Simplified and Traditional Chinese

#113-Simplified and Traditional Chinese



Chinese is being used all over the world, Mandarin Chinese in particular is the official language of China, Taiwan and one of the four official languages of Singapore. Verbally, we can understand each other no matter where we are from. However, when writing is involved, then it is a different story.

This is because different countries use either Simplified or Traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese is used in Singapore, Malaysia, China whereas Traditional Chinese is used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. So what is the differences between these two types?

1. Characters

The main and most obvious difference is the characters. The same character can look enormously unlike each other. Simplified Chinese, as its name suggest, simplify characters to make them easier to remember and write. Traditional Chinese on the other hand, maintained the older writing forms. Here are some examples:

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 15.58.05

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 15.58.05

As you can see, while some characters are clearly different, some remain the same. Hence, we can sometimes guess the meaning of the phrase even if we cannot read Traditional Chinese.

2. Phonetics

Traditional Chinese uses Zhuyin (注音) which consist of 37 phonetic symbols representing the basic sounds of Chinese. Below shows a part of the symbols:

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 16.31.46

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 16.31.46

For example, 你好 in Zhuyin would be ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄠˇ with the tonal marks showing as the third tone.

Pinyin on the other hand, is the simpler romanisation chart for reading Chinese characters. Consisting of 26 initials and finals, it is much easier for a non-Chinese speaker to learn as it is shown as alphabets. Taking the same example above, 你好 in Pinyin would be spelled as nǐ hǎo. You might have noticed that the both Zhuyin and Pinyin includes the 3rd tone. Yes! The similarity between these two phonetic system is that they both include the 4 tones.

If you present pure Pinyin to a Taiwanese, do not expect them to know how to read it and vice versa! It is simply because of the phonetic system one grew up learning. However, when words are involved, there is no communication barrier. Fascinating isn't it? (:

3. Wordings

There are many words that mean the same thing but said differently in countries that use Traditional Chinese, versus those that used Simplified Chinese. For example potato in China is called 土豆, while in Taiwan its called 马铃薯. One of Taiwan's must-buy is 凤梨酥, Pineapple tarts. However, pineapple is known as 菠萝 in China. One thing to take note while traveling! If all else fails, just show them a picture😂

Traditional and Simplified Chinese in summary, are two different systems in written form. At the end of the day, we still speak the same language!