Tuesday, 24 July 2012

How do Indians eat with their hands

While practising Chinese on Yahoo! Taiwan on Saturday, I typed 為什麼印度人 (why do the Indians) and the top suggestion was 用手吃飯? (use their hands to eat?) 

Here is a screenshot: 


I even found this newspaper column. Its title is 揭秘:印度人吃飯為何用手抓。It roughly translates as: "Unearthed: How do Indians eat with their hands?" This will make an interesting reading when my Chinese is good enough to read newspaper columns.

And it doesn't end here. One of the other suggestions reads: 為什麼印度人用手吃飯咖哩?(Why do the Indians eat curry with their hands?)

Wow! So they are specific about curry! Interesting! I confess I have never seen anyone eating curry with their hands. Perhaps they do it in the South. But I have no idea how they will hold curry in their hands! Anyway I will find out in the next few months! 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Back to traditional characters

It turns out giving up traditional characters isn't easy. I didn't do any lessons for two days. And I am now returning to traditional characters. 

There is nothing wrong with the simplified script. It's simply that when you are used to the traditional writing system, you find the simplified a little incomplete.

I remember perfectly how I didn't even care about traditional characters only a few months ago. I knew they existed, a few people used them but they were not mend for me! Then for some reason which I don't even remember I started learning traditional characters. Initially I grumbled about 國 (国) and 個 (个), thinking they were too complicated. Now I just can't get out of the trap which makes me visualise these characters as complete and thus more beautiful.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Chinese Reading, Goodbye to traditional characters

Today ends the fourth week of Assimil Chinese with Ease. I had been successfully doing a lesson a day until only a couple of days ago. A sluggishness has crept in in the past two days now. I didn't do today's lesson. Instead I found this. It is a short story aimed at beginners. The title is 问问题 which roughly translates as "Ask a question."

Here is how it goes:



wen wen ti

xiao wang wen xiao li yi ge wen ti. ta wen xiao li zai che shen me. xiao li shuo ta zai che ping guo, ta qing xiao wang ye che yi ge ping guo. xiao wang hen ke qi, ta xie xie xiao li. xiao li shuo bu ke qi.

Ask a question

Xiao Wang asks Xiao Li what he is eating. Xiao li replies he is eating an apple. He offers Xiao Wang an apple. This makes Xiao Wang blush. He thanks Xiao Li. Xiao Li replies you are welcome.

Finally, I am no longer learning Traditional Characters. Albeit I still use Cangjie to write Chinese. I could have gone with Wubi but then I decided to stick with Cangjie. I don't want to spend another month learning a new Input System and Pinyin based IMEs are not for me. 我受仓颉。

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Is Cangjie (or Wubi) worth learning?

YES, it is! And that's been my experience so far.


1. I have been learning Chinese for the past few months, and Cangjie for a little more than six weeks. I don't know many characters, my grammar is poor but when I see an unknown character online, I can look it up in a dictionary without having to copy it which is anyways impossible when the unfamiliar character is part of an image or shows up in video. So that's an advantage of learning Cangjie (or Wubi): you can type unknown characters.

2. You can't use Cangjie (or Wubi) if you don't know what 漢語 looks like. So the system compels you to remember the shapes of characters. This gives you extra practice when you are learning Chinese. With Pinyin-IME (or Bopomofo), you tend to forget the details and after some time only a vague form remains in your mind. At least that was happening to me.

3. They say Cangjie (or Wubi) is faster. I confess I still type faster in Pinyin. But then I have been used to Qwerty layout for the past so many years. I believe after a few months, I will be able to type faster using Cangjie.

But they say...

They say it takes a long time to learn Cangjie (or Wubi). 

Switch to Dvorak and I bet you can't match your current typing speed on the new layout for at least a month. And that's normal. It takes time to learn anything new. Cangjie is no exception. You will have to spend a month, or in a few cases two, before you can grasp its principles and feel comfortable with the new layout.

They say you have to memorise a lot of codes.

This shows ignorance on part of those who makes such ludicrous claims. It's just not true. Do you think I learnt to type 漢語 by learning this code etli yrmmr? Of course, not! That's impossible! ? You only have to learn 24 + 1 letters and their auxiliary shapes. Together they don't amount to more than 100. This may sound a lot, but at the rate of ten-a-day you can have them all under your belt in less than ten days.

There doesn't exist a tutorial in English.

That's partly true. If you are ready to spend a few rupees, there does exit a book in English to teach Cangjie. I am not sure about Wubi. If for any reason you don't want the book, these links may be helpful: 

In case you are learning Chinese through simplified characters, these links may prove useful:

Are there any downsides? 

One of the downsides that I have noticed so far is that I sometimes forget how to pronounce characters, even though I remember how to write them and what they mean. Today I learnt the word for bicycle. It's 自行車. I have forgotten how to pronounce the first character but I remember the remaining two are 行 (xing) and 車 (che).

Do people use them?

Cangjie and Wubi are not as popular as Pinyin-IMEs. Perhaps there are ten (or more) Pinyin-IME users for each Cangjie or Wubi user. But then Macs aren't as popular as PCs, and there aren't as many Ferraris sold here as Maruti Suzuki Altos.

How to install Cangjie or Wubi?

Linux (Fedora)

Go to Add/Remove Software, type Cangjie (or Wubi). There will be several options. I use Smart Cangjie. For Wubi, you can choose Wubi-Jidian86. After that click on Apply. The system will ask for Root password, type in that and you are done.

Windows and Mac

I don't know. It's been quite long since I last used Windows and I have never used a Mac.