One of the major struggles facing students of the Chinese language is
the task of reading and writing, recognizing characters and remembering them.
The CangJie unique graphical and structural approach can significantly help
students to overcome this initial difficulty.
and users fluent in the Chinese language will use
CangJie for its basic function of typing Chinese characters in any computer.
Keying is as fast as in English because each character has a unique alphabetical
CangJie code entirely deductible visually from its form and structure.
For students of Chinese, the main difficulty lies in the
complex appearance of the characters. One way to try to remember them is to
write them over and over again. It is a way that has been used for a long time.
However, especially for complex characters, when learners are about to finish
tracing the last strokes, they may have lost sight of the global aspect of
We are in the computer era and the computer has proved to be very useful in
the classroom, especially in the field of language teaching. For such a
difficult language to master as Chinese, any tool that can help should be
used. In addition to the irreplaceable instructions of a caring teacher,
computer programs can be of great help because they are all the time at the
students' disposal and will keep their mind focused on the language in many
attractive and creative ways:
-Simple word-processors will allow students to type their homework, letters,
-Electronic language dictionaries in computer programs or in portable
palm-top organizers will provide translations, radicals, and the number of
strokes; will display on the screen the tracing of the characters and produce
illustrations of the origin of the characters; will give associated
characters and phrases, and even utter their pronunciation, allowing
communication in virtually all places and circumstances.
-Multimedia CD-ROMs, will allow interaction in almost real conversations,
associating text, images and sound.
Now, how can the CangJie graphic input method also contribute to help
students learn Chinese? Why not rely on an input method based on the
phonetic symbols like pinyin or zhu-yin?
Surely, phonetic methods can and are often used to input Chinese. However, as
indicated in the book’s introduction (pages 2 and 9), phonetic methods were
not designed in order to codify and manage characters in the computer, but only
to transliterate their pronunciation. So, a graphic input method like CangJie
which is based on the appearance of the characters and specifically designed
for the computer stands out as an important tool for students and seasoned
1. First, it must be said that the usage of a graphic method like CangJie does
not preclude in anyway the learning of phonetic transliterations. As explained
page 273 of the book, the prompt line displays simultaneously the
phonetic transliteration of any character that has been inputted with the
CangJie method. Also, the user can activate a function that automatically
writes on the screen the phonetic symbols next to the character which has just
been inputted. In addition, some programs actually pronounce the sound of the
characters as they are typed.
2. With CangJie, students cannot but improve their familiarity with the
characters’ image, which is an advantage that phonetic input methods do not
provide at all. As CangJie uses the shapes and the structure of
the characters to make up the codes that represent the characters, the
student has to "spot" these shapes and analyze the patterns of the
characters in order to find out their input code.
In doing this visual exercise the student, consciously or unconsciously makes
a picture of the basic elements composing the characters: this will result in a
much faster retention, without an actual repetitive memorization effort.
After a little practice of CangJie, the effectiveness of this mental mechanism
will show its benefits. More complex characters can be inputted with CangJie
even if the student has only a partial visual memory of its main shapes.
3. With CangJie, students can input characters they find in their readings even
if they have not yet learned or retained their precise phonetic
transliteration. No need to count strokes. This feature, by itself, should be
a strong incentive to learn the CangJie input method. Once retrieved, the
characters can be researched further in the computer language dictionary.
4. In the CangJie method, complex characters are sub-divided in two or three
parts called units. The first unit is represented by the two code-letters
corresponding to its first and last shapes. (See detailed explanation in
chapter 3). As a consequence, almost all the characters starting with the same
two code-letters contain the same meaning unit. For example, there are 45
characters starting by the code-letters JJ representing the shapes
(see Appendix III of the book: the alphabetical table of codes for traditional characters), and 80% of them contain the
meaning unit "che
a "vehicle with wheels". Pondering on the CangJie structuring of
characters viewpoint will keep students alert to the meaning of their
essential parts, prompt comparisons with etymological components and
facilitate the memorization of Chinese characters.
5. Not only can the CangJie method, by itself, help the user to remember the
characters, but the manner in which the book presents it can also reinforce
knowledge of the Chinese language:
-The exercises in the book, in addition to training the student to rapidly
find CangJie codes for the traditional and the simplified
form of the characters, also present their basic translation and pinyin
-The book proposes a very special exercise that consists in reconstructing
the characters starting from the basic shapes in their CangJie code (see
page 33). This kind of reconstruction game is not only fun: it is
extremely effective to help fix the shape of the characters in the student’s
This book has been designed to inform the learner in a gradual manner:
therefore, students and advanced learners should just follow the chapters from
the beginning to the end. Beginners should do all the exercises,
especially the character reconstruction game. Overseas Chinese
and fluent readers can quickly go through chapter 1 and 2, and concentrate more
on chapter 3 to 4.
One point must be emphasized: there is absolutely no need to memorize the
codes representing the characters. The codes are deductible from the shapes of
the characters and the CangJie rules. The rules are simple and logical. The
shapes comprise only 24 basic characters (called the 24 main-signs), --less than
the letters of our western alphabets. They also comprise 87 secondary
shapes which are derived from the shapes of the 24 main-signs and therefore easy
to remember after reading the first two chapters. All the exercises can be done
by writing down the answers on the book especially allocated columns. It will be
more beneficial to type them also on a computer. The files containing the
exercises can be found in the CD-ROM included with the book. The CD-ROM also
provides software to start using Chinese on the computer immediately.
Students should also be reminded to practice at every stage of their
learning with the typing Tutoring programs. This program is extremely simple. To see its main
functions have a look at our page: Tutor
Then, the Chinese language teacher could advise his students to use
CangJie for keying some of the characters they come across in the frame of their
Chinese writing and reading activities and for their homework. Additional
teaching material will be available upon request -according to available
time- on the web site: www.cjmember.com
devoted to guide CangJie users of all levels and inform them of the
latest news and developments regarding the CangJie system as a Chinese
language typing and learning tool.