2014년 8월 26일 화요일

Learning Traditional Chinese characters used in Korean (hanja) using a USB writing tablet and a NDS Emulator

In my spare time, I have been studying the 214 Kangxi Radicals (한글: 부수 部首) to help learn traditional Chinese characters faster. Thus far I have focused on just being able to recognize and read the radicals, but I have not tried writing them until now.

Some Koreans in their 50's and 60's suggested that I add writing practice to my study regimen, and the online Chinese/Japanese character writing site Skritter also champions this approach. The nice thing about learning radicals is that they are the building blocks of most Chinese characters - even complex Chinese characters can be broken down into radical components, making memorization that much easier.

If you have a USB tablet that accepts stylus input (I use the Huion H610, which works pretty well in Linux), you don't have to practice writing Chinese characters with ink and paper; Skritter and lots of software titles for the Nintendo DS teach writing Chinese complete with character overlays and stroke order information. I personally think Skritter is superior to similar offline-only NDS software, but Skritter is relatively expensive, at $15/month. Also, Skritter only supports Japanese-style Chinese characters (Kanji), Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese. Also the pronunciation that is taught is only valid for Chinese and Japanese.

Although Korean uses Traditional Chinese characters, it uses its own special pronunciation for them. There are also some hanja characters that are uniquely Korean. For example, the pronunciation marks 丷 (구결자 하) and 乛 (구결자 야) are (to my knowledge) used exclusively in Korea.

I thus searched for Nintendo DS titles teaching Korean-style Chinese characters, and came up with 3 titles:

ROM# 3659 Magic Cheonjamun DS (마법천자문 DS)
ROM# 3867 HanGeom DS (한검 DS)
ROM# 5523 Mabeop Cheonjamun DS2: Choehuui hanjamabeop (마법천자문 DS2: 최후의 한자마법)

Among these three, the last title is the best. The first title is not playable in the Desmume emulator (a black rectangle artifact shows up in the bottom screen of the emulator when running the ROM), the second title is mostly quiz-based and expect users to already know all ~3600 common Chinese characters tested in high school.

There is an adventure/story mode, but perhaps because of my age I found it to be uninteresting. Much more useful is the dictionary mode which has a list of all the Chinese characters covered in the official Korean exam divided into levels 8 ~ 1 (특급). I went through the list to find only the radical characters to practice with.

Here is a video screen capture of Mabeop Cheonjamun DS2 in action: