Shanghai natives rejoice! Thanks to the efforts of one very dedicated young man from Shanghai, you can now type using Shanghainese (the Shanghai dialect) on your Android phone. The input method release has sparked lots of attention and thrust Wu Wei, its developer, into the spotlight.
Wu has been developing the input method for years and although it has now been released — you can download it here — he is still working to improve it. In fact, he told the IT Times in a recent interview that he hadn’t slept in two days because he was working on perfecting the product.
Although it may seem like a gimmick, the input method could help protect a local dialect that, like many dialects, is vanishing. There are plenty of reasons dialects are disappearing: government promotion of Mandarin, the diversification of cities as people from rural areas move to the city, etc. But one problem many dialects face is that they aren’t particularly easy to use in the digital age. Speakers of Shanghainese would generally be forced to use a Mandarin input method on any digital device, and while that isn’t really a problem because most of them speak Mandarin, it does mean that Shanghainese is less frequently used. Thanks to Wu’s input method, though, Shanghainese speakers should be able to type words the way they actually pronounce them rather than going by the Mandarin pronunciations.
As local dialects fade, integrating them into technology could be one way to protect them. But Shanghainese is a more established, respected, and standardized dialect than most, and less widely-spoken dialects likely won’t attract as much attention. Still, Wu’s new method should be a boon for Shanghainese speakers with Android phones and a hankering to type the way they talk.
[via Sina Tech]