I think it is a common puzzle for ESL,especially for Chinese,since English is more abstract than Chinese, using which we can feel some specific patterns flashing in our brain. For example, when I see 笑(which means smile), I feel it is smiling to me. What do you feel when you see "smile"?
Chinese characters do not constitute an alphabet or a compact syllabary. Rather, the writing system is roughly logosyllabic; that is, a character generally represents one syllable of spoken Chinese and may be a word on its own or a part of a polysyllabic word. The characters themselves are often composed of parts that may represent physical objects, abstract notions,1 or pronunciation.2 (WP) [emphasis added]
On the other hand, "(t)he modern English alphabet is a Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters" (WP), the individual letters or sometimes their combinations (supposedly) representing specific sounds of the word's pronunciation.
So you see that Chinese pictographs do indeed represent "things" that one can associate with and recall, English alphabets merely provide a clue to pronunciation, with no relation to the meaning.