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The Difference between Simplified and Traditional Chinese

Over 1 billion people in the world speak and understand the Chinese language, but not all of them use the same written dialect. So, if you have a product or service that targets this market, it can sometimes be confusing to decide which one to use in terms of translation and localization. The Chinese writing system is divided into two types, namely, Simplified and Traditional. One way to figure out which one to appropriately use is to think in geographical terms and on which regions your target audience belongs to. Simplified Chinese is used in Mainland China and Singapore, while Traditional Chinese is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

There are multiple differences between the two written languages other than where to use them. The most obvious one is the appearance of the characters. Simplified Chinese, like its namesake, simplifies each character for easier writing and memorization. Traditional Chinese, on the other hand, contains more strokes and retains its original forms since it started 1,000 years ago and only evolves over the course of time. However, Simplified Chinese characters can also become less differentiated from each other because of the simplification of their shape, whereas Traditional Chinese characters look more distinct from one another, thus providing more legibility.

The differences between the two written languages do not end there. There are plenty of terms and phrases that differ in meaning between Simplified and Traditional Chinese. More so, a single simplified character may have several traditional characters that can be used but mean entirely different ideas to the reader.

The simplification of the Chinese written language was initially started as an effort to increase its literacy rate toward the end of the 19th century, which later resulted in the People’s Republic of China to officially adopt the idea to their writing system as this makes it easier for the general populace to read and write. This has been widely used ever since because of Mainland China’s influence.

Despite this, there is still a growing trend toward the usage of Traditional Chinese. Academic institutions, for example, are opting to use the traditional system as a way of teaching their students to learn more about their historical texts. Traditional Chinese is also profusely seen in books, signage, advertisements, and even television subtitles.

The division between these two written Chinese languages has different cultural and sometimes even political implications for their people, but it has also recently been an avenue of tremendous opportunity for businesses aiming for expansion. If you are still not sure which choice is best for your needs, a trusted translation company like Lexcode can help guide you in the right direction.