Traditional And Simplified Chinese: What’s The Difference?

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Have you ever wondered what exactly the difference between the traditional and simplified Chinese is? Which one of these should one use and learn?

This article will explore these questions by identifying the key differences between the traditional and simplified Chinese and give you advice on which one to choose:

What Exactly are Traditional and Simplified Chinese?

The earliest Chinese writing was called the Oracle Bone Script, which was formed during the Shang Dynasty. Over time, these scripts have evolved into a more complex and stylized form. The major breakthrough in Chinese writing happened during the Qin dynasty. Thus, it is very important to note that whenever we talk about the “simplified vs. traditional” Chinese distinction, this pertains to the writing systems and not the spoken languages.

What is Traditional Chinese?

Up until 1950, Traditional Chinese was just commonly called as Chinese. However, due to the cultural shift in written language, they had to create a clear distinction between the two. Thus, it was renamed into Traditional Chinese. The characters used in this writing system can be traced all the way back to the Han dynasty.

This writing system is mostly used in the following countries: Macau, Taiwan, Hongkong, and of course, China. The characters are named different ways by the native Chinese Speakers, such as standard or full Chinese characters.

What is Simplified Chinese?

In 1950, the People’s Republic of China in Mainland China made a clear distinction between the traditional and simplified version of the traditional Chinese characters, which is now called Simplified Chinese. This writing system is commonly used in the following countries: Singapore, China, and Malaysia.

The key difference between the two is that simplified Chinese requires fewer strokes, making it easier to learn overall. An example is that the Simplified Chinese uses single characters for the two-word characters in the traditional Chinese.

Which One Should I Use and Learn?

Now that we understand the differences, we are now prepared to choose which one to learn. These are two things you might need to consider.

First, the practicality of the Chinese system you want to focus on. If you’re planning to use Chinese for business, it’s ideal to learn simplified. However, if you’re planning on moving to Taiwan, traditional Chinese will be more practical.

Second, the level of interest you have for each writing system. It’s best to choose the one that is closest to your heart because this will give you the motivation to persevere even in the most challenging situations. Some people choose traditional because they’re interested in how the characters better represent the meaning of certain words, while others prefer simplified because of the strokes.

However, if you’re looking to become a freelance translator or work in a global language company, then it’s best to learn both traditional and simplified Chinese.

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to learn the simplified and the traditional Chinese, always be mindful of the cultural sensitivities of each in various countries and regions. Whenever you’re starting to learn and understand Chinese writing systems, it is common to get overwhelmed, especially if you’re an English speaker who is comfortable with the 26 letter alphabet, without thinking about simplified and traditional scripts. Nevertheless, having a basic knowledge of the regional differences can help you translate sentences and phrases better.

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