Does the Chinese Language Have an Alphabet?

Not really. Chinese uses a writing system called logographic that is very different from our writing system.

Each symbol, or letter, in our writing stands for a sound; one or more symbols put together form a word, and we can form any word in our language using just our 26 letters.

But in Chinese, each symbol stands for a word. A student learning to read and write Chinese must learn a symbol for every word, that’s like having to learn an “alphabet” with thousands of letters. One Chinese dictionary lists almost 50,000 different symbols!

Though Chinese writing is hard to learn, it does have one advantage. People in various parts of China speak different dialects, and people who speak one dialect often cannot talk with people who speak another dialect.

But everyone in China understands the same written language. For while different dialects may have a different spoken word for boy, the symbol for boy is written the same in all parts of China.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

1 thought on “Does the Chinese Language Have an Alphabet?”

  1. Not many Mandarin speakers can understand spoken or written Cantonese, many Cantonese words end with 唔 and 咩 which make absolutely no sense in Mandarin. Good article though.

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