Differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese

04 Apr Differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese

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If you wish to learn the Chinese language in Singapore, it’s important to know about simplified and traditional Chinese. Note that traditional or simplified Chinese does not refer to spoken Chinese, but rather the characters when writing.

These are two sets of characters used to write Chinese. Traditional Chinese was used all over Mainland China before the 1950s. The government came to the opinion that the existing characters were too complicated for the masses to learn. Therefore, to increase the literacy rate, a decision was made to simplify the existing Chinese script. The outcome was the birth of simplified Chinese during the second half of the 20th century.

As the name implies, simplified Chinese is the simplification of the traditional Chinese characters. Simplifying words into more straightforward characters did not result in a sole system for writing. Instead, we now have two different scripts. Of course, differences exist between traditional and simplified Chinese.

Where they are used
After the reforms, simplified Chinese swept across Mainland China. However, some areas didn’t wholly adopt these developments, such as Hong Kong and Macau. These areas still stuck with the traditional script. On the other hand, Malaysia and Singapore have gradually embraced simplified Chinese. In general, the majority of the Chinese population, in China and overseas uses simplified Chinese.

However, you may encounter traditional Chinese in Mainland China for a few reasons including:

  1. To give things a sense of formality or ceremony
  2. In texts that were produced before the reforms
  3. In media from Hongkong and Taiwan such as music videos.

In effect, where you intend to visit or stay  should determine which version of Chinese to learn. For instance, if you plan to visit or stay in Mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia or Southeast Asia, then you should learn Simplified Chinese. If you wish to visit Hongkong, Taiwan, Guangzhou, Macau, traditional Chinese would be more suitable.

How they look like
Not all traditional Chinese characters were simplified. However, the majority of the traditional characters were made simpler in different ways so the masses could learn it with less difficulty.

Generally, simplified Chinese has fewer strokes compared to its counterpart. The process was aimed at simplifying the complex structures of Traditional Chinese characters. While most words may have the same pronunciation, the word may be simpler in structure compared to its traditional counterpart.

Mode of learning
Traditional Chinese provides added visual cues and helps ease learning and character recognition. As a result, students can distinguish traditional characters a lot easier compared to simplified ones. Moreover, learning traditional Chinese first may present a smoother transition to Simplified Chinese later on. On the other hand, Simplified Chinese has fewer visual cues, which necessitate that students devote more attention when studying characters through word memorisation.

Conclusion
Due to its wider use and shallower learning curve, Simplified Chinese is better suited to those wishing to learn the Chinese language in the short term. However, if studying Chinese is a long-term venture, you should begin with Traditional Chinese first and later moving to the Simplified version.

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