I have posted a web page that uses my live Chinese Character Web API to generate some visualizations around the quantitative comparison of traditional and simplified Chinese characters.
The page is here: http://hanzi.hemiola.com/compare.html.
If you are in the process of learning Chinese, or if you would like to see an example of a keyboard-accessible HTML UI, then you might find it interesting.
One key to browsability is a combination of the usual arrangement by radicals and strokes and not requiring any page navigation. I think the idea of looking up Chinese characters as you would in a dictionary is a valuable skill, and one that improves as you learn more by doing it more. When I started learning the Chinese language, computer support was barely getting off the ground. If I wanted to look up a character whose pronunciation I didn’t know, I had to look it up by radical and strokes.
Nowadays, if you can write a character, however badly, you have more options:
And OCR is perhaps becoming an option, though I haven’t tried these:
Still, I think you learn a lot and get a lot of satisfaction from looking up a character by radical and strokes. A side benefit of the Chinese Character Browser is that when you see 6,763 characters broken down by radical and strokes, it doesn’t look like so many. It gives your mind a sense of the entirety of what’s before you, if you are setting out to learn as much as you can.
Another key to browsability is being able to use the keyboard to do everything. There was a time, before the Web, when keyboard support was central to the creation of almost any UI. I think it’s clear now that keyboard support in HTML applications has fallen permanently by the wayside. Even so, I wanted to see what it would be like creating an HTML UI that was fully keyboard-accessible.
One important note here is that even though I created a keyboard-accessible UI, it’s not accessible in the Section 508 sense—at least, I doubt it. Unfortunately, Section 508 compliance is generally equated with working well with specific screen readers. My last look at screen readers a few years ago revealed an almost complete lack of support for dynamic HTML applications. My only goal here was keyboard-accessibility, not compliance with a specific screen reader.
Here’s how the keyboard works in the Chinese Character Browser:
So far, that’s just standard keyboard stuff. I came up with a few “extras” to fit the tool:
There are various ctrl+shift sequences that can be used like keyboard accelerators. These are labeled in the UI:
It’s worthwhile acknowledging that studying characters is only part of the whole picture. You will not learn Chinese simply by studying individual characters.
This tool simply lists out the different possible pronunciations.
It’s challenging enough to remember pronunciation and tone of each character. Additionally, you need to remember if a given term ends in a neutral tone. When you first learn a character in its neutral tone form, you haven’t yet actually learned the character; you can’t yet correctly use the character elsewhere when its tone does matter.
When learning-by-listening to third-tone characters that have been spoken with a second tone (sandhi tone modification), you haven’t learned the correct tone of the character. You will, in fact, learn the wrong tone if you learn by listening.
I’d venture to say that every first-day student of Mandarin is bombarded with conflicting and incorrect information about what’s likely the very first character they learn: 你. The teacher says unambiguously that it’s pronounced using the third tone, yet goes on to pronounce it (correctly) using a second tone in 你好, yet never mentions why such a blatant contradiction is occurring.
The Chinese Character Web API provides a programmatic way to get information about Chinese characters through a live interface on the Web.
For complete documentation, see http://ccdb.hemiola.com/.