Apple’s new keyboard feature in iOS 15 is an insult to the whole Cantonese speaking community.

阿擇 (Chaaak)
3 min readJun 15, 2021
Note: This letter is co-authored by friends of mine who would not like to be named, and I'm posting this on Medium for a wider reach. Hopefully someone from Apple will see this and take further action.

On WWDC 2021, Apple released a set of new features for iOS 15. Among which a new feature aroused people’s concern:

What is this supposed to mean? Even native Cantonese speakers are confused. Pinyin is a romanization system designed for Mandarin. Why type Cantonese and Shanghainese in Mandarin Pinyin? And what does it mean by “dialectal spellings”? For people who don’t know the languages, here is some background. Cantonese, Shanghainese, Mandarin are three independent and mutually unintelligible languages. Each of them has its own writing system, grammar, vocabulary and romanization system. Their ISO 693–3 codes (international standard for classifying languages) are yue, wuu and cmn. Pinyin is the romanization system for Mandarin, not Cantonese nor Shanghainese. Cantonese has its own romanization system called Jyutping. But why would somebody type Cantonese in Mandarin Pinyin? We got the clarification some time later:

https://twitter.com/_karan/status/1401990241846652928

So things are clear: Apple is suggesting you typing Cantonese with a Mandarin keyboard. Excuse me? Why would I type my native language with a foreign language keyboard? Would you type Russian with an American keyboard? Yes it is true that some Cantonese speakers living in mainland China use Pinyin to type Cantonese. But that is exactly because Apple doesn’t offer a Jyutping(Cantonese) keyboard, and they have to resort to this workaround. And now Apple says “You guys seem happy with this workaround, so we have made our Mandarin language model smarter to recognize your Cantonese dialectal spellings.” Oh yeah, creating “smarter” workarounds is always more expedient than solving the problem fundamentally.

You might say making a new keyboard layout is expensive and Apple doesn’t have the commitment? Fine. But when you look at the other features of iOS 15, things seem more confusing:

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阿擇 (Chaaak)

《粵典》創辦人,而家全力推廣粵文書寫。Founder of words.hk and advocate of Written Cantonese