Chinese is one of the most complex languages in the world. For non-native speakers, it can be a challenge to learn and wrap their heads around all of the intricacies of the language. However, Chinese is a vital language for every organization that wants to expand its global presence. This is because it has over 1.3 billion native speakers in the world. This is more than one-quarter of the world’s population.
Translation of this complex language is a major hurdle for many people. One of the main questions most people ask is the difference between Simplified and Traditional Chinese. In this article, we shall dig deeper into this issue as we also explore the history of the two languages, among other interesting facts. Let’s speed up your Chinese language skills.
The Chinese language is a collection of several dialects that share the same degree of intelligence and roots. The language adapts a logo graphic language, meaning it does not have alphabetical characters like English. It mostly majors on characters to represent a specific word.
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Further, the Chinese language is one of the oldest languages, tracing back over 6000 years of history. Around 3000 years ago, the language began using pictures to communicate information. They engraved symbols on tortoise shells, animal bones/oracle bones, and even inscribed them on bronze vessels. Historical proof shows that before 6000 years ago, Chinese characters were engraved on pottery.
Since then, these pictures or pictographs have continued to evolve into what we now recognize as Chinese characters. These characters are now around 10,000 recorded in the Chinese writing system.
As a result of the development of the Chinese language, there are roughly seven main groups that use the Chinese dialect. Basically, the members of these groups share a mutually intelligible dialect with many similar features.
Simplified and Traditional Chinese have several differences depending on various aspects. Let us look at the summary of these differences as we highlight various features of both varieties.
Traditional Chinese characters have more strokes than their Simplified counterparts. This makes them more complex and difficult to write. Simplified characters have a less ornate structure compared to traditional ones.
Traditional Chinese can be written in both horizontal and vertical strokes. This can be a challenge for most readers since they are used to a more horizontal text flow. However, Simplified Chinese only flows horizontally, thus favoring most readers and writers.
Some Traditional characters were merged to form the Simplified Chinese language with fewer commonly used characters. While Simplified Chinese may use the same character to represent different consents and words, Traditional Chinese uses a single character to represent a word or part of a word.
For example, in Simplified Chinese, the character 发 can be used to mean hair(髮) or develop (發) in Traditional Chinese. You may occasionally find two characters in a phrase in simplified Chinese meaning the same thing, whereas, in Traditional, each word in a phrase is represented with a unique character.
There are some punctuation changes between Traditional and Simplified. For instance, Simplified Chinese employs quotation marks from the Western culture “…” and ‘…’.
The single quotation marks are inserted between the double quotation marks as in this example: “…’…’…” But in Traditional Chinese, single quotation marks are written as 「…」and double quotation marks as『…』. Traditional Chinese treats embedded text opposite by enclosing the double quotation marks inside the single brackets like this, 「…『…』…」.
There are some variations between Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese in terms of word choice, lexicon, and character sequences. Here are just a few instances showing how different characters can totally express the same word:
- default: 預設 (Traditional), 默认 (Simplified)
- speech:演說 (Traditional), 讲话 (Simplified). In this case, Traditional Chinese (講話) renders the Simplified Chinese use as “to talk,” a verb, rather than “speaking,” a noun.
- video: 影片(Traditional), 视频 (Simplified),
In these instances, the same word is written using the same two characters, but the order is reversed.
- Late night supper: 宵夜 (Traditional), 夜宵 (Simplified)
- Authentic: 道地 (Traditional), 地道 (Simplified)
Which variation is simpler to learn? This is a difficult question to answer. Some contend that the fewer strokes in Simplified Chinese characters make learning much more straightforward.
Others contend that despite their intimidating appearance, Traditional Chinese characters are simpler to learn since their shape and meaning are sometimes comparable (but not always!). Simplified Chinese lacks several of these linkages.
For instance, in Traditional Chinese, the phrase 關, “to close,” and 開, “to open,” are expressed using the same component, and you can easily compare them. In the case of Simplified Chinese, 开 (open) and 关 (close) are two different characters.
The two most often-used spoken Chinese dialects are Mandarin and Cantonese. The character set that will be utilized in your translation project won’t necessarily follow from that, though. The table below answers the question “Is Mandarin Traditional or Simplified?” see “Is Cantonese a traditional Chinese language?”
|United States||Mandarin and Cantonese||Traditional and Simplified|
|Malaysia and Singapore||Mandarin||Simplified|
Four official languages, including Malay, Chinese (Simplified/Mandarin), Tamil, and English, contribute to Singapore’s linguistic diversity. Many people in the nation can speak two or more languages thanks to the country’s bilingual education program.
A brief history lesson is needed to understand the explanations behind this language dilemma.
Chinese speakers has exclusively employed traditional Chinese writing for hundreds of years to convey their thoughts and emotions. It is also referred to as “Unsimplified Chinese,” which conveys complexity and intricateness. It comprises more than 50,000 symbols, or traditional Chinese characters, with many different strokes and patterns. It is primarily used in Macau, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
Traditional Chinese comes in two forms:
- Traditional Chinese for Taiwan
- Traditional Chinese for Hong Kong SAR.
Since they essentially use the same set of characters, these two forms or variants do not significantly differ from one another. However, there are some significant differences in pronunciation and writing style. Additionally, there are more characters in Hong Kong Traditional Chinese than in Taiwan Traditional Chinese.
Simplified Chinese(SC) was established during the taking over of the communist regime in Mainland China in 1949 (The Chinese Revolution). Unlike Traditional Chinese, this relatively modern form of writing has fewer details and strokes, adding up to 2,000 characters.
This language came into existence as a solution for high literacy rates and the abundance of educated people in the People’s Republic of China. By simplifying the complex traditional writing, the simplified form of Chinese, which uses fewer strokes, motivated more people to learn the language. Some of the characters were discarded altogether, and others were only simplified in their forms.
However, in all its simplicity, the Simplified Chinese continued to evolve even as recently as 2013. Around this year, the Chinese government announced the further simplification of the General Standard Chinese Characters The 45 newly recognized standard characters and 226 characters simplified by analogy (most of which were originally in the previous simplified form) were made official.
If you’re curious about how 50,000 logograms were reduced to 2,000, we have the specifics on the simplification procedure. Reducing strokes and combining letters were the two main strategies that Chinese linguists used to create the new writing system.
- Reducing Strokes: Complexity increases with the number of strokes. As a result, simplifying the character’s strokes made it easier for Chinese speakers to read and write. This was the method used to approach and complete this phase.
Some characters didn’t undergo revisions because their initial design was very straightforward.
- Merging of characters: One Simplified Chinese character can represent multiple meanings. On the other hand, traditional Chinese characters only have one meaning per character. Because of this, the simplification step involved removing a large number of letters.
One thing to note, though, is that you often pronounce the matching Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters similarly even though you write them differently.
Translations for the Chinese mainland, Singapore, Malaysia, and international institutions like the UN and the World Bank are frequently done in simplified Chinese. On the other hand, traditional Chinese is the standard for translating for audiences in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and overseas immigrant populations.
Over time, Taiwan’s and Hong Kong’s dialects of Traditional Chinese have changed, and each has produced a number of distinctive terminologies. Despite the common understanding of the writing systems, Taiwanese and Hong Kong texts will not read similarly to one another. Choosing the translation that makes the target language sound the most comfortable to the reader is usually advisable.
Therefore, Traditional Chinese for Hong Kong should be used when translating mainly for Hong Kong, whereas Traditional Chinese for Taiwan should be used when translating exclusively for Taiwan.
Approximately half of all Chinese immigrants reside in either California (32%) or New York (19%), making them the third largest immigrant group in the US, behind Mexicans and Indians.
Communities in both cities that predate the adoption of Simplified Chinese still utilize Traditional characters to this day. The country’s Chinese populations now significantly differ, thanks to more recent waves of Chinese immigration. Translation into both Traditional and Simplified Chinese is the only way to guarantee that all U.S. Chinese speakers understand your message.
There are many dialects of Chinese that are incomprehensible to one another. However, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese are the two main writing systems that all Chinese dialects have in common.
The secret to successfully engaging with your target audience is understanding the contexts in which each of these writing formats is employed. Each type is, in fact, popular over more or less well-defined geographic areas, which facilitates decision-making.
However, there is only one way to do so if you want to communicate with the majority of Chinese people: you must translate your content into both Traditional and Simplified Chinese. In case you are not well versed in both of them, doing a background check with a professional translation company would be a good idea.
It’s not simple to start a business or live in China if you are not a native Chinese speaker. But with the appropriate partners and learning guides on your side, the entire procedure may be as simple as playing dress-up. This is why you should constantly seek the assistance of experts who can help you with your daily activities in this historically rich country. This assistance can include translation, localization, and design, among others.