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How do kids in China learn Chinese?

Some questions for native speakers:

  1. How do kids in China learn Chinese? Surely, Chinese does not have a phonetic alphabetical system as far as I know. For us English speakers, we use pinyin to know the pronunciations of characters. But for children, do they just memorize all of the pronunciations in the world one by one? Of course, this does not happen if they knew English (or alphabet at least) since very little. But still, does Chinese actually provide some kind of phonetic alphabetical system?

  2. How do Chinese people type on keyboard? Again, I'm asking in the case of: they don't know alphabet, and they're not using handwriting on smartphone screens.

June 29, 2018



Kids learn to daily conversation without knowing how to read or write and I believe this is true for all kids. Learning a language should start from listening and speaking. As an adult, our learning style starts reading which makes it harder.

In Taiwan, I learned phonetics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bopomofo that is similar to pinyin at 1st grade. It has the basic strokes of Chinese characters. After learning phonetics, I can read kids books and newspaper because those have pronunciation with the characters on the side. The more you read, the more characters you know. The 2nd grade kids learn basic characters.

Currently I type HanYu Pinyin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin) and select a correct Chinese character. (typing is faster than writing with fingers) You only need to add Microsoft pinyin keyboard layout. (Goto Control Panel-> Region and Language -> Add keyboard)


How do I get a keyboard for Mac? Thank you


I don't use Mac. I heard that you can just go to System Preference and select keyboard icon to add Chinese keyboard layout. You can search online for the details.


We mostly just use pinyin in mainland China (in Taiwan, they often use 注音符号,which I'm not really familiar with). In fact, the very first Chinese classes you receive when starting primary school are all about pinyin. And kids these days are often exposed to English from a very early age so the English alphabet won't be a problem. For those who are not familiar with English, they just learn pinyin by memorizing them, which I think is also true for a native English speaker when learning to read. By the way, just as you have your alphabet song, we also have similar songs for pinyin letters. So this is really not a big deal. As for typing, most people these days simply use pinyin (at least in mainland China, things are a bit different in HK, Taiwan). People who don't know pinyin can also use wubi (五笔), a method where you type the different strokes of a character instead of its pronunciation in pinyin.


Really good question you've asked because i always think about this.But never tried to find the answer...


In China, we learn the different sounds of the pinyin first. The pinyin characters are divided into two categories, yunmu and shengmu. Basically, yunmu are those that start with the 6 common vowels, which are "a, o, e, i, u, ü". shengmu are those that starts with the other alphabets, which are the consonants. As far as I can remember, there is sort of like an order to learning the pinyin. We learn the tones first, followed by shengmu and yunmu. The teacher made us learn a song, which I guess, is supposed to help us remember the different pinyin and their sounds. We spent our first year or so in school focusing on the pinyin before learning the basic words.

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