Many Americans say that cursive is on the way out – fewer and fewer schools are teaching this beautiful handwriting style. But that’s only America and is only in English. Is the same true for other countries? Can you even write cursive in another language?
Most languages have a form of cursive, where you connect the letters as you handwrite them. You can write cursive in any Latin alphabet language, including Spanish and French. Languages that are written in Cyrillic and Chinese characters also have cursive versions. Arabic and Hebrew lack cursive.
How can that be the case, though, that you could write cursive in any language? Read on, and we’ll explain how cursive works in different countries and why it’s losing popularity in the English-speaking world.
Do All Languages Have Cursive?
Cursive is any style of writing that joins letters together in a flowing way. It is not exclusive to English, or even the alphabet we use to write English – called the Latin alphabet.
Instead, almost all alphabets have letters that can be joined together when written out by hand. Many people do this instinctually, regardless of the style they learned at school. Naturally connecting letters is a quick and efficient way to write.
Of course, we know we can write English in cursive. If you’re from an older generation, you learned to do that at school and still might have if you’re a Millennial or from Gen Z.
And since English is written with the Latin alphabet, we can use that same cursive style for any other language that uses that same alphabet. That’s most language on earth.
Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Turkish has Latin letters. So do most other European languages, and plenty of Asian and African languages use the Latin alphabet. We can write all of those in cursive.
However, that doesn’t mean that people from those countries write in cursive. Some countries enforce writing cursive in their schools – like France and Lithuania. Others only teach manuscript writing these days – like Mexico or South Africa.
Because of that, while you can write Latin alphabet languages in cursive, a native speaker might not be able to read your handwriting. Check before sending Grandma a letter.
Does Cursive Exist In Russian?
Russia uses the Cyrillic alphabet, closely related to the Latin alphabet. You can write Russian in cursive and many people, especially school students, do so.
This rule applies to all other languages which use the Cyrillic alphabet – Serbian, Bulgarian, Moldovan, etc. You can write any of these in cursive, but you must learn to do so.
Writing Cyrillic cursive is different from writing Cyrillic in print. And it’s certainly different from writing any Latin alphabet language in cursive also. While Cyrillic cursive does connect its letters, forming the letters is another skill.
However, reading Russian cursive is tricky, even if you can read printed Russian handwriting. Many of the letters look incredibly similar at first glance.
Regardless, Cyrillic cursive – when written properly – looks somewhat similar to Latin cursive. Almost all letters are connected, and you have both upper and lower case letters.
Does Cursive Exist In Japanese?
Japan gets much of its alphabet from Chinese characters, which people can write in cursive. However, Chinese cursive – also called rough or grass script – isn’t intended for easy reading.
A person who hasn’t been taught to read cursive writing will typically struggle to do so, especially for Chinese cursive. While fast to write, it isn’t generally intended for mass consumption.
Characters in rough script look dramatically different from their standard Japanese or Chinese counterparts. The difference is so extreme that most people fluent in the language cannot read the calligraphy. Rough script joins strokes together and simplifies characters, making it unfamiliar to people have aren’t taught it.
Not only that, but Chinese characters have varying levels of cursive too. While English letters are either connected or aren’t, it’s more nuanced for the rough script.
There are two primary levels of the rough script. In the first, each stroke of the character is connected. In the second, the strokes of one character are linked, and that character is then connected to the following one.
Doing the second style of rough script is typically reserved for calligraphy – writing as visual art. You would use a brush and ink to write Chinese cursive, not a pen or pencil.
Which Languages Don’t Have cursive?
Semitic languages like Hebrew and Arabic don’t have cursive. At least, not in the way English-speakers understand the term. Despite these two languages being reasonably similar, the reasons that they lack cursive are pretty different.
Although a handwriting style is called Hebrew cursive, it does not link the letters. Instead, it is a streamlined version of the traditional angular style of the Hebrew alphabet.
Hebrew cursive is quick to write and straightforward to learn, but the average reader wouldn’t recognize it as a cursive. The letters, while slanted and smooth, do not join together.
For Arabic, we have the opposite issue. Most letters in an Arabic word are already connected. The same letter will look different depending on its location in a word – the start, middle, or end. Because of that, Arabic cursive doesn’t exist.
The Arabic alphabet is already a semi-cursive alphabet. While calligraphy styles exist that connect letters differently or link words together, schools do not teach these as standard handwriting ways. They’re for art only.
Why Do We Learn Cursive?
Science Used To Support Cursive
Historically, people believed that cursive was faster to write and easier to learn than manuscript writing. The science of the time supported those beliefs.
Likewise, people thought that teaching cursive would help students learn English – or whatever language they spoke. Repeatedly writing out words in a specific style could help a student memorize them, or so the theory went.
However, new studies show that cursive isn’t better. It isn’t worse than the manuscript either. As long as a child can write fluently, the style they were taught doesn’t matter much. What’s best is letting children develop a unique style – typically a mix of cursive and manuscript – that’s most comfortable for them to write.
Furthermore, this same idea applies to notetaking also. While taking notes is an excellent way to study, the style you write those notes in is irrelevant.
Cursive Is Traditional
For many people in the English-speaking world, cursive is also traditional. Our parents probably learned cursive. Our grandparents did. In that way, cursive acts as a connection to our history and our ancestors.
Most important historical documents – like the Declaration of Independence – are written in cursive. Understanding these documents is an essential skill for many Americans, so they insist their children should be able to read and write cursive.
To conclude, you can write cursive in most languages. Any language using the Latin alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, or Chinese characters can be written cursive. Conversely, Hebrew and Arabic do not have cursive.