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Jamie

Simplified vs. Traditional

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Jamie

When starting out learning Chinese it seemed to me that traditional characters were a lot more common. For that reason (and a few others) I decided it would be a smart move to focus on learning traditional characters first. However, as time goes on I'm seeing a lot more simplified characters everywhere, in print and in educational software...

So which do you prefer to use, and why? What would you recommend a beginner to learn first? And do you think that a person should try to learn both?

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Guest Yinyue Mike

This is always a difficult question! :shock:

It is true that if your eventual goal is to learn both traditional and simplified characters it is better to learn traditional first, because the simplifications seem more intuitive than trying to learn them in reverse. Learning characters is a long process, though, so this might be a little idealistic--you'll need to prioritize.

First--think about how you want to use Chinese. If you want to go to China or use your Chinese with people from mainland China, learn simplified characters. Most textbooks, dictionaries, etc., published internationally use simplified characters, it's also used in the U.N., etc. If you want to use your Chinese in Taiwan or Hong Kong, learn traditional characters.

I'm not sure what level you're at, but in the beginning I found it's best to focus on speaking and listening, learning as many characters as you find fun, but not so many you get discouraged.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Mike

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Guest cavebear

there is absolutely no need to learn traditional character.

I never learn any traditional character. Yet I have no problem at all reading any newpaper or book from HK and Taiwan.

And I can tell for sure that Traditional Character has NO FUTURE.

Although I went through the most strict and formal training in Chinese when I was young, I can hardly hand write a letter to my mom and dad.

That tells how rediculously complex the writing system is.

Make it simple, for GOD's sake.

With the Chinese input in my PC I composed reasonably good essays, poems, novels.

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Ian_Lee

Usually the simplified script is more reserved for those having learning difficulty.

For smart people like Mao Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping or Jiang Zemin, they all wrote in traditional script and signed autograph in traditional script even though they asked their countrymen to learn the simplified script.

So it all depends on your learning ability.

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quanxie

I am in the field of medicine and find that I must learn traditional script... Many of the medical characters have lost part of their meaning during the simplification process... I still do not understand some of the reasoning behind the simplification process...

Phil

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Guest cavebear
Usually the simplified script is more reserved for those having learning difficulty.

For smart people like Mao Mao Zedong' date=' Deng Xiaoping or Jiang Zemin, they all wrote in traditional script and signed autograph in traditional script even though they asked their countrymen to learn the simplified script.

So it all depends on your learning ability.[/quote']

I guess it's because they learnt traditional characters at young age and kept using them all their life.

I learned simplified characters as a child and was writing well before going to college. Over the last 10 years I have been using computers to input the charaters with PINYIN.

I used to believe that things you learn at young age won't be forgotten. But it is not 100% true.

The writing of Chinese may be considered an art now in IT era, instead of a necessary tool to survive in Chinese world.

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skylee

Jamie, take Mike's advice. Although personally I would tell you to learn traditional characters.

What Phil says is also worth considering -- sometimes part of the meaning of a traditional character is lost in the simplification process.

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Jamie

So in mainland China simplified characters are what are primarily used for newspapers and magazines, road signs, product instructions, etc?

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Ian_Lee

Jamie:

It all depends on where you plan to stay.

In most big Mainland cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen or Shanghai, many people will understand if you write in traditional script.

But probably most people will not understand if you use simplified script when you are in Hong Kong or Taiwan.

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roddy
So in mainland China simplified characters are what are primarily used for newspapers and magazines, road signs, product instructions, etc?

Absolutely. The only exception is when someone wants to make something look artistic - you might get traditional characters on a restaurant sign for example.

But probably most people will not understand if you use simplified script when you are in Hong Kong or Taiwan.

I'm surprised by that - I would have thought the simplified script would have been at least mostly understandable to people who know the traditional characters.

I'd take Skylee's advice :wink:

Roddy

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Ian_Lee

Again it depends on whether you want to refreshen your Chinese after you go home.

In US, almost all the Chinese newspapers are printed in traditional script -- even including those PRC mouthpieces. Almost all the Chinese magazines you can find on the library shelves are printed in traditional script -- even including those printed in Mainland China but targeted at overseas circulation.

Outside Mainland China, traditional script is more popular -- even our friends from Mainland China all learn to pick up the traditional script when they are overseas.

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Ian_Lee

Roddy:

I guess many people in HK and Taiwan suffer "simplified script sydrome". I know many people got dizziness after continuously reading 3-4 pages article in simplified script (including me and my wife).

In HK and Taiwan, many youths don't understand simplified script. The reason? Very simple. Schools don't teach. There are already so many subjects in school and why waste the time on simplified script?

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Quest
There are already so many subjects in school and why waste the time on simplified script?

I don't think it's a waste of time to learn the simplified script. Is there "traditional script syndrome"? :D

anyways, simplified or traditional? I don't understand why people keep asking this question. I mean it's really common sense, you learn what you need to learn. Learn simplified if you are going to mainland China, and learn traditional if you are going to Taiwan or Hongkong. If you learn it for fun, learn both. Once you master one version, the other would be a snap. If you don't even know mainland China uses the simplified script exclusively, I would say it might be too early for you to learn either one of the scripts.

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Jive Turkey
I'm surprised by that - I would have thought the simplified script would have been at least mostly understandable to people who know the traditional characters.

In my opinion, most HK/Taiwanese who say they can't read simplified materials are being pretentious tossers. I know plenty of HK or Taiwanese living on the mainland who would agree with me. Understandably, HK/Taiwanese people just don't want to extend the mainlanders the respect that goes with recognizing commie characters as an acceptable way to write. They should be able to understand, though. If I can figure out what most commie characters are from context, then HKers and Taiwanese should be able to do the same. Sure, people will come across a few characters they don't recognize or be stumped when they see a simplified character with no context. However, when I hear HKers or Taiwanese complain that they can't read commie Chinese, I think it tells more about their own cultural arrogance than about their ability to read simplified characters. I'm not particularly fond of simplified characters, but I don't feign stupidity just to show my disdain for them. If you don't like simplified characters, don't play stupid or give attitude to mainlanders. Just tell them that they'll learn how to write proper Chinese again once the ROC liberates the mainland. :)

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Jamie
I don't understand why people keep asking this question.

(Is that not what this forum is for??) A lot of people who have not been to China and have not been immersed in the Chinese culture likely don't innately know which is used for what. Everyone begins at their own level of knowledge and works their way up. I asked the question because I did not know the answer. Just because it is obvious to you doesn't mean it is to someone else.

If you don't even know mainland China uses the simplified script exclusively, I would say it might be too early for you to learn either one of the scripts.

I absolutely disagree. One has to figure these things out somehow. I am constantly learning new things every day about the language AND the culture, and have no intention of pausing my education of the characters simply because I don't know enough (as someone else thinks I should) about the culture.

Anyway, I have enough gumption to make up for my present lack of knowledge, and I know that with determination anything is possible. I hope to find people here to be able to help me out along the journey.

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Quest

Jamie, not to be rude, but if you have no idea where/what you will be using the characters for, then it really does not matter which script you learn. you might as well learn both for fun.

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roddy
if you have no idea where/what you will be using the characters for, then it really does not matter which script you learn. you might as well learn both for fun.

I wouldn't recommend trying to learn both unless you really like confusing yourself - get one under your belt then worry about the other.

As to which one - if you really have no preference, and you have no idea where you might use your Chinese, I would advise you to look at the resources you'll be using - textbooks / available reading material - and use whatever they use.

In this case you say you've already started with traditional - so unless there's a good reason to change, I'd stick with that.

Good luck

Roddy

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smithsgj

> In my opinion, most HK/Taiwanese who say they can't read simplified materials are being pretentious tossers.

I'd agree with that. The simplified versions are systematic on the whole, and most of the time affect the radical in a uniform and predictable way. What's more, in Taiwan characters are often informally simplified, so that they take exactly the same form as the "official" simplifications of China. And some other simplified forms, like dong (east) and men (gate), are found in traditional calligraphy, I believe.

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Guest timc18

Coming from Taiwan, I have to say..simplified chinese is very hard to read for me. Honestly speaking, I can probably read only half of a simplified chinese article, or less. I just scanned through the chinese idioms on this forum and I couldn't make out more than half of the idioms because they were mostly written in simplified script. If I come across something on the internet written in simplified chinese, I will not be able to read it comprehensibly without using a translator (http://chinagate.yam.com/).

Of course, I can make out some simplified characters like the 后 in 時候..but i really do not understand this simplification..only the sound is the same. 后 should mean queen and has nothing to do with time. So when I come across 后 in a simplified article, my brain automatically thinks about a queen, and not about time. This really screws up my comprehension of the text sometimes.

I also read an article online somewhere about China's educated class reverting back to the traditional script. Beijing University has many of its signs written in traditional script now. So, I'm guessing China will eventually go back to using the traditional script when it becomes wealthier and people get a better education. Otherwise, how will they study ancient chinese literature without being able to read the traditional characters that were used in china until rather recently (when the communist party took over)

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Ian_Lee

It seems timc18 suffers the same "simplified script sydrome" as I do.

Actually there is another phenomenon of "Good language replaces bad language". In many places outside Mainland China, the traditional script will naturally take over the simplified script if there is no government decree.

Go to any Chinatowns in the world. Be it Yokohama, Bangkok, London, Toronto, San Francisco,.....etc., all the shop signs and even menus in the Chinese restaurants are written in the traditional script even though the Mainland Chinese may constitute the majority of immigrants there.

Actually even in Shenzhen where traditional and simplified scripts interact, I would say over half of the shop signs have switched into traditional script now.

Over the long term, simplified script may be only prevalent in Mainland's rural area where many people have learning difficulty.

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