Deciding whether to use Simplified or Traditional Chinese for your next translation project can be confusing. We have outlined the differences between the two languages to help make your decision easier. A good rule of thumb for deciding between the two languages is to consider where your target audience lives.
Simplified Chinese characters are used in mainland China (PRC) and in Singapore. If you want to reach an audience in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Malaysia you would use the Traditional Chinese method of writing. Chinese is encoded or typed using double-byte characters, which is the established code per the ISO standardization. Two different codes are used for computing in Chinese: Traditional Chinese characters use Big 5 and Simplified characters use GB, which translates to “Government Standard.”
Simplified Chinese characters (简化字; jiǎnhuàzì) are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with Traditional Chinese characters, it is one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People’s Republic of China in mainland China has promoted Simplified characters for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s in an attempt to increase literacy. They are officially used in the People’s Republic of China and Singapore.
Traditional Chinese characters (Traditional Chinese: 正體字/繁體字; Simplified Chinese: 正体字/繁体字; Pinyin: Zhèngtǐzì/Fántĭzì) are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Macau. The modern shapes of Traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty and have been more or less stable since the 5th century (during the Southern and Northern Dynasties).
While Traditional characters can still be read and understood by many mainland Chinese communities and the Chinese communities in Malaysia and Singapore, these groups generally retain the use of Simplified characters. Overseas Chinese communities generally tend to use Traditional characters.
Mandarin is the official state-spoken language of China and is the lingua franca of the country. Mandarin is also the main dialect in Taiwan and Singapore.
Cantonese is spoken by the people of Hong Kong, Macau, and the wider Guangdong province, including Guangzhou (previously Canton in English).
Both the written script and spoken dialect you choose will depend on where your target audience is located.