Chinese is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world and it is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. But there are more than 200 Chinese dialects – so how do you know which one you need?
Mandarin is the most common spoken Chinese language and it is the official language in China, Taiwan and Singapore.
You may have also heard of Cantonese. This is one of the main dialects in China and is spoken in Guangdong (Southern China) and Hong Kong.
However, the puzzle of Chinese language isn’t complete yet. As well as differences in the spoken dialects, there are also two forms of the written language: traditional and simplified – so even though someone in Hong Kong speaks Cantonese, they don’t write it, instead they write Traditional Chinese.
Have a look at the table below for the spoken and written forms used in each Chinese speaking country!
So what’s the difference between Traditional and Simplified Chinese?
Well, for a start, Traditional Chinese is much more difficult to learn to write (take it from a Chinese student!).
They are also used in different regions, so Simplified Chinese is used in China and Singapore while Traditional Chinese characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and by most overseas Chinese.
Traditional Chinese, as the name suggests, is the original form of the written language and has been used for thousands of years. It is more legible and distinctive and offers more of a guide as to how the character should be pronounced.
This form evolved into Simplified Chinese and was officially adopted in 1949 by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in an attempt to improve literacy. The characters contain fewer strokes (each line written in a character is known as a stroke) and there are also fewer characters in common usage. However, many people believe that during this simplification, the characters lose some of their beauty as well as some of their visual meaning.
The picture below shows a comparison of Traditional Chinese (left) and Simplified Chinese (right).
I hope this helps you understand more of the Chinese language. And as always, we’d love to hear what you think.
GoLocalise provides translation and subtitling services in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese and voiceover services in both Mandarin and Cantonese! Let us know if we can help you with anything!
If you are not sure which form of Chinese you require, just let us know where your target market is.
We’ll always be happy to advise you on the best solution for your project!