Today in calligraphy class I was talking to the kid next to me (Kevin) about his cell phone. The phone, like all modern telephones this device could type and send written messages, and in order to create Chinese characters it had ju-ing fu-hao, essentially a "Chinese alphabet". This series of sounds is used to teach children how to read the characters, and in this case it is utilized to type them.
"Be, pe, me, fe, de, te, ne, le," I read across the line of buttons and getting stuck, looked at him.
"I forgot them," he said.
I was momentarily shocked, these ju-ing fu-hao are the equivalent of our Latinate alphabet, and in the minds of Indo-European language speaker, the letters of the alphabet came almost as naturally as speaking. Not only would it be a calamitous inconvenience to forget one's script, it would be nearly impossible to do. This moment of surprise quickly evaporated when I realized that once a child learns a certain number of characters, the ju-ing fu-hao suddenly become irrelevant.
Now, in retrospect, I regard my surprise a being fairly stupid. But it did teach me something: two cultures are not necessarily parallel. As I stated earlier, I regarded the ju-ing fu-hao as being parallel to our Latinate alphabet, but the former as no practical purpose other than education.
After my original comparison for Chinese and Western writing systems was proved to be inadequate, I wonder how many other comparisons people have drawn may be equally so...