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Should I learn traditional or simplified Chinese?

Following Mexicans and Indians, the Chinese hold the title of the third-largest immigrant group in the United States. Hence, it is evident how fast the Chinese native is on a roll, strongly impacting the global economy with their exceptional growth. Meanwhile, many people are also getting fascinated by the empowering Chinese language.

The question you should possibly ask: should I learn traditional or simplified Chinese? Although people often see no way out of this dilemma, lucky for you, we will be guiding you with valuable insights regarding the difference between simplified and traditional Chinese language and much more. So, let's dive straight into the discussion without any further ado.

Main differences between simplified and traditional Chinese

There are many marked differences between simplified and traditional Chinese languages that give them their own essence and presence. Some of the core pointers are mentioned below:

Character Structure

As an American student, you might have thought: why should I learn traditional or simplified Chinese when the character structure is so confusing? It may have appeared all Greek to you, as the Chinese character pattern is unique compared to any other internationally spoken language. Therefore, the Chinese writing lessons introduce the Chinese characters often divided into two categories – the strokes and the components.

Since the components and radicals make the international students more perplexed than the strokes, beginners are encouraged to understand the Chinese character structure by creating different small strokes. Collectively, six fundamental strokes construct various Chinese characters, and a slightly tilted or curved stroke can change the character into a new one.
Moreover, a single word in the Chinese language is written differently in simplified and traditional form, using one or more strokes. However, the traditional Chinese characters have a bit more excessive use of strokes than the simplified Chinese version. For instance :

  • Noodle: 面(Simplified), 麵(Traditional)

  • Love: 爱(Simplified), 愛(Traditional)

  • Hair: 发(Simplified), 髮(Traditional)

  • Son: 儿(Simplified), 兒(Traditional)

Now, if you are wondering: how should I learn traditional or simplified Chinese with such complicated character structures? Then a simple answer is that you don't need to do it all by yourself. Instead, you can speed up this process and quickly get your head around these tiny details in the Chinese character structure with the help of a professional training platform.

Number of Characters

Another distinguishing factor between traditional and simplified Chinese is the number of characters. According to the Zhonghua Zihai dictionary (which contains the record of every Chinese character used from the times of ancient Buddhists to the later ruling dynasties of the Qing, Ming, and Song empires), the Mandarin Chinese language consists of more than 80,000 characters. Yet, you don't need to memorize them all. To clear the examination, even the Chinese high-school qualified students need to identify only about 4,500 characters.

As for the difference between the simplified and traditional Chinese language, the number of characters helps develop the sentence structure. Simplified Chinese was the new language formed by merging different characters of the traditional Chinese language. After this modification, the simplified Chinese language involved limited characters, often repeatedly used to illustrate various concepts or words in a sentence. In contrast, a single character in traditional Chinese may only indicate a word or a fraction of a word in the entire clause.

Let's take an example of the phrase – Hairs turn gray. In traditional Chinese, it is written as 頭髮發白 with a single character representing a different meaning of the word. On the other hand, the simplified Chinese consists of two similar characters 头发发白, which are repeatedly used in the phrase but express different meanings to the exact written words.

Vocabulary and Sentence Structure

The last essential aspect that can help you get out of your uncertainty – should I learn traditional or simplified Chinese – depends on evaluating Chinese vocabulary and sentence structures. The difference between simplified and traditional Chinese refers to the fact that they both have distinct vocabulary usage and different sets of characters.

In other words, the selection of characters in simplified Chinese vocabulary to represent a word can be completely different from the traditional Chinese vocabulary. For example :

  • Instant Noodle: 方便面(Simplified), 泡麵(Traditional)

  • Police: 公安(Simplified), 警察(Traditional)

Another sentence structure change can be detected in the following example, where the same two characters signify the same word but in a reversed order of characters.

  • Traffic Jam: 堵車(Simplified), 塞車(Traditional)

Similarly, you can also find characters that define a particular word in simplified Chinese. But when those same characters in the same order are looked up in traditional Chinese vocabulary, they come out as a different word with a completely different meaning.

  • Potato: 土豆(Simplified)

  • Peanut: 土豆(Traditional)

Why choose traditional vs. why choose simplified?

Here is why you should choose traditional Chinese:

  • Many overseas Chinese and Taiwanese adopt this technique. Traditional Chinese is best for communicating or enjoying media from these locations. Famous Taiwanese and Hong Kong dramas use traditional Chinese subtitles. If you adore Chinese karaoke, you’ll notice traditional characters in music videos.

  • Traditional characters have been used in Chinese writing and art for over a thousand years, assisting if you wish to learn calligraphy or classical Chinese later.

Here is why you should choose simplified Chinese:

  • Although simplified characters are primarily used in mainland China and Singapore, more than a billion people use them compared to 50 million who use traditional.

  • Most Western colleges and universities teach simplified Chinese. The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) is the most prevalent, accessible, and generally known Chinese proficiency test conducted in simplified Chinese.

Why learning traditional Chinese first is a better idea?

Especially for those foreign American students or professionals who have made a great choice of learning both the Mandarin versions, here's a great piece of advice to break new ground. So, begin by understanding the traditional Chinese language first and then move on to the simplified version. It will make things a lot simpler for you. Here are the two logical reasons that can explain why this advice will lead you in the right direction :

Characters Shift from Hard to Easy

This particular path will be somewhat similar to learning abbreviations in English. You are supposed to memorize the comprehensive meaning behind those short abbreviated words of baffled initials. Identically, it will be more comfortable to follow the complex track of traditional Chinese vocabulary by remembering all the significant structures of characters first, and then eventually take on the easy-to-follow simplified character patterns. 

Traditional Characters are Marrow of Chinese Essence

The traditional Chinese characters are enriched with intricate and central Chinese quintessence. They can help you build a strong foundation of authentic Chinese vocabulary. They enclose more primordial linguistic syntax, phonetic pronunciation, and etymological information than their simplified analog parts.

Simplified vs. traditional: Which should I learn?

Suppose you are still wondering: should I learn traditional or simplified Chinese to upscale my professional game? Certain factors can help you make a choice:

Where do you live/ Where will you be traveling?

If you are an American student who needs to ace your grades with flying colors, go with simplified Chinese. However, suppose you travel back and forth to countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and Malaysia. In that situation, you may want to know the ropes of traditional Chinese characters, as that's what you will be dealing with in those places.

Who will you most commonly communicate with?

If you still can't figure out "should I learn traditional or simplified Chinese," try to decipher the purpose behind your communication with your targeted audience. Suppose you are a business owner planning to take advantage of the expanding economy of mainland China by investing in their booming market. Then, you will be interacting with people who primarily speak Mandarin but pen down simplified Chinese characters. But if you run an advertising agency, you might want to know both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. 

Which do you find more interesting?

After knowing the main difference between simplified and traditional Chinese, it is up to you to conclude which one you want to choose for what reason. But if you are captivated by the Chinese valorous history, culture, and artistic features, then learning traditional Chinese will bring about a pleasant change in your life. Because Chinese culture is over 3,500 years old, it is said that its true spirit is preserved in its traditional Chinese dialects aesthetically.

The best institution to learn simplified and traditional Chinese

We all pick up a skill that can highlight our inner abilities and make us appear more competent in the corporate world to outshine others. So, what's better than learning a language that can build up new opportunities by simply uttering a few native words, especially if you know the secret that can lead you to a howling success in your future?

And if you are ready to achieve this tremendous triumph, then the answer to your question is Taipei Language Institute(TLI). Founded by the pinnacle Dr. Marvin Ho, who wrote the modern Chinese Cross trait dictionary, the platform is one of the best leading online institutions for learning simplified and traditional Chinese from all around the globe. So, feel free to contact us today and register to book your seats now. Happy learning!