Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
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


Recommended Posts

Jose

The information about the UN stopping its use of traditional Chinese is very strange. In their website (www.un.org), the UN seem to use simplified Chinese only (I have never found any link to 繁體中文). I have not been able to find any online documents in traditional Chinese by the UN either. So, what is the mysterious use of traditional Chinese in the UN that they are going to abolish in 2008?

The original information was in some Chinese media, like this one, but it may have been a case of misinformation propagating through the Internet, as this Taiwanese website says today:

Quote

The recent fuss over the United Nations' decision to abolish the usage of traditional Chinese characters on its Web sites and official documents has turned out to be much ado about nothing.

A China-based media outlet reported last month that Chinese linguistics expert Chen Zhangtai said in a forum that the U.N. planned to replace its use of both traditional and simplified Chinese characters with only simplified characters on its Web sites and in its publications starting in 2008.

The report circulated widely among Chinese-speaking people worldwide. In less than three weeks, some 63,000 visitors demonstrated their support for traditional Chinese characters by signing an online petition.

Local media reported yesterday that most of the supporters were overseas Chinese instead of local Taiwanese and attempted to dig into the issue.

In a survey sponsored by Taiwan's national radio station, Radio Taiwan International, 65 percent of the respondents said abolishing the traditional Chinese characters would lead to a disruption in Chinese culture.

But a statement released yesterday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs poured cold water on the advocates' efforts by saying the U.N.'s Web sites and publications were already limited to simplified Chinese characters.

When Taiwan's representative office in New York checked on the report with the U.N., officials from the Department of the U.N. Secretariat said they were not informed of the report and felt puzzled by it, the statement said.

(...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

novemberfog

I personally prefer traditional characters. My first Chinese teacher was from Taipei, and taught using traditonal, so I guess that is why. My second teacher was from Beijing, but could read traditional so she let me continue. The reason I have not switched is that I want to read old folk stories and some classical works, and all of the texts I have for those are in traditional characters. The other reason is that my Chinese speaking friends are from Taiwan, and everything in Taiwan is of course in traditional characters. And the pinyin is not so great in Taiwan either. :)

That being said, when I am using a computer I actually prefer simplified characters. I don't have the best eye-sight so they are easier on my eyes. I also feel like the pinyin input systems are better for simplified, especially on the Macintosh.

At the end of the day, I just make myself learn to read both. But I choose to write in traditional characters. I suppose in the future most of the old stuff will be republished using simplified. But until then, I am going to stick with my method for the paper world and the digital world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

It is a misunderstanding, Jose. The United Nations says it switched to simplified characters back in 1971.

http://www.southnews.com.tw/specil_coul/sea/01/0303.htm

原来,这则假消息最初是由《联合报》驻北京记者采访当初透露这项讯息的中国共产党原国家语委常务副主任、中国社科院教授陈章太,报导指出,陈章太的消息是引自网上公布的一篇《二○○五年世界主要语种、分布和应用力调查报告》内容。不过,该网址并非自联合国官方网站。

However, I couldn't find the report mentioned,《二○○五年世界主要语种、分布和应用力调查报告》, whether in English or Chinese. Can anyone else find this report?

See this article reporting on this supposed report:

http://www.6park.com/news/messages/28535.html

联合国公布新的世界十大语言:英汉德排前三

http://www.6park.com/news/messages/28535.html

俄罗斯重新启动自十月革命后停止的文字改革进程,企图利用最新的语言学成果使俄语无损伤地转向拉丁字母文字体系;

At least this part of the article sounds bogus. It says that the Russian government is attempting to "use the latest lingustic research to harmlessly switch Russian over to the Latin alphabet." You'd think we would have heard about this in the English language press if this were the case.

Atitarev, our resident Russian expert, can you confirm that this is a joke?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
nipponman
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 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 agree, 廣/and 廠 should have remained traditional like all the rest of the characters. Any word on literacy? Last I heard literacy didn't really go up despite the fact that a large part of china uses simplified.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mark Yong
Any word on literacy? Last I heard literacy didn't really go up despite the fact that a large part of china uses simplified.

With the advent of PC-based Chinese character input, I agree with many forum readers that the advantage Simplified Chinese once held in terms of ease of writing is now nullified.

Personally, I do not believe that simplifying the characters did much to improve literacy per se. Quoting John Nevius, Chinese as a written language "speaks to the eye, not the ear". Therefore, logical etymology of words is very important.

Look at Taiwan and Hong Kong today. They are not suffering in terms of literacy levels compared with the mainland.

As a matter of fact, Hong Kong typists use a non-pinyin input method for typing, i.e. Cangjie 倉頡, which is based on Traditional Characters. They are typing Chinese at very high speeds using a non-pinyin Traditional Character-based method.

On the other hand, my colleagues on the mainland predominantly use pinyin-based input to key in Simplified Chinese characters - often going slower than their Hong Kong Cangjie-user counterparts, due to constantly having to scroll-select from the multiple homonyms in pinyin... and often making errors (I once caught a near-disastrous error when one of my colleages typed 'wuliao' for 'materials' in a company document, and ended up out-putting 無聊 instead of 物料!)

And the ironic consequence of the above two scenarios is that the Cangjie 倉頡 Traditional Character input method is not only extremely fast, but also reinforces Traditional Chinese character recognition by the very nature of its radical-stroke, non-pinyin input... while the mainland users of the apparently-simpler Simplified Characters are relying on pinyin - a non-stroked based input method.

So... if the Hong Kongers can manage so well with typing the more complicated Traditional Characters using a radical-stroke input method, as compared with the 'less-complex' Simplified Character users still preferring Romanized pinyin input, then I do not see what the correlation is about character simplification leading to higher literacy. On the contrary, it would seem to me that our Hong Kong typist friends might actually know their words better than their mainland counterparts as a result!

Note: All the above is only in as far as reading is concerned; I do concede that stroke reduction in character simplification does speed up writing - but that's the only advantage I see. And let's face it - how many of us actually write more than me type nowadays? :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
skylee

I agree with most of what Mark Yong says. But I just have to raise objection about Cangjie input method (personal problem). I wonder if I am very wrong to say that it is not really stroke based (九方 and the input method I use on my mobile phone whatever it is called are stroke based) so knowing all the stroke order doesn't necessarily mean one can use Cangjie. And I know a lot of Hong Kong people who are simply unable to learn not to mention use Cangjie (me for example). :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
atitarev
At least this part of the article sounds bogus. It says that the Russian government is attempting to "use the latest lingustic research to harmlessly switch Russian over to the Latin alphabet." You'd think we would have heard about this in the English language press if this were the case.

Atitarev, our resident Russian expert, can you confirm that this is a joke?

It is a joke, of course. Whoever learns Russian, says Cyrillic suits it better, not hard to learn, each sibilant has a separate letter. There are no serious discussions about switching to Latin. We don't even have a standard romanization system, in the recent times people's and place names are romanised in English style but it's still awkward (especially for rendering palatalised consonants and sibilants), very different from other Slavic nations that use Roman script.

It is even discouraged for ethnic groups inside the Russian Federation. When Tatarstan (an autonomous republic on the Volga) wanted to switch to Latin, their request was rejected, currently they use Cyrillic, in the past they used Arabic script but Crimean Tatars (they are related but speak a different dialect) used Latin.

Back on the topic, it seems both Traditional and Simplified scripts have enough supporters, so that you can't force anyone to abandon it. We should stop criticising one or the other and learn and use whatever your preference or need is. They are both efficient and make sense when you learn them thoroughly and consider one or the other as a standard. I voted for the Simplified, that's my focus but I am also trying to learn Traditional passively, so that I can at least read it. I find more use for it and find easier to practice with simplified.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bhchao
Back on the topic, it seems both Traditional and Simplified scripts have enough supporters, so that you can't force anyone to abandon it. We should stop criticising one or the other and learn and use whatever your preference or need is.

Exactly. Therefore it is practical to learn both. Simplified script may be popular on the Mainland; but other than Taiwan and Hong Kong, traditional script is overwhelmingly popular in overseas Chinese communities, especially in North America.

Yesterday the number of votes for Traditional was just 13. Traditional...加油! 加油!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ian_Lee

IMO the script that is used in Taiwan and HK/Macau should not be called "Traditional" or 繁體.

The proper term should be "Formal Script".

Since this script is not the kind used in ancient times like Qin or Han dynasties, so how much traditional it is? And even reform scholars in Mainland acknowledge that the simpliified script is derived from the cursory style which was not formal. Moreover, the term 繁體 is misleading since it has a meaning of cumbersome.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
atitarev
IMO the script that is used in Taiwan and HK/Macau should not be called "Traditional" or 繁體.

In Hong Kong, they use a lot of Cantonese specific characters, which are not part of standard Mandarin. In Taiwan they use some simplified characters, including the ones used in the name of the island, although usage of traditional is commonplace in Taiwan, simplified characters are often used as shorthand. The common knowledge is also that Korean use traditional characters (when they use them, that is), which is also incorrect, they use a version of the old traditional script, some characters are not used by Chinese at all. Some people still think that Japanese use traditional characters, which is also wrong.

Traditional script is overwhelmingly popular in overseas Chinese communities, especially in North America.

It now depends on the age, origin of the people. Overseas Chinese communities used to be overwhelmingly Cantonese, which is also changing. I agree signs in traditional are more common (they are cute) but simplified are in common use, especially with the increasing number of immigrants from mainland China. I notice some newspaper of overseas Chinese are now in simplified. I think they also teach simplified in Chinese schools. All the Chinese classes and textbooks are mainly done in simplified (teachers are from PRC, Singapore and Malaysia, where simplified is official), don't know a single class in Australia where traditional is taught as the main system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ian_Lee

Atitarev:

Hong Kong does not use a specific set of Cantonese-based characters. All formal documents, i.e. contract, deed, legal document,...etc are all in formal Chinese which are generally understood by any Mandarin speakers no matter he/she is from Mainland or Taiwan. The Cantonese-based characters are only used informally in Blog or Entertainment section of newspaper.

In Korea, students have to study about 300 Hanjas which are mcuh less than their counterparts in Japan or any Chinese communities do. They are all in traditional script. Japan has undergone its own Hanji simplification process. But the script bears more resemblace with the traditional script than the simplified script.

Is traditional script or simplified script more popular overseas? It depends.

In US, traditional script is more dominant. It is not because of the Cantonese community that you think but more related to the deep-rooted relationship between US and ROC (NOT Taiwan). In fact, many scholars from Taiwan work for important posts like Library of Congress. In Hawaii, even the State government's announcement of calling for voter registration is printed all in traditional script. And of course the major Chinese newspapers in US are printed in traditional script. Regarding Chinese language courses in school, the textbook that is used by my daughter (printed by Yale) is dual script.

In Japan, interestingly the script that they use officially, i.e. signs in Narita airport, is in simplified script. But that is it. Almost all others are in traditional script, i.e. if you ask for a Chinese brochure in Tokyo Disney Sea, they will give you one printed in traditional script.

On the other hand, in Paris it seems simplified script is more common. The Chinese brochure for Louvre is printed in simplified script. But in London, everywhere in Chinatown is traditional script.

I don't know about Australia. But I guess simplified script is the only one used in Mosocw if there is a Chinatown.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
nipponman
Back on the topic, it seems both Traditional and Simplified scripts have enough supporters, so that you can't force anyone to abandon it. We should stop criticising one or the other and learn and use whatever your preference or need is. They are both efficient and make sense when you learn them thoroughly and consider one or the other as a standard. I voted for the Simplified, that's my focus but I am also trying to learn Traditional passively, so that I can at least read it. I find more use for it and find easier to practice with simplified.

I disagree. Thats like inventing/manufacturing a car with legs to improve the environment and after finding out it doesn't work you keep producing it anyway. A little far out I know, but it works...anyway, simplified chinese is a broken script, it is useless and unecessary. Cursive on the other hand is not. But people have gotten along just fine for the last few thousand years with some form of traditional script, why stop now? What are the benifits of simplified vs traditional? (I hate php, you can't make tables...)

Simplified Pros

1.It is easier to write

2.It saves ink on paper (sometimes)

3.It is easier to read

Simplified cons

1.It doesn't do anything for the language, not even its o.g. purpose of improving literacy

2.It makes MUCH less sense and is harder (in a sense) to write, hard to remember the simplifications

3.It is selective and not very universal across the 3000+ characters necessary to read/write

4.It looks horrible, I'm mean seriously

5.word etymologies (however obscured in traditional) are completely lost

6.Not everyone uses it or likes it (Though the same could be said for traditional, simplified was suposed to be an improvement, which it is not, so the same criterion don't apply here/there)

7.It makes two scripts which are distinct from one another, complicates the writing system further (this is possible?...yes) and makes it harder to learn chinese cause you have to pick one.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mark Yong
In Korea, students have to study about 300 Hanjas which are mcuh less than their counterparts in Japan or any Chinese communities do. They are all in traditional script. Japan has undergone its own Hanji simplification process. But the script bears more resemblace with the traditional script than the simplified script.

Yes, this is definitely one advantage of Traditional Characters, particular in Japanese. Many words and terms are common - and written identicallly - in both Traditional Chinese and Japanese Kanji, e.g. 注意, 政府, 圖書館, plus other technical and commercial terminology - underpinning the universality of Hanzi 漢字 in the Far East nations, even though the languages have diverged.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
Simplified cons

1.It doesn't do anything for the language, not even its o.g. purpose of improving literacy

2.It makes MUCH less sense and is harder (in a sense) to write, hard to remember the simplifications

5.word etymologies (however obscured in traditional) are completely lost

I don't these points have been proven, yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bhchao
It now depends on the age, origin of the people. Overseas Chinese communities used to be overwhelmingly Cantonese, which is also changing. I agree signs in traditional are more common (they are cute) but simplified are in common use, especially with the increasing number of immigrants from mainland China. I notice some newspaper of overseas Chinese are now in simplified. I think they also teach simplified in Chinese schools. All the Chinese classes and textbooks are mainly done in simplified (teachers are from PRC, Singapore and Malaysia, where simplified is official), don't know a single class in Australia where traditional is taught as the main system.

The overseas Chinese community in southern CA, especially in LA's San Gabriel Valley, is a coexistence of mostly Taiwanese and Mainland immigrants.

There are immigrants from mainland China who own businesses in southern CA, but use traditional script in communicating with customers. A lot of restaurants owned by Mainland immigrants use traditional script in their menus. This is because Traditional script is deeply rooted in North American cities where there is a large Chinese population, requiring immigrants accustomed to Simplified to adapt to using Traditional. As Ian mentioned, a reason for this entrenchment is due to the old days when the "China Lobby" had significant sway in the US Congress during the ROC years on the mainland and Taiwan.

The large number of Taiwanese immigrants and their establishments in these suburban communities also explains why Traditional script is the norm of communication even when there is a significant population of immigrants from Mainland China.

I frequently visit the 99 Ranch Markets (大華超級市場) and have received very good customer service from employees who are Mainland immigrants.

Major newspapers in North America like 世界日報 and Chinese Daily News use traditional script. The latter uses Simplified for the title of its newspaper, but its articles are all in Traditional.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bhchao

Here was an old editorial from the Taipei Times:

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2003/03/04/196733

There is a form of writing that has been used for 2,000 years, the only tool for the continuing record of the history, documents, commercial deeds, laws, learning, thought and literature of the only survivor of the four old civilizations. The people using this script used to be the largest ethnic group on earth, a status which has been drastically diminished over the past 50 years. The number using it now is less than 3 percent of the world population.

In its 2,000-year life, this script has witnessed the era of hand scripture, the era of printing and now the Internet era. The basic style has not changed, and has even spawned a very particular calligraphic art.

I am of course talking of the traditional Chinese script that all Taiwanese, including myself, have grown up with and know so well.

How many places are there in the world still using the traditional Chinese script? Taiwan and Hong Kong. That's it. China can be left aside, as can Singapore, which switched to using simplified characters a long time ago. Overseas Chinese in the South Seas and in the US, and even many Overseas Chinese schools, which claim to protect and pass on the essence of Chinese culture, are switching to the simplified characters.

Within the wider area of Chinese linguistic culture, the traditional script seems to be in a weak position as a distinct minority. From the perspective of cultural heritage, however, Taiwan is in an extraordinary position. We use the traditional characters not only in our academic research, but also in our daily lives. This means maintaining the tradition of the 2,000 year-old Chinese script in a continuously existing, vibrant and living environment. In China, on the other hand, the traditional script can already be said to have died out. At the most, it exists as a specimen in academic institutions.

The traditional characters are the only cultural connection between ancient China and the modern world, and Taiwan is the guardian of this connection.

If we truly want to enter the world of ancient China, we cannot avoid traditional characters. In both Sinology and etymology, it is impossible to ignore the traditional form. Regardless of how many ancient books China has rearranged with the simplified script, those books will be of no value to Sinology. Departments of literary history in China must in fact give classes in ancient Chinese to enable students to study the Shuowen, the classical dictionary, or understand the Taoist classics.

Consider the activists of the May Fourth Movement. They really worked very hard at advocating a simplification of the Chinese script in order to enlighten the general public, but, unfortunately not all of their plans worked out. Ninety years later, there's this thing called a computer, that has overturned almost everything they knew about the writing of Chinese. Cangjie, Dayi, phonetic symbols and other input methods make the input of traditional characters just as easy (or as difficult) as that of simplified characters.

The beautiful vision forged in China nearly 90 years ago almost looks like a historical mistake today. Chinese scholars of the Chinese script now publicly admit that the simplified script is convenient only for writing books, but that when it comes to expressing the meaning of characters or visual recognition, it compares unfavorably with the traditional script.

The traditional script is in fact the most powerful and invincible cultural weapon that our ancestors passed down to us. If we could use the concept that "Taiwan = traditional script = true Chinese culture" in Overseas Chinese communities, and even sell it to the rest of the world, we would stand a chance of becoming the true guardians of Chinese culture, in possession of the ultimate right to interpret Chinese culture. No matter how large China's population, how many historic relics the country holds, how good business is in Beijing bookstores, as long as China holds onto the simplified script, it is in the end destined for defeat in this regard.

All this can be taken as read. But would we be prepared to launch a five-year plan to establish it?

We are in fact being tied down by our own attitudes, believing that China's government is the possessor of Chinese culture. Recognizing the sources of our culture means recognizing that we are dependent on Chinese culture. That China itself proclaims the same thing doesn't matter. If we wanted to analyze the matter in detail, we would ask whether the "people's government" has been more constructive or more destructive towards Chinese culture during its 50-odd years in power. I think there would be a lot of counting to be done before we could settle that account.

Chinese culture is the sum of several thousand years of accumulated history. Each generation, on either side of the Taiwan Strait, are only passersby who are steeped in that culture. What we inherit will not disappear just because we don't recognize it. Try as you might, you cannot rid yourself of your culture, nor can anyone steal it from you. If this country can succeed in becoming seen as the accepted representative of Chinese culture, then how could another country claim to be the suzerain of Chinese culture? Culture does not mean having more historic relics or sites.

We have the luckiest opportunity in history: to win the position of guardian of Chinese culture, but are we willing to do so?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ian_Lee

Actually even the cultural products exported by Mainland China to overseas Chinese community are all wrapped up in traditional script.

For example, if you go rent some VCDs of CCTV drama at Chinatown store, most likely the subtitles that they carry are in traditional script.

I guess that the VCDs should have also version of subtitle in simplified script. But those Chinatown store owners would just import those versions with Traditional script subtitle because even though their customer is quite broadbased, they would just order one version that all customers can understand the subtitle -- traditional script.

Actually even foreign media products do so too. The "Dae Jang Geum" that I borrow in State Library exported by Korea's MBS to overseas market just carry two kinds of subtitles -- English and traditional Chinese.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
novemberfog

Japanese do not write library as 圖書館, but as 図書館. Which is really fun because in the simplified it is written 图书馆. So there you go, three ways to write library. Granted the traditional and Japanese versions look more alike than the simplified one. Japanese tends to use more traditional character forms than simplified, but they still use quite a bit of simplified (i.e. 學->学, 變->变, et cetera).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ian_Lee

There are other drawbacks in the simplified script:

http://www.ettoday.com/2006/04/06/142-1925257.htm

This article listed that:

(1) It will get confused during translation with Japanese Kanji;

(2) Many people from Mainland, even Chinese language students in university, don't know how to change from simplified script to traditional script.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
(2) Many people from Mainland, even Chinese language students in university, don't know how to change from simplified script to traditional script.
Most people I've met in the Mainland tell me that they have no problem reading traditional scripts since they see so much in subtitles to HK movies.

Those from Taiwan, however, have very little exposure to simplified characters and have a hard time reading texts from the mainland, at least initially.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...