Should Chinese Characters be Abolished?

I just loved the whole process of learning this ancient script and culture, really was a great experience. Sometimes wish could go back to those days rather than it just being another language and struggling with weird business terms. Endlessly writing characters all day or being curious about a new character or chengyu was one of the happiest times in my life

I just don’t think learning Chinese would be as enjoyable without the characters and I think most who learnt Chinese as an adult feel the Same


If you can figure out the technological aspects, I’d be willing to have your understanding transplanted into my head to give you the opportunity to learn it all over again.


Yeah I’m all in for getting rid of characters. But I don’t think it will ever happen. With computers writing is as quick as latin, and reading not much different either.

Writing by hand or typewriter age was the time when it would have needed to be abolished. Now it’s sadly too late.
(From someone not being able to read more than 100 or 200 characters but speak pretty fluently, understand most drama without subs, maybe another 6 months before I can understand news on TV without subs. I just plain freak out each time I try to learn characters. Really hate those inefficient pictures)

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I’d say our experiences with pinyin prove that reading and listening/speaking are two completely different things. I’ve been able to muddle my way through HSK 6+ texts because of the characters providing some amount of insight into the meaning (+ context clues). If it were pinyin or zhuyin, I could read the text out loud without difficulty, but I might have no idea what I’m reading.


I think the Chinese characters write quite well - nicely independent from the vocal languages and don’t succumb to regional dialects, and the meaning is always specific. I think it works better than English.

For regional English problems, let’s use the phrase “I’ll bum ya for a tenner”. Depending on where the person is from, this can either be a friendly offer of a small loan, or can be a bit more of a darker offer. If this was written in Traditional Chinese there’d be no doubt, I imagine.


One nice thing about characters as well that wouldn’t be in Pinyin/Zhuyin is the compression.

You can say way more in less space.

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China is trying to change that by forcing pinyin on everyone as the only input method. But yes, I can even “read” Cantonese newspapers to a large extent as a traditional character reader, and I can’t understand anything in Cantonese…

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So why do they all have to wear glasses then ? :sunglasses:

That’s just a design fault.

You bring up a good point. I think our minds see the characters and as long as you know them, we say the corresponding sound fairly quickly. This is faster, I think, than reading bopomofo or pinyin (way faster than pinyin for me because I never learned this system and so I need to convert sometimes from an American pronunciation to a proper one).


Deterioration of eyesight will, I suspect, get worse with “smart” phones.

I can see how elderly folks (whose eyesight has already gone to sh&t) struggle with the small fonts.


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There are many advantages and there is some cultural aspects that would be lost if characters were no longer (or sparingly) used. Just to clarify, I was addressing only whether bopomofo or pinyin could be used instead of characters.

Right. And mine is a very very strong No.

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Yes, I still think back to those years. I was young and didn’t have a care in the world. I had tons of flashcards and I would read and write characters for hours every day. I loved chengyu as well. Lots of fun pulling those out of my trick bag during conversations!

Edit: I could write decently once upon a time. I remember I wrote my teacher-given name in huge characters and hung the paper up on the back of my door. My girlfriend (now my wife) thought that someone had written it for me (some other girl). I had to write it again in front of her to show that it was me. I still remember that because it made me feel good she would think a Taiwanese person wrote the characters. That’s how much I was into learning languages at that time. (Little walk down memory lane there.)


I can think of one way, and that is for one or more true evangelists of this idea to actually put the idea into practice. For example, start a pinyin-only discussion forum somewhere on the web. Spend a couple of years reading and writing with others only in pinyin. Add some utilities to auto-translate popular web pages into pure pinyin. Build up a community of devoted followers. Write some catchy mission statement that people can believe in.

After some core base of users has been established, try to convince some native speakers to participate. Maybe, due to the novelty, some native speakers would be willing give it a try. As a loose analogy, imagine, as a native English speaker, that you heard about a web forum that used only Shakespearean English for communication. It might catch your interest for an hour, or a day, or a week, right?

Enough interest from enough people might eventually take the trend mainstream.

Personally, I think the idea of using pinyin (or other phonetic representation) can work for Chinese. I find it difficult to accept the blanket statement that it is flat out impossible. But the only way to prove it is to do it.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw

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I was officially a student of Japanese myself for ten years–though with Japanese, a native speaker of English never really stops being a student. Over the years, I have come to know hundreds of aspiring learners from just about every part of the world. Wherever I go, I am sure to find a knot of bright-eyed enthusiasts fascinated by those inscrutable Chinese characters, some so intensely they lose sight of virtually all other aspects of the Japanese language. I know I am not misinterpreting their behavior, for I was once bitten by the bug myself.

-Marshall Unger

In extreme cases, the attachment becomes an obsession: the enthusiast begins to perceive a grand pattern underlying all characters, evidently even unnoticed by generations of East Asians themselves.

So if we get rid of Chinese characters, what will we replace it with?

How would you handle the logistics of over a billion people that would now have to be taught a completely new written language? Remember not all Chinese are well versed in roman characters, and not all are certainly good at computers.

How will the new written language be handled?

How would you get the old timers (many of whom holds political positions) that the new written language is better?

Should the entire world be required to conform to an alphabetical character?

What about Japanese and Korean?

Unless China gets conquered by a country completely, then I can see this happen, but last time it happened THEY became Chinese.

Also my perspective on the matter is, while Chinese characters are difficult to master and remember, once you do grammar is almost nonexistent. Basically Chinese grammar is much simpler and less nit picky.

We should have a Super Thread titled: “Should [A Thing] be abolished for my convenience?”

I used to dislike Chinese characters as well. Heck for the longest time my mind would go blank when confronted by a wall of Chinese text. But now … I think they are beautiful and occasionally I would pick up and pen and write some characters in different ways. To be fair though that happened after I reached a certain level of proficiency. I am also learning Japanese right now and not being intimidated by Kanji certainly helps. Heck, I swear, Katakana is really the bane of my life when it comes to learning Japanese.


First of all I couldn’t care less about China.

Second, thankfully roman alphabet is quite easy. They could learn it in a day. And more importantly it doesn’t have to be pinyin. Could just use Zhuyin.