Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

hanzi/kanji variations

Repost from my other blog

When I signed up for my first Chinese class in college, they gave us a choice between two versions of the introductory textbook: one used the traditional Chinese character set, and the other used the simplified Chinese character set. I don’t remember my reasoning at the time – probably something as simple as having an easier time writing in class – but I went with simplified Chinese. But eventually, you see enough to recognize general transformations between one and the other, and keeping up with the language in the long run makes this decision not matter.

Nowadays I spend a lot more time reading Chinese than speaking or listening to it, and I guess not living in mainland China, naturally I’ve taken a preference to the traditional character set for study. This means I check the online dictionary a lot, so I need to type Chinese. Basically, there are two classes of input methods, you can either “sound it out” with a phonetic input method like pinyin, or you can “write it out”. There’s a great input method called Cangjie for “writing out” any traditional character using at most 5 keystrokes. The advantage is that you can still look up a new word pretty quickly despite never having seen it before and not knowing how to pronounce it. Also (at least on Windows) you can type part of a character and have it show you a list of partial matches. Here are some examples:

休 = 人木 = OD

森 = 木木木 = DDD

意 = 卜廿日心 = YTAP

我 = 竹手戈 = QHI

訶 = 卜口一弓口 = YRMNR

The middle columns are some of the “building blocks” that the method decomposes all characters into.

To some degree, you can also type in simplified characters, but I’ll just try to copy and paste those guys or, in the worst case, physically write it out.

The unexpected reward for learning Cangjie is that it’s been amazingly helpful with my Japanese study in the past few months. There is a ton of overlap in the Japanese kanji, but their pronunciations is so overloaded that sometimes its easier to just write them out. Also, there is the annoying problem of these Japanese-only variants of certain kanji. They fail searches on Chinese dictionary sites, and you really can’t type them in using Chinese (because they’re not in the charset) or Japanese (because you don’t know how to pronounce them). The best case scenario for these is if I can copy and paste it, but if I’m playing a game, watching a video, or reading a manga, if I can’t guess the corresponding hanzi, I just have to give it up until I somehow see it again in copy-paste-able format or hear it.

Here’s a collection of some examples.  Japanese version on the left, Chinese on the right.

内 = 內

Here the 人 is switched with a 入. Actually, I think the character on the left is how it is written in simplified Chinese.

発見 = 發現 (发现)

Interesting variation and good example of how sometimes the kanji is just so familiar to a commonly seen hanzi.

徒歩 = 徒步

How annoying is it that the Chinese version leaves out a single mark here. I didn’t notice the difference until I searched the wrong word.

両手 = 兩手 (两手)

脳 = 腦 (脑)

連続 = 連續 (连续)

様子 = 樣子 (样子)

不満 = 不滿 (不满)

児 = 兒 (儿)

It’s nice that the IME on Windows has an extended dictionary that includes simplified Chinese and Japanese variants if you can manage to figure out the decomposition.

Dusting off the cobwebs

Originally I started this as a blog about my study abroad experience in Hong Kong. Well, I’m back in California now, studying as a graduate student in computer science at UC Davis. While I’m not going to be traveling a lot, I am going to be spending plenty of time in front of a computer, and doing plenty of reading. So I think I’ll pick up this blog where I left it, with an emphasis on learning Chinese and, most recently, Japanese.