Difference between Simplified and Traditional Chinese

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There are over a billion speakers of Chinese across the world. In fact, one out of every six people you come across will speak Chinese. This can be attributed to the huge Chinese population as well as China’s rapidly growing economic status. However, are you aware that not all Chinese speakers employ the same written Chinese characters? Some Chinese speakers use traditional Chinese characters while others use simplified characters.

With the founding of the People’s Republic of China came various efforts to encourage Chinese literacy rates. As a result, an official decision was reached to simplify written Chinese to make it less difficult for people to learn. In effect, two types of written Chinese exist, namely simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.

Traditional Chinese is derived from traditional written Chinese that was penned by the Chinese a long time ago. It is characterised by subtleties and complexities. With the adoption of simplified Chinese, the traditional version does still see use outside of official literature.


Simplified Chinese is simpler and less complicated than traditional Chinese. If you look at the simplified Chinese character for a horse and its traditional counterpart, you’ll notice a major difference: its traditional form appears more complex and features more strokes than the simplified type. Therefore, simplified characters have fewer strokes per character compared to traditional characters.

Generally, simplified Chinese characters appear less distinct from each another due to their simplified shape. Moreover, traditional characters provide better assistance for pronunciation, especially for Chinese speakers.

Regional usage

Another distinction between simplified and traditional Chinese characters is their area of usage. The simplified form of Chinese writing is employed throughout China, Singapore and Beijing while the traditional form is popular in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as evidenced in advertisements, signs, slogans, and television subtitles.

Therefore, if you are planning to visit or relocate to the Chinese mainland, it would be prudent if you learned simplified Chinese characters.

Learning process

Generally, leaning Chinese will not be a walk in the park for most people. As you might have noticed, Chinese language doesn’t employ the use alphabetic letters as is the norm with western languages. Instead, Chinese uses characters which can represent a wide range of things. Over the years, these written characters have increasingly grown somewhat subtle and complicated and acquiring the ability to write Chinese characters may take a lot of your time.

That’s why new learners are advised to first learn the Chinese language through speaking, listening and understanding the language. Once they have acquired the ability to speak and understand Chinese, they can proceed to learn how to write its characters. At this point, its better you begin with learning simplified Chinese characters. They are easier to grasp due to their simplified shape. In fact, they are mostly made up of a few (3000) basic Chinese characters.

You should consider learning traditional Chinese characters if you are planning to relocate to Hong Kong, Malaysia or other regions where such characters are predominantly used. Otherwise, there’s no other motivation to learn traditional writing. The majority of traditional Chinese characters resemble the simplified ones and knowledge of simplified Chinese allows you to recognise their traditional forms. If you decide to learn the chinese language in singapore, the simplified form is the standard form taught across the island.


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