Simplified Chinese vs Traditional Chinese – NOT THAT CONFUSING!

The apparently confusing DIFFERENCES can be resolved at two different levels. We must distinguish between

(1) the WRITING system or (2) the WRITTEN language.  

For (1), an average person educated in an alphabetic language can easily recognize differences between the common alphabets found among languages such as English, Russian, Greek, Arabic and Hindi. For example, the word Livac will be transliterated into these languages as Livac (English), ливац (Russian), λιακ (Greek), لیوك (Arabic) and लिवाक (Hindi). But this is not the case for an average Chinese who would generally find them to be similar. However, the differences between the Simplified (ZH) Chinese and Traditional Chinese writing systems are immediately recognizable to a Chinese though not to the alphabetic language users.

In the case of the Chinese writing system, there are mainly 3 major kinds of differences between the Traditional and the derivative Simplified Chinese characters, which ideally should have ten or less strokes.

So it is much easier to do the many-to-one conversion from Traditional Chinese characters to Simplified Chinese characters than to do the one-to-many conversion in the reverse direction.

For (2), there are differences between the words and sometimes grammar of the speakers accustomed to the two systems, much as in American and British English:

In the Chinese case:

The differences in (2) reflect mostly the differences in language used in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as in the Chinese language used before 1949, when the Peoples’ Republic of China was founded.

The words can be from any period, or any Chinese community and they can be written in EITHER the Traditional OR Simplified scripts. But, unless there is a match between the word and the script there can be problems in getting the correct returns in Internet search. For example, if the word “Trump” is searched in the Mainland China websites with 川普, it will yield no results, just as the search for 特朗普 in Taiwan would yield no results.

Chilin’s LiVaC provides useful information on how the alternate forms of the same term are distributed among the different Chinese communities, for example.


Related to Chilin’s Blogs “How is the LiVaC New Buzzword Roster generated?” and “Newsmakers and KOLs”.

Abel @ Chilin