What's best for Hong Kong, anyway?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/04/20 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2011/04/20/10156217.aspx

If you look at two different blogs of mine about fonts on Windows:

and you kind of combine their messages a bit -- one about the general tendency to really try to move to the new ClearType fonts for east Asian languages, and the other about all of the HKSCS-specific font work done for Hong King -- you might notice something.

They are in direct conflict with each other.

I have spent some time trying to understand how important this alternate form work for Hong Kong is. How crucial it is for these 4720 Han ideographs to be different in Hong Kong.

Of those I talked to, not even the people who recognized the differences thought it was all that important that if (in the long run) the effort to move to the newer style fonts is successful that the HKSCS-specific work will be maginalized across the Windows user interface.

It felt to me like perhaps something was being missed, but apparently this is all okay.

Now note that these two different "models" for Traditional Chinese font choice have other important differences too. They both depend somewhat on the default system locale since they use the GDI font link chain that is modified by that locale setting. But the new model does get rid of the HK-specific behavior, which feels even a little more hacky when one really thinks about it.

Perhaps if I ran across someone who felt like the change would be suboptimal for Hong Kong I'd feel differently. But I guess it really wasn't that big of a deal for people in Hong Kong.

Though it does make one wonder if it was worth the time/money to create the HKSCS-specific fonts, though. Does the typical or even the exceptional user even notice? Will they notice if the difference largely goes away?

More questions than answers today....

Daniel Cheng on 20 Apr 2011 8:08 AM:

I work in a primary school (age 6-11) in Hong Kong. The main issue is the younger student may have problem with different font style. Older student have no problem with that -- in additional to the taiwan/hongkong/japan style, most of us read and write both tradition and simplified form.

Daniel Cheng on 20 Apr 2011 8:12 AM:

I think the 標楷體 have become the de facto standard in most school.

Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Apr 2011 8:44 AM:

Wow, really? What would that mean for Windows, then?

Ken Aarts on 20 Apr 2011 11:02 AM:

Hi Michael, the above link to "Making a font fetish a bit more mainstream" has been corrupted.

I think it is fixed now.... - Michael

John Cowan on 20 Apr 2011 11:47 AM:

My general sense is that Chinese-speakers are really tolerant of glyph variations.  Another stroke here or there, a slight variant in the angle, it's still recognizably the same character.

Japanese is another story: slightly "wrong" glyphs are much more likely to be labeled as unintelligible.  This was, I think, at the heart of the resistance by some Japanese people to Han unification: they were concerned with being asked to read illegible "Chinese-style" glyphs produced by plain-text rendering using universal fonts.  Now, of course, everybody knows to use Japanese fonts for Japanese text and Chinese fonts for Chinese texts, and we are all happy and love one another.

Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Apr 2011 8:47 PM:

That would mean a lot of time was spent building a solution that perhaps wasn't needed....

Otaku on 21 Apr 2011 7:54 AM:

When I was in CSS in China (Microsoft Product Support), a couple of years ago, maintaining the font set was HKSCS font set was of upmost importance to the government, especially for official documents.

Hong Kong itself is probably the most "exposed" Chinese culture - they are exposed to more varieties of other Chinese cultures that those other ones are. They are in direct competition with Singapore, are the self-proclaimed economic czar army of China, have heavy ties to many overseas Chinese communities and had been the only real staging point for Taiwan compatriots to work with the mainland (that's changed very recently with the Three Nos becoming just Two Nos - thanks Ma!). They learn Mandarin out of choice, not force. They read Chinese in their newspapers using a primarily foreign grammer (i.e. Mandarin grammer is not the same as Cantonese) and sometimes different characters - it is far more different than, say, you or I reading the London Times.

The point is that it is easy to look at Honkies (yes, that is really what they are called!) and ask them to accept yet another change to their culture and language "for the greater good". This was done on the mainland more than 50 years ago with many sub-cultures and languages, but that was by force. But is that really the right thing because "we're tired of doing some font work and accounting for such-and-such locality - why can't they be like the other big ones that we do care about a lot?"?

A better way to find someone who may care than people you've spoken to so far (who I assume are pseudo-intellectuals and people who are more used to changing themselves), go to Hong Kong itself and talk to people there. In particular, get a translator - don't talk to the people who speak English. You'd probably get a very different opinion than you've already formed.

John Cowan on 27 Apr 2011 12:33 PM:

Honkers, I thought it was: as in "Honkers and Shankers", the Hongkong [sic] and Shanghai Banking Company, now HSBC.

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