Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters explained

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Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters explained

Let’s get straight into it.  As you might expect, the most basic difference between Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters is how they look, but there is so very much more to it.  We are so very lucky to have an in-house Chinese translator able to help us navigate our way. Traditional Chinese characters tend to be more complicated and have more strokes while Simplified Chinese characters have fewer strokes.

So while Traditional Chinese uses a single character to express a word or part of a word, a Simplified Chinese character may represent multiple words or concepts using the same character.

The differences do not end there

The form also depends on which country and region.  A massive generalisation, but Traditional Chinese characters are mainly used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan whereas Simplified Chinese characters are mainly used in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia.

How about Mandarin and Cantonese, the spoken dialects?  How do these fit in with the writing systems?  I am so sorry, but it turns out not to be a straightforward case of one spoken Chinese dialect using exclusively either Simplified or Traditional Chinese characters. 

So when our clients come to us and say they would like to market their products or services to the Chinese-speaking market, our advice inevitably contains some caveats and generalisations.

Localisation is all.  Which countries are you targeting?  If mainland China, you may favour Simplified Chinese for written material (documentation, subtitles) and Mandarin for spoken material (voice overs).  If Hong Kong, then Traditional and Cantonese. For Taiwan, Traditional and Mandarin; and if Singapore probably Simplified and Mandarin.

Here at Knockhundred we have in-house specialists able to help and point you in the right direction, so please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and contact us on +44 01544 388040.  We are also happy to organise a video consultation to discuss your requirements if this would be useful.

If you would like to learn more about our Chinese languages services, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  We look forward to hearing from you!


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