hope for the future of Cantonese.

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*If anyone encounters any issues in downloading any files, Pinyin Joe provides some help. Below are some instructions and information on downloading the Microsoft Office IME 2010 file:

http://www.pinyinjoe.com/windows-7/win7-chinese-intro.htm

http://www.pinyinjoe.com/faq/microsoft-office-2010-new-phonetic-cangjie-cantonese-jyutping-ime-update.htm

In general, if trying to add the Cantonese keyboard, I think you just need to go to language settings and look up keyboards to add after clicking “Chinese (Taiwan)” (although you need the East Asian Language pack first: see Pinyin Joe if you need help).