difference between traditional and simplified chinese

Do You Know Difference Between Simplified & Traditional Chinese?

(Last Updated On: April 22, 2022)

Chineses Writing Translation

Chinese is one of the most complex languages in the family of languages. If you’re a new Chinese language learner or planning to learn in the future, you’ve likely noticed that there are two distinct styles of writing: simplified and traditional. We’re going to look at both of these in this article. But by the end, you should have an answer to the question above and a better understanding of these different forms of Chinese writing. So what are they? And how do you choose which one to use? We’ll talk about in this article on Chinese writing translations: use simplified or traditional?

Chinese script

If you want to go into Chinese language translation, it’s essential to know that there are two different official writing systems: traditional and simplified Chinese. While some Chinese characters have been changed from their original forms, these scripts are still quite different.

If you’re an aspiring Chinese translator or interpreter or want to join Chinese translation services, be sure to brush up on your knowledge of these two written languages for your translation project. Like document translation, you have to provide precise and accurate language services.

Chinese characters have five major styles: Seal script, Clerical script, Semi-cursive and cursive version of the script; standard script, Edomoji, Munjado, and Huaya. Variant characters include simplified Chinese, traditional version of Chinese, pinyin, Kanji, Hepburn, Korean, Hanja; Revised Romanization are characters that are homophones and synonyms.

Mandarin Chinese is a dialect of Chinese. Mandarin is one of the Chinese dialects alongside Shanghainese, Cantonese speakers, and many more.

The ancient history of the Chinese language: Chinese is undoubtedly a language with ancient forms. Archaic characters of Chinese (14th century to 11th century B.C.), Traditional Chinese (Wenli – 11th century BC to 8th cent A.D.), and Modern Chinese prevail today.

Cantonese, historically the language of most Chinese immigrants, was the third most widely spoken language by non-English speakers in the 19th century.

difference chinese

Differences between simplified and traditional Chinese

Simplified Chinese has mostly replaced traditional Chinese (traditional forms) standard script in mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia, and overseas Chinese communities outside mainland China. Likewise, it is one of several official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and Taiwan (alongside Taiwanese Hokkien).

It is still often used in informal contexts such as commercial signs or advertisements. The traditional version is the predominant dialect of the overseas Chinese-speaking communities of Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, among many other Chinese speakers.

Whether in traditional form or modern type Chinese is spoken, is the official language in Hong Kong.

Cantonese speakers are found mainly in the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in Southern China and until the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to China, Cantonese was the official language of Hong Kong.

difference simplified tranditional chinese

How to tell which one you’re using

Chinese is not a language you can pick up by living in a country or studying it in school. Because it has variant forms and changed so much over thousands of years, variant characters are peculiar to one part of China, making translating into other languages challenging. It has different forms of character structure in writing.

When Chinese people wrote for their use, they used traditional characters (ancient forms/ancient variants). However, when trying to communicate with English speakers who didn’t know Chinese well, many began using simplified characters. If you want to learn Chinese, you should know that both kinds exist.

To tell which type of character set is being used, take a look at Chinese writing systems: If the entire character starts from left-to-right (like English), then that’s probably simplified Chinese; if it begins from right-to-left (like Arabic), then that’s perhaps traditional Chinese (ancient variant).

Why did the switch happen

The Chinese language underwent massive changes when it was officially switched from the traditional form to simplified Chinese in 1956. The government recognized a few things about traditional Chinese that made reading challenging for many people—primarily due to a more significant number of complex characters being used—and opted for the simplification of characters.

So the simplification process started by reducing those complex single character and adopting more phonetic spelling, but some unchanged characters are still in use. Despite objections to unchanged characters at first, most people adopted simplified writing over time. Simplified characters are pursued by mainland China and by Japan. Today, some have forgotten that there is a difference between standard characters of written Chinese.

People argue that simplified characters are more accessible and practical given the Chinese mainland’s increasing economic clout.

Although most of the population uses simplified Chinese, there is a growing trend toward traditional writing.

Up to the early 20th century, most Chinese people only spoke their local dialect.

chinese differences
when to choose simplified vs traditional chinese

The importance of context

Chinese is a tonal language, which means a change in tone can completely alter how a character is pronounced. Some Chinese characters are even written differently depending on the context, so we can say there are variant characters like 秋 (autumn) being used as 冬 (winter) or 食 (eat) depending on the appearance of characters in a sentence. The Chinese character for rain is 雨, and the Chinese character for hair is 头发.

If they are still considered variant forms today, then these Chinese standard characters and words have no real meaning differences. Otherwise, they would be considered multiple orthodox words that mean different things.

Simplified Chinese characters are standard characters of Chinese prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China.

If you are writing text that needs to be spoken or read aloud, you’ll need to use traditional Chinese. But if your content will be read silently, try simplified Chinese instead! The characters are typically less complex in structure and more similar to how they appear in Romanized form.

Getting used to it

If you are an English speaker, learning to read Chinese can be a steep (and somewhat confusing) learning curve. It’s worth noting that there’s no single correct way to write Chinese; it all depends on your audience. So if you’re trying to decide which writing system is right for you, look at these two main points: your existing knowledge of languages (in case English isn’t one of them) and whether your target audience is familiar with simplified or traditional Chinese characters.

If you are planning on being able to reach out beyond an Asian-speaking audience, then stick with simplified Chinese characters.

Chinese dictionaries are quite helpful for learning about variant characters and the character structure of Chinese.

Chinese dictionaries help you in the translation of not only one-word texts but also of the entire character, whether modern or traditional forms.

Many online Chinese dictionaries are available too to type, write and speak your way to character clarity

Some of the Japanese Kanji characters are used in Chinese as well.

Kanji characters are the Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese logographic writing system along with hiragana.

New Kanji characters were created in Japan and modifications of original Chinese characters.

Kanji characters are one of the three scripts used in the Japanese language, are Chinese characters, which were first introduced to Japan in the 5th century via the Korean peninsula.

simplified vs traditional chinese
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