Since Chinese is a language of tones and homonyms, speaking is one thing, and probably the easiest part of it. Even if you know a large number of characters, when you have to write anything down, there is a lot of room for confusion in determining which character goes where. This is especially true for those of us who are learning Chinese as a second language.
In Chinese, these types of “incorrect character” problems are generally called “tso bie zi,” which one might roughly translate as “wrong other characters.” In fact, this entire issue is additionally complicated by the fact that a large number of characters have quite similar meanings.
Is there any sort of computer program that can assist in dealing with this problem? (I use a desktop computer.) By way of comparison to English, in my Microsoft WORD program, any words which the program considers misspelled are lightly underlined, whereupon I can hit the right mouse button and get a list of spelling selections.
My Chinese input program offers little specific help in this regard. One input option allows you to “pick a second character” from a list of options, however that is not always the ULTIMATE SOLUTION in my opinion. Sometimes I can only remember the “second character” of the expression I am seeking, and that input option doesn’t allow me to “pick a first character”. Also, it is often true that in picking a second character, the very characters which I am trying to differentiate between are all listed there one by one.
Interestingly, my Chinese associates’ solution to dealing with this problem is to say “Ask a friend.” However, when I am typing up a Chinese document late at night or very early in the morning, there are no friends to ask.
Although I have several hardback Chinese dictionaries on my shelf, looking up words in them is time consuming . . . . moreover, if the exact combination which I am searching for is not listed, I am still in the dark.