The Hanzi are beautiful. I love the Hanzi. I like to write them, I like to look at them, I like to study them. However, the Latin alphabet is superior to Hanzi for the following reasons:
- In most languages that use the Latin alphabet, an unknown word found in one's reading can still be read/pronounced. One can learn words through context and immediately put them to use. In Hanzi, upon finding an unfamiliar zi (character), one must look it up to be certain of its pronunciation.
- When one hears a word in most languages which use the Latin alphabet, one can spell it and therefore write it (at least reasonably well) immediately. In Hanzi, one must first figure out how it looks to use it.
- In most languages that use the Latin alphabet, a word has only one possible pronunciation. Hanzi often have two, three or four.
While English is an exception to most of these points, it is only an exception to some extent. While English spelling and pronunciation are complicated, it requires a good deal less guesswork. For instance, if I type an English search term into Google misspelled, Google has a good chance at correcting me. In Hanzi, there is no such assurance.
- The amount of time children spend to achieve literacy in China is much greater. This expenditure of time causes them to lose ground comparatively in other scholastic areas. While the Chinese curriculum focuses and excels in many areas, the Chinese are undernourished scholastically in many other areas, especially elocution, public address, literature and composition.
- Although more Chinese per capita read the daily newspaper, many adult Chinese cannot write many of the words they use on a daily basis. In my experience, there are often arguments about which zi is used in a particular term.
- Anyone familiar with the goings on within Unicode and other standards bodies will recognize the Hanzi system as a source of much difficulty and displeasure because of its diversity and the demands it places on those bodies.
- There is a reason that Hanyu Pinyin is used in Chinese dictionaries. There is a reason the Chinese government is mandating Pinyin everywhere and on almost everything. Hanzi for culture, Pinyin for facility.
- DMan mentions 3- and 4-year-olds. 3- and 4-year olds don't know jack about Hanzi. The fact that children can learn Chinese as easily as English has very little to do with how efficient the writing system is.