[Feature request] new test type for handwriting characters + more

scribble

Member
Hi all,

I am using Pleco every day and am coming to a point where I really need to improve my knowledge of how to write to remember more characters.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Create a new test-type called "handwriting". It would just be a simple input field using the handwriting input used in the dictionary. The user can handwrite a character and select the closest match from the automatic suggestions as usual. This would be very simple to implement and add a lot of functionality. Right now I have to write on a sheet of paper and then compare my character with Pleco. (If I forget stroke order I have to tap through many menus to access the diagram.) This has already been requested in the forum in the past.

2. Obviously it wouldn't be perfect as Pleco wouldn't know stroke order with the standard handwriting input. So an alternative implementation might be to use the stroke order diagram, change it so that a stroke must be drawn rather than tapped, and use that as an input method. But that might be much more tricky to implement. Personally I think stroke order is learned fairly quickly, so it is not so important.

3. Finally, another huge functionality boost would be the ability to select cards by the number of strokes. This information is already in the dictionary so it should be very easy to implement. It would allow users to first practice simple character and progressively advance to more complex ones, and together with the first (and second) suggestion, keep track of which one's they know how to write.

Thanks for creating such a great app,

S
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
We actually already support #1 now - set the test type to "fill in the blanks" and "prompt for" to "characters."

#3 I'm a little wary of pedagogically - a lot of simple characters are not really very useful, and a lot of tricky many-stroke ones are among the most important characters in Chinese. So I don't know if it's a grouping that's likely to do that much good for learners.
 

scribble

Member
Oh great, I just discovered it.

But I disagree with you on number 3; complex characters are usually just amalgams of simpler ones, and so knowing simple characters with few strokes helps writing complex ones with many strokes. Chinese characters are modular, so learning modules individually is very helpful. I think it is very useful to group characterise by complexity rather than importance. It is very easy to implement, and does a huge favour to people who want to learn characters with few strokes first, rather than the most important/common characters.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Oh there's certainly value in learning simpler characters, I just don't think that number of strokes is a good way to filter them - there are far too many rare / useless components with a small number of strokes and too many common ones with a lot of strokes. If you want to learn characters through components then you really need a curated list rather than an automatically generated one.
 

JD

榜眼
I'm curious...is there really a good, modern use for the number of strokes in a character? I've only been learning Mandarin for a year, so I'm very new to it. However, in my usage, the only times I've studied the number of strokes was for my own education as a bit of trivia. I understand that prior usage was so that characters could be looked up in a print-and-paper-based dictionary. But with the way electronic keyboards and dictionaries work now, it seems to me that stroke number has become the equivalent of "learning to ride a horse" or "how to shift a standard/manual transmission".

JD
 

jlnr

进士
JD: If you can't correctly write a character by hand (to look it up in Pleco) and OCR does not recognise it, then what do you do other than counting the strokes? I usually try to find the radical first, but for some characters, it just seems arbitrary. And even if I can guess the radical, counting the remaining strokes still speeds up the lookup process :)
 

JD

榜眼
@jlnr : I've found that by enabling the "Chinese Simpified - handwriting" keyboard on my iPad, that no matter how poor my stroke order or how far from perfect my stroke drawing is, that iOS is really, really good at providing candidates, one of which will usually match the character in question. In other words, I rarely use the Pleco Handwriting keyboard...I just use the iOS handwriting.

That may just be a long way of saying that I haven't yet run into the use-case you are presenting.

The only times I've been completely at a loss on some characters is when they are written in calligraphy...at which point, I'm not sure any amount of stroke counting would help, because on those characters, I can't even figure out what the strokes would even be...let alone try to count them.

Still. That being said, I'm still very new to Mandarin, and my focus is on Simpified Mandarin, so there are tens of thousands of characters of which I'm ignorant and unaware. The extra strokes needed for Traditional may make the issue more complicated than I realize too.

Do you have any examples or times where you were trying to figure out a character and couldn't?

Finally, to actually answer your question, if I were stuck and couldn't figure out a character, I'd ask one of my work colleagues. I have the good fortune to work with and daily eat lunch with several engineers who are native speakers from China.

JD
 

Stepanzel

Member
+1 for suggestion #3

I'm also new to Mandarin and IMHO it gets really frustrating if filling the blanks asks you for very difficult characters right at the beginning. It's better to start off easy and work your way to the difficult characters but I don't want to maintain several categories...

So I'd also like to have a filter similar to length but with the stroke count.

Cheers from Shanghai!
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Doable, but I'm still a little wary of it because stroke counts have very little to do with how common or useful a character is. We are adding a 'review in category order' option, so it might make more sense to simply offer some pre-made decks of simple characters that were either common themselves or were common building blocks for other characters.
 

Shun

状元
Hi,

as a service, I include all standard characters (and some more) with 1-6 strokes from Wenlin, which you could make into flashcards.

Cheers, Shun


PS: For beginning learners, this could aid in simply training the skill of studying characters. Anyway, it's good to try everything out, there's always a lesson lurking behind it.
 

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JD

榜眼
Hi,
as a service, I include all standard characters (and some more) with 1-6 strokes from Wenlin, which you could make into flashcards.
I tried to open this in Pleco's doc reader, Safari, and another text reader, but get gibberish. Pleco on iOS couldn't detect the encoding. What type of file is this?

EDIT: Never mind....I got it...had a setting incorrectly set.
 

Shun

状元
Here's the Pleco flashcard file for up to eight strokes. Note that it's a mix of Simplified and Traditional characters, but for practicing, it should be just fine. ("Fill in missing fields" should be activated in Import Flashcards.)
 

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pdwalker

状元
Just an observation regarding the recognizers:

The iOS recognizer is very very good. The Pleco recognizer is almost magical. I prefer the Pleco recognizer because of the larger writing area.

With the iOS recognizer, if I am trying to enter in a character I am unfamiliar with, I often have to end up searching for it by the stroke count, so knowing the stroke count, or being able to count the strokes has been useful for me.
 
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