Language news

No hanzi sign Chinese characters to be phased out in China

By Wen Gaige
Beijing, China

Thursday, 1st April 2004

The Chinese government announced today that it plans to phase out Chinese characters and replace them with Hànyŭ Pīnyīn, a system for writing Chinese with the Latin alphabet. This change will be incorporated into the five year plan commencing in January 2005 and should be completed by the end of 2010.

A spokeswoman for the Latinisation Committee (Lādīnghuà Wĕiyuànhuì), which has been set up to oversee the change, told our reporter that Hànyŭ Pīnyīn will be introduced first in schools, then in official publications, and then in all other printed materials. She went on to say that the switch to the Latin alphabet will dramatically reduce the amount of time children need to spend learning to read and write Chinese, and will help to increase literacy among adults.

The form of language used will be based on the Mandarin spoken by educated people in northern China. Written standards will also be established for other major varieties of Chinese, such as Cantonese, Min, Wu and Hakka.

A spokesman for the Chinese Character Preservation Society (Zìbăohuì) claimed that abolishing the characters would cut the people off from over 3,000 years of literary heritage, and that the large number of homophones in Chinese make any system based on the Latin alphabet difficult to read.

The Latinisation Committee responded to these points by stating that Hànyŭ Pīnyīn versions of the major literary classics will be produced, and that grouping syllables into words will help to reduce the ambiguity of homophones.

The progress of these changes will be observed with interest by the people of Taiwan and Singapore, though they are not planning to abandon Chinese characters just yet.

Note: This article is a spoof intended for your amusement. The organisations and individuals mentioned are figments of the author's imagination. Various proposals have been made to replace Chinese characters with the Latin alphabet, though none have met with widespread support yet.


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