Learning Chinese Alphabets


If you do not know a single word in Chinese, but I tell you that I can help you and in less than 8 hours you will be able to read about 20% of the words in a Chinese newspaper. Would you believe me? Probably not! But read on.

One of the difficulties for foreigners learning Chinese is that Chinese has no alphabets. “When you read you begin with ABC”. So what do you begin with when you read Chinese. I would say with the 20 most frequently used Chinese characters.


Further, everyone would agree that the best way to learn the English alphabets is by the popular jingle “A for apple, B for boy, C for cat……”, at least that is how I learned when I was a kid. So wouldn’t it be nice if there is a jingle made up of the top 20 Chinese characters, which can help you learn Chinese.


One of the interesting facts about Chinese is that the uses of Chinese characters are concentrated on hundreds of characters. Based on a study carried out by a Chinese linguistic expert in 2004, the mostly used character in Chinese is 的, which was said to be used 2.5 times as much as the next character . Also according to the same study, the top 10 mostly used characters were said to be appeared in about 14 times out of 100 characters used in popular publications such as Chinese newspapers, magazines and Internets and the top 20 characters about 20 times.


I have made a jingle out of those 20 mostly used characters to help you learn those characters. Here is the jingle.


他们来中国为的不是在 tāmen lái Zhōngguó wéi dí búshì zài
有你这一个上大人*和我 yǒu nǐ zhè yī gè shàng dàrén hé wǒurure

They came to China not because there are “such an upstanding great man like you” and I.


You may learn each and every one of the above characters by clicking on the respective characters. The English translation is not a character by character translation of the jingle and is solely to help you understand the jingle and does not necessarily make any sense nor is it grammatically correct.

After you spend some time (make sure not more than 8 hours) on those characters, please click here or here and read the news articles therein. See if you can recognise, on an average, 20 characters out of 100 in those article. Please let me know of the results. In the meantime, I am working on the next set of mostly used characters.


*上大人 is part of a popular Chinese verse, the whole of which is 上大人, 孔乙己, 化三千, 七十士, meaning “there is one great man named 孔乙己 he had 3000 students of whom 70 became scholars”.