Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese are similar written language in that they have a very similar grammatical structure, though they are considered to be completely separate due to their slight variations. The main variance between Simplified and Traditional Chinese is that they are written using different characters; one being highly intricate and difficult and the other being a simplified version with less complicated characters.
Chinese written characters consist of two parts. The first part is the signific which is the actual word, and the second part is the phonetic which is the sound associated with the word. While Traditional Chinese is composed of complex ideographs made up of many strokes, Simplified Chinese offers a reduction of the number of strokes used per signific, as well as a reduction in the number of overall characters in use.
Simplified Chinese was created after the end of the civil war which resulted in the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It was designed by the government as a way of promoting literacy among the citizens of China. The idea was that with a simplified writing system, it would be easier for more people to become literate, leading to better education of the general population. In order to effectively simplify the writing system, the characters of Chinese writing were made less intricate and easier to write. Over time Simplified Chinese was adopted throughout the country, except for Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Traditional Chinese is the written language used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and various other areas of China. Traditional Chinese is the writing that has been used in China for thousands of years and the characters are extremely intricate in their design. The characters of Traditional Chinese require a significant amount of pen strokes to create. A big part of the reason that Simplified Chinese text was never adopted in these areas was their political separation from mainland China.
Though Simplified and Traditional Chinese have the same grammatical structure, most who know one style cannot understand the other. The variations in the ideographs between the two styles are enough to make it seem as though they are two completely separate languages, thus creating a true language barrier between the two.
There are two main dialects in China, Mandarin and Cantonese. While the two dialects are closely related to writing style, they are not indicative of each other. Simplified Chinese does not translate into one dialect, nor does Traditional Chinese translate into another. Mandarin is spoken throughout most of China, while Cantonese is spoken in the Guangdong province in Hong Kong. Guangdong was the earliest area of China to begin trade with the West, and this interaction with foreigners helped form the Cantonese dialect.
The connection between dialect and writing style is actually very minor, but very important. Depending on the area, different dialects match up with different areas for translation. Since Mandarin is used in Mainland China, as well as Simplified Chinese writing, any writings translated for the mainland would have to be in Simplified Chinese in the Mandarin dialect. Taiwan is similar in that it uses Mandarin dialect, but writings would be in Traditional Chinese. Hong Kong differs since the Cantonese dialect formed there. Writings would be in Traditional Chinese, but in the Cantonese dialect.
Ashley Augello is a freelance writer and Public Relations professional. She graduated from Villanova University in 2007 with her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication. Ashley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.