6 Replies Latest reply on Sep 6, 2013 6:50 PM by David W. Goodrich

    How to typeset pinyin with its relevant chinese characters correctly?

    Chris Kunnert

      The project involves english text which is translated to chinese. The chinese translated text requires its relevant pinyin to be typeset above the chinese characters. The pinyin needs to be spaced and positioned relative to its chinese characters below.

      We're working in InDesign CS4 on a document which requires pinyin with chinese characters typeset at the same time.

      We have identified character styles for the pinyin and chinese characters individually.

      How can we achieve correct alignment of pinyin with chinese characters in the same textbox using our defined character styles for each language version?

      Manual spacing of chinese characters to match pinyin is not an option, as it's quite a large textbook.

      Is there a plug-in for InDesign CS4 or CS5 which can deal with this issue?

      Or does InDesign handle this already, if so, please advise.

        • 1. Re: How to typeset pinyin with its relevant chinese characters correctly?
          David W. Goodrich Level 3

          The simplest way to achieve this in InDesign is to use a Chinese font with pinyin built in, such as Arphic's "Little Professor" series (pdf sample available here).  But this still isn't simple: you may need characters that aren't in the font, and when you get up to 5 or 6 letters the pinyin may be wider than the character underneath, affecting its spacing.  I think Little Professor provides pinyin without chars. when you need a character it lacks or you don't like their phonetics.

           

          The official way to do this is with "ruby" text, a.k.a. furigana, a feature ID has supported for years many, but whose interface was only accessible via CJK versions -- until Harbs' came up with the World Tools Pro add-on for western-language versions of IDCS5 and 6.  A few weeks back, a thread here discussed running Japanese IDCC with an English interface.  Note that HTML5 and Epub3 are supposed to include ruby.

           

          One advantage of ruby is that one expression can cover two or more characters, which could be significant for a textbook for modern Chinese, where 2-character "words" abound (classical Chinese differs, but has other complications).  Remember, too, that ruby were really intended as a guide for native speakers: language learners, in contrast, are likely to need larger, more legible letters.

           

          MS Word has had ruby for years, calling it "Phonetic Guides," and depending on how your system is configured you can get it to supply these automatically as pinyin (rather than, say, bopomofo).  It's been years since I tried (and failed) to import these into InDesign, and I also had trouble getting Open Office Writer to import them properly from Word, though it, too, can handle them; hopefully, that works better now.  But it sounds as though you already have separate files for pinyin and Chinese chars.

           

          When you say "Manual spacing of [C]hinese characters to match pinyin is not an option, as it's quite a large textbook," I hope you are not expecting long passages of chars. to be spaced evenly: the pinyin and especially the tones will be useless if they are illegible, and for 6 pinyin letters that point comes quickly unless the chars. are very large (this less of a problem for bopomofo, as the Arphic sample shows).  If instead you mean you need to apply pinyin to large numbers of Chinese chars., then I expect it is worth spending the time to figure out whether you can live with the limitations of something like the Little Professor.

           

          Good luck,

          David

          • 2. Re: How to typeset pinyin with its relevant chinese characters correctly?
            Chris Kunnert Level 1

            Hi David

             

            Thanks very much for your prompt response and the samples sent.

            Thanks also for pointing to World Tools. Will try and see how we get on.

             

            We are using a custom typeface for pinyin, which has all the glyphs, diacritics, tone marks etc needed for pinyin and is very suitable for the purpose of introducing western european students to the chinese language.

             

            The manuscript is supplied in MS Word with pinyin and chinese but it is not aligned correctly and is using fonts we don't want to use in the final product.

             

            My aim is to achieve the most effective and (time) economical workflow for this project, so am hoping for a suitable software solution to this typesetting issue as opposed to having to manually adjust each chinese character under its relevant pinyin.

             

            Many thanks and regards

            Chris

            • 3. Re: How to typeset pinyin with its relevant chinese characters correctly?
              Joel Cherney Level 5

              My aim is to achieve the most effective and (time) economical workflow for this project, so am hoping for a suitable software solution to this typesetting issue as opposed to having to manually adjust each chinese character under its relevant pinyin.

               

              Well, if your translated content was in a SQL database, I could probaly refer you to a Japanese DTP pro of my acquaintance, who already has extensive experience in SQL-driven typesetting automation involving ruby in InDesign.

               

              But since your content is

              supplied in MS Word with pinyin and chinese but it is not aligned correctly

              then somebody has to align it correctly, manually. I'm not looking at your Word file but my gut feeling, having been involved in a few such projects myself, is that you need a very clean input format if you want to automate these kinds of jobs. You're saying upfront that your input is not clean, and the way I'm reading your question (forgive me if I misunderstand) is that you want to feed your Word file into a tool and have clean output shunted into InDesign. Probably not going to happen.

               

              However, if you can share a fragment of your manuscript with the world, I'd be happy to eyeball it and tell you if your dreams of automation can be fulfilled.

              • 4. Re: How to typeset pinyin with its relevant chinese characters correctly?
                Chris Kunnert Level 1

                Hi Joel

                 

                Many thanks for your reply and advice. Here's an example of how the manuscript is supplied and here's an example of how I want it to end up (of course with correct alignment of pinyin etc.) This sample shows the typefaces, sizes, colour etc as reference only.

                 

                Am in the process of trying out World Tools Pro, but not getting anywhere fast . . . ;-(

                 

                Thanks again,

                Chris

                • 5. Re: How to typeset pinyin with its relevant chinese characters correctly?
                  Chris Kunnert Level 1

                  Hi Joel

                   

                  Many thanks for your reply and advice. Here's an example of how the manuscript is supplied and here's an example of how I want it to end up (of course with correct alignment of pinyin etc.) This sample shows the typefaces, sizes, colour etc as reference only.

                   

                  Am in the process of trying out World Tools Pro, but not getting anywhere fast . . . ;-(

                   

                  Thanks again,

                  Chris

                  • 6. Re: How to typeset pinyin with its relevant chinese characters correctly?
                    David W. Goodrich Level 3

                    You say your PDF sample isn't aligned correctly which makes it hard to tell just what you want.  Were it my job, I'd mock up a few pages as a series of 2-row tables, pinyin and corresponding hanzi expressions in columns whose widths would be adjusted for the wider of the two (Shèngdàn is wider than 圣诞, while 礼物 is wider than lǐwù.)  I assume the column for the speakers on the left (Bōbǐ, Lǐ Xiǎolóng) should always be the same width, with the names flush right, but you could experiment with their "words" of their dialog, center those columns or perhaps trying flushing them left.

                     

                    I'd also suggest punctuating the pinyin as well as the hanzi to help the novice reader navigate between the two -- and also to avoid oddities like the capitalization in "zǎoshang Wǎnshang" ("morning Evening").  That includes the fun of figuring out which punctuation to use in the Chinese font, full-width, or half-width -- for modern stuff, probably the latter.

                     

                    But I have to say the last time I did a text-book series, we didn't try to align the pinyin with the hanzi: we provided both, line by line at first and then paragraph by paragraph, and left navigating between the two as an exercise for the student (with punctuation as signposts).  I'm not sure that makes sense pedagogically, but it certainly helped give the pages structure: it isn't easy to look tidy when aligning elements according to the varying widths of pinyin expressions.

                     

                    Good luck!

                    David