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wix

Traditional vs Simplified characters

Do you prefer traditional or simplified characters?  

62 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you prefer traditional or simplified characters?

    • Traditional
      94
    • Simplified
      83
    • dou keyi (no preference)
      51


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wix

I first began studying Chinese in Australia and learnt simplified characters. I then went to Taiwan and soon abandoned simplified characters in favour of traditional ones. Having spent time in both Taiwan and China I am somewhat familiar with both, but I prefer traditional. I think traditional characters are easier to read as they retain much more of the meaning than simplifed characters which tend to be more phonetic. That said some traditional characters are damn hard to write!!!

What do you prefer? Also if you have only studied one form please say also. I think many people probably only study simplified characters and never learn anything about traditional characters.

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Guest mirela_violeta

I've only learned simplified characters but in our chinese and philosophy classes we've also read some texts in unsimplified characters. What can I say I'm actually glad they've simplified them, chinese is hard enough as it is, though the unsimplified characters are certainly interesting. I've just come back from a seminar in Prague on Qing Poetry. What we did there was read and translate old poetry which was written in unsimplified characters. Though I wasn't very good at it, because I've never learned unsimplified characters, it was interesting to discover how today's characters were simplified. Also to get the meaning of the poem you had to guess all the time, it was like a riddle. Ifind the situation inTaiwan and Hong Kong is quite interesting. I actually have a friend in Hong Kong and it's amazing to see them using both styles of writing, as I understood, though they write in unsimplified characters they have to learn the simplified too. Only when Isaw a HK person write I actually realized how they simplified the characters. You must know a lot about that. Anyway it's very interesting that HK people can speak cantonese, some chinese too and english and be good at all. But to stick to writing I am just wondering wasn't it difficult for you to learn both types of characters, or is it easier to understand the simplified characters when you know the other ones? Which ones do you know better? I think I'll stick to the simplified characters cause I'm already learning 3 foreign languages, chinese, german and english.

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wix
But to stick to writing I am just wondering wasn't it difficult for you to learn both types of characters, or is it easier to understand the simplified characters when you know the other ones? Which ones do you know better? I think I'll stick to the simplified characters cause I'm already learning 3 foreign languages, chinese, german and english.

There is a lot of overlap between simplified and traditional characters so learning one set once you know the other is not too difficult. Many of the simplifications simply involve simplifying a single radical, so the characters look very similar. Some other simplifications are based on cursive or shorthand forms of the traditional characters.

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Guest pratyeka

I have spent much more time on simplified, but I've been to Taiwan twice and have a few friends online that I only chat to using traditional.

I definitely prefer to look at traditional... they're much more intricate and beautiful. However, I find simplified easier to read, as I've spent more time with them and many forms are more clearly distinguished. I suppose this perception would change with a bit more time on traditional.

Writing, simplified wins hands down.

Acquiring new characters for reading .. it's much more interesting on traditional as the radicals are better preserved, but that's not a great issue for me, as I usually look up both forms anyway.

Think I'm gonna be a simplified boy unless I get scholarly and start going in to historical texts. :wink:

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roddy

I've always learned simplified characters, but I find I can usually understand traditional ones anyway - you see them in subtitles of HK movies, and they're often used when you want to make a piece of writing more aesthetically pleasing - like a restaurant sign, or calligraphy. If context isn't enough to figure them out then just looking at logical ways to simpify them usually helps - like wix says, it's often just the radical.

Roddy

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Guest quinoa

i'm learning chinese in taiwan, so it's traditional characters for me. but even back in the semester of chinese i took in college i prefered learning the traditional than the simple. i'm not sure why.. maybe because i wanted to learn how it was in taiwan.

my mom grew up in taiwan so it's hard for her to read the simplified characters in some of the local chinese association publications. she's learned some though from watching chinese tv shows that subtitle in simplified.

i wonder if mainland chinese and its simplified characters will grow even further from taiwan's mandarin and traditional characters, eventually becoming more seperate dialects (well, perhaps happening hundreds of years later). or maybe it will just be kind of like how there are different englishes and spanishes around the world, each with their different slangs, some different sentence structures and all that.

interesting to think about.

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ChouDoufu

I mostly stuck to the simplified characters in the past, but when I came back to the states I noticed that all of the newspapers used traditional characters so I started learning the traditional characters. I think that learning to read traditional characters is pretty essential to anyone who learns to write simplified characters.

If I could go back and learn characters from the start, I'd rather learn Traditional Characters. There are so many books and publications tha are just in traditional characters, and also I feel like learning simplified characters after you know traditional characters is easier because there are often simplifications that are used pretty consistently.

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weixiaoma
i wonder if mainland chinese and its simplified characters will grow even further from taiwan's mandarin and traditional characters, eventually becoming more seperate dialects (well, perhaps happening hundreds of years later).

It's interesting you mentioned that. Characters would have to change really slowly. However, in Taiwan everybody's Mandarin has slowly been corrupted by the influence of Minnanhua. Many tones have changed for various words, and the pitch graph of the 3rd tone has changed for EVERY tone. Throw in the inablility of most Taiwanese people to curl their tongues on the zh, ch, sh, and r sounds, and the language starts to sound pretty different. I live in Taiwan and I'm pretty used to Taiwanese speech, so it was a shock for me last week when I downloaded a CCTV version of a popular Taiwanese TV show. Even though it was a "Mandarin" show (i.e. not Minnan), it wasn't "Mandarin" enough for the mainland audience. CCTV dubbed over the Taiwanese people's Mandarin with standard mainland Mandarin. I was shocked, and very interested to say the least.

http://toshuo.com/

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atitarev
i wonder if mainland chinese and its simplified characters will grow even further from taiwan's mandarin and traditional characters, eventually becoming more seperate dialects (well, perhaps happening hundreds of years later).

It's interesting you mentioned that. Characters would have to change really slowly. However, in Taiwan everybody's Mandarin has slowly been corrupted by the influence of Minnanhua. Many tones have changed for various words, and the pitch graph of the 3rd tone has changed for EVERY tone. Throw in the inablility of most Taiwanese people to curl their tongues on the zh, ch, sh, and r sounds, and the language starts to sound pretty different. I live in Taiwan and I'm pretty used to Taiwanese speech, so it was a shock for me last week when I downloaded a CCTV version of a popular Taiwanese TV show. Even though it was a "Mandarin" show (i.e. not Minnan), it wasn't "Mandarin" enough for the mainland audience. CCTV dubbed over the Taiwanese people's Mandarin with standard mainland Mandarin. I was shocked, and very interested to say the least.

Hopefully, it won't last for centuries - separate development of China and Taiwan. When they are finally reunited, one version of writing and speaking would gradually take over, guess which? I am not politicising, it's just an obvious outcome, in case you are Taiwanese and are offended by what I say. I think, both Taiwanese and Mainlanders hope they will reunite some day, only they can't agree on terms.

Traditional script and Taiwanese pronunciation are a very political issue, IMHO, Taiwanese have the perception that simplified characters are ugly and mainlanders break the tradition, as for the accent, I heard they are proud of their pronunciation because it's different from Mainland, too. The same is true for Hong Kong/ Macao (perceptions). It's not that they can't write or say like mainlanders, it's they don't want to. But it adds to the variety of the Chinese language and culture, doesn't it? Although, it causes problems for Chinese learners and Chinese people themselves.

It's interesting news for me that they broadcast Taiwanese shows in China, although it's dubbed over.

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Ian_Lee

Now the controversy between learning traditional or simplified scripts is not only confined to Chinese. Professor in Seoul National University think that Korean students should learn BOTH scripts:

韓國應該同時教簡體漢字和傳統漢字

前几天,有报道称,联合国决定从2008年开始只用简体汉字制作中文文件。汉字文化圈内的各国,因汉字的字型不同,引发了不少混乱,但是中国在国际社会中壮大的影响力反映到了文字使用问题上。简体汉字是现代中国的官方文字,其正式名称是包含“简化文字”意思的“简化字”。1964年,中国政府制定发布了2238个简化字,如果加上用于偏旁的汉字,大约可以简化使用1.7万个汉字。

韩国曾长期使用汉字,但是严格意义上,韩国使用的汉字与作为中文标记手段的汉字并不完全相同。1992年,韩国与中国建交之前,韩国一直使用了台湾使用的老字型——繁体字。之后,经过多次争论,从1994年开始,包括中文教科书在内的大部分领域都使用了中国简体字。

当然,目前为止,对普通百姓来说,简体字确实还有些陌生。因此,只学习国内的传统汉字然后前往中国的人,因为大部分简体字无法看懂而容易感到惊慌,而且在韩国与中国的交流过程中,若不懂简体汉字,就会面临诸多不便。但是不能因为中国影响力正在壮大,就完全放弃我们一直使用的汉字字型。目前,汉字依然是理解我们传统文化的重要因素,而且用汉字记录并继承的大部分文献中的汉字字型与中国简体字完全不同。

从这个角度出发,韩国需要采取考虑韩国状况的汉字教育措施。应该考虑到,如果掌握很多以前使用的汉字,学习中国简体汉字也就不会太难。

另外,把韩国指定为教育汉字的1800个字与中国2500个常用汉字进行比较,结果重复的汉字数量达到1619个。就是说,在韩国学习1800个汉字,其中89.9%与中国常用汉字相同。不仅如此,按照汉字字型标准,韩中两国共用的1619个常用汉字中,包括简体汉字在内,只有512个字的字型不同,所以只要学习这些不同的简体汉字,就等于是学习了中国常用汉字的大部分。因此,虽然不少汉字的意思完全不同,但是在文字理解角度,只要学习并掌握我们已知汉字的简体字字型,就很容易掌握中国文字。

目前,在国际社会,随着以韩中日三国为中心的东亚影响力的扩大,正在开创通过汉字进行国际交流的时代,因此最近越来越多地强调东亚共用文字——汉字的作用和学习。但是如果想掌握真正意义上的共用汉字,就不能只教简体汉字,应该同时教传统汉字。

首尔国立大学中文学教授 李康齐

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atitarev

There are more than 2 version of scripts, of course it applies to only a portion of characters.

1) Traditional Chinese used in formal writing (mainly in Taiwan and Hongkong)

2) Simplified Chinese offcially and commonly used in China

3) Simplified Japanese kanji (=hanzi), have quite a few characters that don't fall into either 1) or 2), they are specific to modern Japanese, as versions of the same characters. Identifying those may not be always easy.

4) As I found out recently, there Korean specific "hanja" (=hanja) - variants of Chinese characters that are not in common and/or offcial use in Chinese speaking countries. I am not sure if they are simplified, they are just a different version. Also, not easily identifiable.

(I assumed that Koreans, if they use hanja, it's always traditional Chinese but it's not always true)

5) Cantonese specific characters approved by Hong Kong government, they are not versions of existing characters but newly coined characters.

I think some of the old Vietnamese characters (forgot the name) that were created when Vietnam used Chinese characters could be added as 6) but they are no longer in use.

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bhchao

Here was an editorial written in the Taipei Times in response to the UN's decision to abolish its usage of traditional Chinese characters in 2008.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2006/04/04/2003300896

According to media reports, the UN has announced that it will use only simplified characters in all Chinese documents starting in 2008. Many Taiwanese are worried that simplified characters will one day become the only system for writing Chinese, while traditional characters will fade away

I believe traditional Chinese writing is facing a crisis, although the popularization of simplified Chinese is not the only cause. I believe many attempts to maintain traditional Chinese may be misguided, be it the unification camp opposing simplified Chinese because they oppose communism, the independence camp opposing it because they oppose China, or traditionalists opposing it because they oppose unorthodox ideas. To keep traditional Chinese characters alive, we must adopt a healthy attitude of competition. We cannot merely oppose simplified Chinese.

We must realize that both simplified and traditional characters are legitimate systems for writing modern Chinese. Both record Chinese effectively, and allow their readers to read efficiently. If we oppose simplified Chinese without improving the competitiveness of traditional Chinese, or are unable to give up a concept and an ideology that we think is correct, we will never be able to save traditional Chinese, no matter how hard we attack the simplified writing system.

Recently, I had a discussion on this matter in my Psychology of Reading course. A student said he found that the number of online documents in simplified Chinese is greater than the number of traditional Chinese documents. He therefore said that one would lose an important channel for information if one could not read simplified Chinese, and that Taiwan's schools should start to teach it.

This idea is very pragmatic, but looks unlikely to be implemented in light of Taiwan's current attitude of opposing simplified Chinese. Accepting simplified Chinese in Taiwan will not necessarily have a negative impact on traditional Chinese, and resisting the former will not necessarily save the latter. I would like to stress that with the development of the Internet, the biggest threat to traditional Chinese is the decreasing number of pieces written in traditional Chinese.

Taiwan is the realm of traditional Chinese. With its level of economic development and the pervasiveness of the Internet, the Taiwanese people should be capable of writing numerous valuable articles and then posting them online. Unfortunately, it seems that the people of Taiwan do not really like to write. For example, very few Taiwanese have contributed to Wikipedia -- the world's most popular online encyclopedia, which can be edited by anyone. Another example of this is Taiwan's blogging culture -- the writing of online diaries or a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page. Although some Taiwanese have caught up with this trend, most bloggers are busy reproducing articles they have found elsewhere online or summarizing printed articles.

Taiwanese people are too accustomed to using what others have created, and seldom create something original. If most of us only read articles or use software written by others, and do not spend time to think, write or create, then traditional Chinese will disappear. It is not about simplified Chinese or the oppression of the "communist bandits." It would be our own fault.

If we can create valuable works using traditional Chinese, people across the world would be encouraged to learn it. We must keep writing so that people will feel that being unable to read traditional Chinese means losing an important source of information. This is not only the best way to stimulate the use of traditional Chinese, it is also the best way to highlight Taiwan's influence.

I agree with the writer that there needs to be healthy competition (in terms of actual usage, not merely opposing the other script) between traditional and simplified characters. That is already happening on this forum where a number of us adhere to using traditional script in our posts, even though the majority of posters here use simplified.

I disagree with this quote "Both record Chinese effectively, and allow their readers to read efficiently." for reasons already mentioned by fellow posters.

There are petitions circulating around the Internet calling for the UN to reconsider its decision to drop traditional characters.

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novemberfog
Traditional script and Taiwanese pronunciation are a very political issue, IMHO, Taiwanese have the perception that simplified characters are ugly and mainlanders break the tradition, as for the accent, I heard they are proud of their pronunciation because it's different from Mainland, too. The same is true for Hong Kong/ Macao (perceptions). It's not that they can't write or say like mainlanders, it's they don't want to. But it adds to the variety of the Chinese language and culture, doesn't it? Although, it causes problems for Chinese learners and Chinese people themselves.

Yes, you are right it is a very political issue. I respect that Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau do not change to simplified. However, I really do not like the Taiwanese attitude towards simplified Chinese that I have seen from some Taiwanese. (Maybe not everyone, but my Taiwanese friends at least) My language partner would not even attempt to read or work with simplified (even though my textbook was written in simplified). My language partner also would not even make an attempt to work with pinyin, and thus I had to learn 注音符號 so I could learn pronunciation from my partner.

The Chinese I have met from the PRC are much more flexible. They will try to read the traditional characters, and even make their best guess if they can't read it. Most of the PRC Chinese I met can read both simplified and traditional.

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Ian_Lee

Actually what Beijing Morning News reported that UN will stop using traditional script after 2008 is just a rumor according to BBC because UN has adopted simplified script for many years:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/chinese/trad/hi/newsid_4890000/newsid_4899500/4899598.stm

But recently what the script reform harbinger 100-year old Professor Zhou said in Beijing about traditional script is really quite off-hooked.

Zhou said that why traditional script is still commonly used in Hong Kong is due to the influence of Taiwan. He asked Taiwan to be "politics with politics, culture with culture" to adopt the use of simplified script.

IMO Professor Zhou has misunderstood the scenario in Hong Kong (Judged by his seniority, it looks like he has never been or at least not been to Hong Kong after the transition). Hong Kong is not influenced by Taiwan to retain the traditional script. Traditional script is more suited to Cantonese since the simplified script is evolved based on Mandarin.

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Ian_Lee

Actually my gut feeling is that Taiwan is not completely opposed to script simplification. What their scholars oppose is that why they have to use the script that was designed by the Mainland scholars.

Many Taiwan scholars view the simplified script unfavorably as the by-product of Cultural Revolution (the first batch was introduced in 1964). And Cultural Revolution denoted the destruction of Chinese culture. So they think that why should we adopt the tools to destroy Chinese culture that was invented by you?

If Mainland scholars can sit down to discuss with Taiwan scholars on a joint common script (which may result in eliminating some and adding some inputs from Taiwan counterpart), there may be a uniform script.

But that will be many years to come to reach a consensus.

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mrtoga

Are most Taiwanese really unable to read simplified characters? More exposure to mainland culture will easily take care of that without Taiwanese needing to sacrifice their traditional characters.

Although I have never studied traditional characters (I have studied Japanese kanji), I rarely have trouble deciphering the traditional characters that you see when you go to Karaoke in China for instance. In most cases the rules for simplification / traditionalization (complication??) seem quite straightforward. I just cannot comprehend that it can be hard for Taiwanese to read in simplified script - it is not a big leap to make.

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novemberfog

I don't that it is the difficultly that is holding anyone back. It is just pure lack of will to do so.

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Mark Yong

I actually posted this on another thread not too long ago. But for the convenience of the readers of this thread, I decided to append it as follows (with a little added stuff!):

Speaking as an amateur linguist, and as a passionate follower of Literary Chinese (文言文) over Mandarin, my vote goes for Traditional Chinese.

When I first started learning to write Chinese informally, I learnt my characters from the "ground-up" method, i.e. from the easiest to the more difficult. As a result, I was became accustomed to learning the characters by their components, i.e. radicals and phonetics. And because I was taught by a non-Mandarin speaking elder, I learnt all my characters with virtually no dependence on Mandarin.

The point I am making is that as what Eugenio Llorente mentioned in this thread, there is a logical development of Chinese characters that prevail in Traditional script, but has been destroyed somewhat by the Simplified script. Going back to the examples provided by Jose regarding the 廣/广 and 廠/厂. When I look at the word 廣, I automatically see the radical 广 + the phonetic 黃. Likewise when I see the word 廠, I see the radical 广 + the phonetic 敞. Notice that both words have the same radical 广 in Traditional Chinese, suggesting that they belong to the same family of "meanings". This logical connection was lost with the simplification to 厂. Scores of other examples exist, but I think you get my meaning.

The word here is "etymology" - if we cannot understand the etymology of the words we are learning, the task of memorising the thousands of Chinese characters by blind rote-learning becomes all the more difficult and discouraging.

The other aspect of the Chinese language that has been lost with the simplification of characters is the loss of words themselves, via the merging of two or more different characters in Traditional Chinese into one character in Simplified Chinese. There is a big difference between the word "mile" and the word "inside", yet 里 and 裡 are now one character 里. By reducing 餘 to 余 (which originally meant "I/me"), another word is lost. When you think about it, the additional radical 食 is just a few extra strokes, but captures the logical meaning of the word (even retaining the simplified radical 饣would have helped!).

I am given to understand that this character-merging process has been heavily biased towards the Beijing vocabulary, at the expense of the loss of a large number of words from other dialects. I have also noticed that some of my Chinese counterparts have started using 兰 for 'blue', instead of 藍 or even the simplified 蓝. In my humble opinion, this goes beyond the benefits of practical simplifcation, to plain injudicious substitution (I am sorry if I sound a little judgemental here!).

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wushijiao

To sum up my thoughts on this: traditional is the most aesthetically beautiful; simplified is very useful, as it is the script of the PRC where the vast majority of Chinese people live; but a serious learner of Chinese should try to become familiar with both. The most practical answer to the “simplified vs. traditional” debate is simply to learn both. With the help of a flashcard program, that shouldn’t be too hard. I think the trad/simp debate can become a bit too “how many angles can stand on the tip of a pin”-ish when one actually lives in either the PRC, or Taiwan or Hong Kong.

Of course, the debate becomes much more complicated when one talks about which should be used in theory, and in the future. For reasons stated by others, I’d lean towards traditional. Besides, since most people in the digital age write characters by typing in pinyin and recognizing character, the main advantage for simplified- that it is easier to write- has become neutralized.

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doumeizhen

Here is a petition against the decision of the UN to abolish the use of

traditional Chinese:

http://www.gopetition.com/region/237/8314.html

-----------------

Personally, I am unclear why they can't use both... and aknowledge and respect both traditional and simplified regions for their decisions. Whatever would we do when communication was so simple...

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