A few months back, Eric (of When English Attacks and Attack! Language) asked why no-one had put together a Heisig-style deck for the Hong Kong Special Character Set. I didn’t do anything about it at the time because I didn’t feel the need, but maybe it’d be useful to do so.

In any case, I just did some digging and found a .pdf that includes ~5000 HKSCS characters… which to me seems excessive.

So, quick question – has anyone else come across an abridged version? Maybe just the most common 1000 characters or something (I had hitherto laboured under the impression that that was all the special characters there were.) If so, I’ll order them up for easy learning, and we’ll all walk away happy.

Secondly, as soon as I figure out how, I’m going to upload the Taiwan Grades 1-8 decks with the Cantonese readings generated by Anki for each card. I may rearrange them (by reading or something) to make it easier to learn them. I must confess, I’ve been a little disappointed in the lack of emergence of RTH II, so hopefully this’ll fill the void.  The Hanzi stats plugin seems to think the 3500 characters in the deck aren’t the most common 3500, but I suspect this may have something to do with certain simplifications/vulgar variants.

Thirdly, I’d like to do a little market research – would anyone be interested in a 20-hour course (guesstimate, can’t remember how long it took me) that taught you input Chinese characters using Cangjie? There seems to be just the one course available in English, but it’s $35 with P&P.  The main benefits would be being able to quickly look up words you read in books or on Chinese show subtitles because it doesn’t rely on you being able to say the character, just to decompose it. A second benefit is that it avoids using PinYin or Jyutping input (neither of which are ideal for Cantonese, the latter because no easy-to-obtain system exists), and also that using Cangjie trains active recall of how to write characters. It’s a win-win-win-win situation.

It may or may not be something I charge for – really it’d depend how long it takes to put together.  I might just post up the Anki deck I created for it for free.  I often transcribe entire passages from manga or TV shows to parse them quickly using CantoDict and then enter them into Anki, and it’s certainly helped me a lot… poll below if you could spare a couple of seconds.

There’s a whole new post on Cangjie here:

Finally, as a little bonus, here’s a My Little Airport song.  My… good friend introduced them to me, and although I don’t like all their songs, this one is 好好聽…

If you click through to Youtube the lyrics are in the video description box 😉


4 thoughts on “HKSCS

  1. I played around with Cangjie for just a few hours today for the first time. I had always gotten by with CPIME, but Cangjie is definitely more useful for characters which I see in subtitles and can’t pronounce (or even familiar characters which have multiple pronunciations but CPIME only recognizes one of them).

    Maybe I just haven’t had enough practice yet, but the secondary “signs” are giving me trouble. For example, in 地 is made of 土心木. But I don’t see the 心 and 木 in that character… How did you overcome these? Just lots of practice, or is there another trick?

    I started off with this site:

  2. Aha, interesting question… in addition to the primary shapes corresponding to letters (i.e. A日 B月 C金 D木 E水 F火 G土 etc.) there are also up to about ten secondary shapes for each one, although they’re generally related in form to the main shape.

    So in the case of 地, it’s the large hook in 心 that forms the final stroke; one of the related forms of 木 happens to be the fourth and fifth strokes respectively.

    Additionally, there are certain irregular shapes that are made up of set pairs – for example, 目 is made up of 月 and 山. Similarly, 隹 is always typed 人土, even though you might expect it to be something like 人卜十土.

    What I did was to take the Heisig order of characters and figure out the codes for each character. Since they’re order 日,昌,晶,明 etc. it’s probably the easiest order to learn to type them in, for much the same reason as it’s the easiest order to learn to write them in. This means that you come across characters like 也,地,哋 etc etc in sequence, meaning it’s easier to just brute force learn apparent exceptions. (Needless to say I was doing all this using an Anki deck.)

    The downside was that it took one helluvalot of copy-pasting to look up the codes manually for characters I couldn’t figure out right away… so I’d be putting something together which already had characters and codes next to each other with explanations introducing new combinations, I guess.

    I came across that site too yesterday when I was looking for other methods, but I think the ~$35 they’re asking for that book is a bit steep, given how simple Cangjie is to learn (when done in the right way).

    • Thanks for the reply. Did you create flashcards specifically to memorize which secondary shapes go with which primary shapes? As another example, it’s not immediately clear to me that the bottom “U” of 目 is a secondary shape of 山. I thought it could just as easily be the 一 shape.

      They do provide the first two chapters as pdf files free, although those first two chapters basically say the same information as in those 8 steps in the above link.

      And as for the order to learn them in, the exercises in those first two chapters do the same A, AA, AAA, AB ordering as you described above.

      • 月山>目 is an arbitrary exception – I believe it’s partly to minimise the number of Hanzi that are produced by specific key combinations. Exceptions are all listed on the Wikipedia page:

        I didn’t make flashcards to memorise secondary-primary pairs – I’ll be honest, I did it mostly by brute force. Since there are ready made associations between S2s and S1s, I didn’t see the need to waste time making extra flashcards. Using Heisig’s ordering generally meant that there was a nice spacing effect for typing certain combinations.

        I hadn’t noticed the .pdfs before, thanks for drawing those to my attention – since they’ve already done the work I was planning on, maybe I won’t bother 😛

        In any case, I hadn’t come to any firm conclusions on whether to offer it for free or as a money-making venture… I may just modify the Anki deck I was using and put it up for free download, that way it won’t take up too much time.

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