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Traditional vs Simplified – Their Differences And Where To Properly Use Them

People around the world are interested to learn and write Chinese even if this can be a very challenging task. Beginners usually have a hard time picking up the right pronunciation and not to mention, the complex Chinese characters. Even though Chinese is considered as one of the most widely-spoken language in the world, there are two different ways Chinese characters are written, traditional and simplified. The difference between the two has been a controversial and debatable topic for a long time now.

For thousands of years, Chinese people use complex traditional Chinese characters in ancient books, however, traditional characters comes with many strokes, which makes it hard to recognize, remember and write. This led the people to simplify Chinese characters during each historical period. One of the most common impressions people have in simplified Chinese is that this is made for people who are lazy. But little do they know, this was created for convenience and most importantly, a way to promote the Chinese culture. It was in 1949, that the Chinese government made simplified Chinese universal and unified, which aimed to increase literacy rate in China.

Simplified Chinese is directly adapted from Traditional Chinese. Since then, the Chinese government made major methods to simplify Chinese characters such as :

  1. Replacing complicated characters with simple symbols  
  2. 難 – 难
  3. 學 – 学
  4. Retain part of original complex character
  5. 開 –  开
  6. 醫 – 医
  7. Replace original complex character with its homophones of simple stoke
  8. 後 –  后
  9. 醜 –  丑
  10. Borrow ancient Chinese characters 
  11. 雲 –  云
  12. Transform cursive script into regular script 
  13. 書 – 书
  14. 樂 – 乐
  15. Form new characters by traditional methods 
  16. 護 – 护
  17. 響 – 响

The decision to choose between learning simplified and traditional characters is to think where you are going or residing, either China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau or Singapore. Simplified Chinese is most commonly used in China and Singapore, while traditional Chinese is commonly used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Here in the Philippines, most Chinoys use traditional Chinese since this is what most Chinese schools use. At present, 98% of Chinese publications are using simplified Chinese characters.

Learning both characters will generally be helpful and essential but if you are starting out as a beginner, it is generally suggested that it’s best to be familiar with the basic traditional Chinese first as this is the foundation of simplified Chinese. This will give you a good head start when it’s time to learn simplified Chinese.

And there you have it! Now you know the differences between the two as well as where to properly use them!

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