SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

What Is the Difference between Simplified and Traditional Chinese?

[fa icon="calendar"] June 24, 2014 / by the SimulTrans Team

China is a rapidly growing market for many SimulTrans customers. Only a few years ago, into-Chinese translation accounted for a relatively small share of our total projects. However, in more recent years, Simplified Chinese in particular has started to feature among the top 5 languages handled by our team! If you’re planning to have your products, documents and international websites translated into Chinese, the first step is to identify which written form of Chinese you require, Simplified or Traditional.  The key differences between the two versions are highlighted below:

1. Geographical differences

From a translation buyer’s perspective, the most important difference between Simplified and Traditional Chinese is that they are used in different target markets. 

Simplified Chinese is the more widely used version, as the written form of Chinese employed by a population of over 1 billion people in mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore. Traditional Chinese, although less widespread, is the written form of Chinese used by some 30 million people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.sp 

Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese are not to be confused with Mandarin and Cantonese, which are spoken variants of Chinese. When you translate software or documentation, you only need to focus on the written Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. However if your software or website has an audio component, you will need to decide whether this is to be recorded in Cantonese or Mandarin, depending on your target market. SimulTrans can arrange this audio recording for you, either using our own on-site facilities and voice talent or through our trusted partners in China. 

The table below gives a simple overview of key target markets and the Chinese language versions used:  

Country/Region Written Language Spoken Language
Mainland China Simplified Chinese Mandarin (Putonghua)
Taiwan Traditional Chinese Mandarin (Putonghua)
Hong Kong Traditional Chinese Cantonese
Singapore Simplified Chinese Mandarin (Putonghua)

2. Linguistic differences

Simplified Chinese was introduced in the 1950s in the People’s Republic of China as part of language reforms to increase literacy. As the name suggests, it’s a simplified version of Traditional Chinese: the reforms decreased the number of strokes by an average of one half and simplified the forms of a sizable proportion of traditional Chinese characters. This simplified character set appears in all print media in Mainland China and Singapore. Over time, the two language versions have also diverged in terms of vocabulary and grammar. Modern terms such as ‘software’ or ‘network’ have different translations in Simplified Chinese (SCH) and Traditional Chinese (TCH) respectively:

a) ‘Software’

SCH: 软件

TCH: 軟體

b) ‘Network’

SCH: 网络

TCH: 網路

c) ‘What’s the difference between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese?’

SCH: 简体中文和繁体中文的区别是什么?

TCH: 簡體中文和繁體中文有什麼分別 

3. Price difference

Translation word rates from English into Traditional Chinese are currently slightly higher than into Simplified Chinese, due to higher procurement costs for Traditional Chinese. There are automated tools that can attempt to adapt Simplified Chinese to Traditional Chinese and vice versa, but we recommend human editing rather than this approach if a reasonable or high quality standard is required. Our project managers can advise you on the most cost-efficient and practical solution.



Topics: Translation Services

the SimulTrans Team

Written by the SimulTrans Team

SimulTrans provides software, document, and website localization services, translating text into over 100 languages. Established in 1984, SimulTrans has enabled thousands of businesses to provide high-quality content to their international customers. Management ownership allows an exclusive focus on customers and quality, as exemplified by ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 certifications. In addition to its headquarters in Mountain View, California, SimulTrans has offices in Boston, Dublin, London, Paris, Bonn, and Tokyo.