Learning Mandarin #003: Deciphering Chinese…
What is ‘Traditional’ Chinese and how does it differ from ‘Simplified’ Chinese?
The language of Chinese has been around for over 2000 years, and just like how Shakespearean English has evolved (or arguably devolved) into the English we speak today Chinese has adapted with the times. Traditional Chinese is the Chinese that has been used for all this time, but in the 1950s when the new Government came into power in China (yeah… Chinese politics is messy - I’ll explain in another post if you’re interested in knowing more!) they promoted the use of Simplified Chinese which is a shortened form of Traditional Chinese - like how ‘example’ can be shortened into ‘e.g.’.
If you look at the photo above see how much simpler it looks! However, some characters have been so simplified that it’s hard to convert it back into traditional which is why they are considered two different forms of writing! Note: Not every single character in the dictionary has been shortened! Some characters are the same in both.
- Majority of China: Speaks Mandarin, and reads and writes in Simplified Chinese
- Hong Kong and Macau, (Special Administrative Regions of China - to be explained another time!): Speaks Cantonese (another dialect of Chinese), and read and writes in Traditional Chinese
- Taiwan (again, not a part of China… it’s getting political now so again I’ll explain in another post!): Speaks Mandarin, and reads and writes in Traditional Chinese.
What is Cantonese?
In Hong Kong they talk in a different dialect known as Cantonese, so they pronounce things differently to Mandarin speakers. This means if you want to speak Cantonese, do not learn pinyin! Instead, they use something called ‘jyutping’ - it’s essentially the same as pinyin as it romanizes traditional characters into something us Westerners (see I don’t even classify myself as Asian!) can read but into the Cantonese dialect. Since I was never formally taught Cantonese I don’t know what the jyutping is for ‘country’ in example above but I think it sounds like ‘gok’, like Gok Wan, but perhaps with not so much emphasis on the ‘k’.