I know it's a bit "long" and massive to put Pinyin for every sentence, but the question remains to be asked: should we include it?

Share your opinion and if you want, propose alternatives/rules for this.

  • The nature of this varies differently depending on whether this is attempted as an automatic nature or as something the post author has to write each time. I'm in favor of the latter, if only because that's the only sane way to handle different dialects.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 0:52
  • @GraceNote I was thinking about the same thing, personally. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 9:52

7 Answers 7


Is it technically possible to have pinyin show up in a hover? (I think the answer is no, but...) The way I could see this working is two-fold (this is just a mockup of what I would find extremely useful, hovering over characters to see the Pinyin):

Entire phrase in Pinyin:

Chinese text with hover example 1

Individual characters in Pinyin:

enter image description here

These don't appear to be possible, since there's nothing in, for example, the Japanese Stack Exchange that looks similar. But if Stack Exchange had a way of doing it so that we wrote something like [我很好:wǒ hěn hǎo] and Stack Exchange took care of the rest...

I'm just imagining a feature that doesn't exist. I think that it's extremely helpful if questioners and answers put Pinyin as well as characters in their posts, but as you say, it could be tedious.

  • That's a very good idea!!! I'll tag the question in order to attract attention from the devs/supermods and see if they can provide this or a similar solution.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 23:57
  • 4
    if all else fails, you can always install extensions on your browser. This extension for chrome does the exact same thing but also give you the meaning:chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/…
    – mugetsu
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 0:42
  • 2
    mugetsu, I would post that as an answer, since I think it's the correct course of action -- everyone should just install whichever pinyin-providing extension they personally prefer. Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 1:40
  • 1
    Yes, it is very possible, and not even all that difficult - you can see an example at sinosplice.com/life/archives/2011/12/13/yex-aka-hx - essentially it's just a tooltip with pinyin text. If you hover over the Chinese text on the blog post, you'll see what I mean. Doing it so it automatically pulls the pinyin out however might be a little more tricky, but I'd imagine it's still possible.
    – Ciaocibai
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 7:20
  • @Ciaocibai That's nice... I wish some dev would see this question...
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 12:43
  • I've been working on this feature for a while. It's easy with the right tools: a segmenter, a good character to pinyin converter and some relatively basic javascript. I figured out a way to do it, but I don't know if SE could use that solution. Does StackExchange add custom js for their beta sites? Here's a rundown of what you'd need to do: 1. use regex with Unicode ranges that captures Chinese characters. 2. send the Chinese to a server 3. segment the Chinese and send back pinyin I'd be willing to provide SE with this service if: they pay for the server costs and give my website a link. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 16:50
  • This apart from being a great idea, could be easily implemented by having a Hanzi to Pinyin database and converting characters and adding the metadata to the database of Q/As, but that of course would require a level of customization for this stack that I'm not sure Joel's guys are willing to make. Also, the ambiguity of hanzis that have more than one pinyin should be resolved in some way, or maybe all the options be given.
    – Petruza
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 12:27

Also not a general solution, but for Firefox there is Mandarin Popup, which I prefer to the previously menioned Perapera-kun. You just hover over any Chinese in a web page, and you get a popup with the pinyin and disctionary definition:

Usage sample

  • Out of curiosity, how is this one better than Perapera-kun? Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 15:21
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 Last time I tried Perapera-kun (maybe 1-2 years ago) it just wasn't working for me, as it seemed to be missing a lot of definitions. Based on your comment, I just installed the latest version - wow, a big improvement over what I remember! It looks pretty close to Mandarin Popup now, though I do find that it is a bit pernickity about exactly where the mouse pointer is hovering relation to the character
    – Cocowalla
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 15:34

Another approach that StackExchange could support, by just supporting the elements, would be the ruby, rt and rb HTML5 elements. (No, the ruby/rt/rb elements aren't in the list of HTML elements Stack Exchange currently supports.) It would still be a little bit cumbersome to type out for each set of characters, but I can imagine Stack Exchange adding a Markdown style and/or toolbar button to facilitate it for Chinese and other languages. The article I linked to also has some suggestions for CSS for browsers that can't handle it natively.


I think this can be done so easily with Google Translate that it becomes unnecessary. If someone really wanted to find out they could just copy and paste into translate to get it.

Forcing it to become a standard is tedious and will be hard to enforce.

It also helps with memorizing if you have to make the effort to look it up you are more likely to remember it.

I personally think this would make the site look too much like a beginners site and may discourage advanced learners.

  • Also Japanese adopts furigana for not basic Kanji, why shouldn't we? The pinyin help is not intended for experts but to give the chance to beginners to follow the topic.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 9:51
  • I think it is better to encourage learners to learn characters as soon as possible. In most courses and in China when teaching children this is learnt and then dropped very early. There are also resources available to find out very easily (translate, plugnis etc.), why force every person who writes a question or answer to include this? If you want to attract experts why make it arduous for them to answer questions.
    – going
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 9:55
  • The effort should be on the side of the learner and not on the side of the teacher!
    – going
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 9:56
  • There's no need to take it this personally. It's not something you MUST do, only something that I hope you will. If you won't there's an edit function and those who agreed will edit your questions/answers according to that. If they do this in Japanese SE, I don't see why can't we... and they have more expert questions than you might think.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 10:14
  • @Alenanno - Apologies if I came across strongly, definitely not taking it personally. I have included pinyin in plenty of my answers so far where I thought it was necessary. I think if you are teaching someone something new it is worthwile to include. I'm just worried about enforcing this rule on everyone.
    – going
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 10:16
  • I'm not saying it's enforced, and not certainly for all characters... For example 我, 你, won't need that, they are so basic everybody learns them the very first lesson. But if we go further, there are some hard characters. I say hard because not everybody knows them, such as some of the ones in the "vote up, vote down" question you asked... :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 10:19
  • @Alenanno - All good, I think we are coming from the same place. It's worthwhile to add if there is some benefit for most people viewing the question. No need if it is something straight forward or covering general points.
    – going
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 10:27
  • Also on Japanese SE they made a choice to "filter" where to use furigana, and where not... So sure, we can do it here too.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 10:28
  • 2
    @xiaohouzi79: It's a bit misleading to compare teaching children in China to teaching foreign speakers. Chinese children learn the language by osmosis and only need to learn to read. Foreign learners need to learn everything all at once. Vocabulary acquisition is very difficult and pinyin helps tremendously. Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 15:24

Japanese language stackexchange has implemented what @sillygwailo answered, which they called it Furigana support for details seeing here , so I think It is easy and necessary to add this feature.

  1. 攻殻こうかく機動隊きどうたい

  2. enter image description here

  3. [攻殻]{こうか}[機動隊]{きどうたい}

There also need something like chinese extension so that we can input Hànyǔ Pīnyīn expediently. For this feature see more discussion here


This isn't really a general solution, but I have a Firefox addon installed called Perapera-kun which does a popup translation using CEDICT. Turn it on and it translates idioms, compound words, and single characters in a popup.


A zealous editor seem to have taken to the idea of adding pinyin to all (or most) Chinese sentences referenced. I do not think that this is a good idea. Including pinyin is important when the pronunciation of a character is at issue or with 多音字, and I think it is fine to include it as a courtesy when the OP clearly doesn't know much Chinese, but I believe -- and, based on the discussion here, most users seem to believe -- that adding pinyin to each question is unnecessary and distracting.

Readers who do not recognize certain characters are free to look them up in an online dictionary (of which there are many), but adding pinyin as a matter of course to posts by other users seems excessive unless it's clearly warranted.

  • Note that also beginners come to read questions and answers so they should not just be helpful to the OP but to anyone that comes to this site, so I wouldn't use the term "unnecessary". Some characters have several pronunciations so the pinyin helps.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 15:52
  • @Alenanno: I agree with your last point, hence my comment about 多音字. All Chinese learners should get in the habit of looking up a character's reading as soon as they see it -- why shouldn't we encourage the same habit here? Pinyin is fine for difficult characters, but I think that experienced posters who know Chinese well are capable of deciding what characters should be glossed and which ones shouldn't be.
    – Alf
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 15:55
  • Note that what you say is not actually true, the decision is not just mine, there was a consensus. I don't think experienced speakers should decide, it would be too much a unilateral decision. But anyway, if you think that pinyin is too much, feel free to remove it, no-one is denying you from doing it.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 16:01
  • @Alenanno: I don't agree that there was consensus. The highest rated answer proposed a technological fix which doesn't yet exist. The second highest rated answer suggests installing your own software. In neither case to I see consensus for editors to add pinyin to questions or answers. I know that know one is preventing me from removing the pinyin, but I wanted to add my voice to the meta discussion. I'm posting here to add my input.
    – Alf
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 16:08
  • Check the comments under xiaohouzi's answer, there was a discussion there. :) Anyway, please come to chat, I have something to ask about that list.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 16:10

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