Simplified Chinese vs Traditional Chinese Translation.

Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese

When customers ask us for English to Chinese translation, the question we generally ask back to them is “do you need simplified Chinese or traditional Chinese”?

Many are not sure which one is suitable for their document(s). The right choice – if there is one to be made (see below) - mainly depends on the localization of the target audience. Simplified Chinese (中文) is officially used in Mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia, while traditional Chinese (繁體中文) is officially used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Overseas Chinese community has traditionally used the traditional character forms, although simplified Chinese is gaining more and more popularity as more mainlanders expatriate abroad.

Simplified Chinese is derived from traditional Chinese and many characters are the same in simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.  

To provide an example see how “Hong Kong International Airport” is written in:

So can Chinese readers understand both simplified and traditional Chinese? To simplify things, let’s say that traditional Chinese readers may be able to understand (with some guess work) a text written in simplified Chinese, but that may be much more challenging for simplified Chinese readers to understand a text written with traditional character forms.

To answer the initial question, we would recommend translating both in simplified and traditional Chinese to reach a greater audience, unless your document, website or software is only aimed at one particular zone or group.

It should also be noted that mandarin is not simplified Chinese and Cantonese is not traditional Chinese. Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken languages. A text written in traditional Chinese can be read in Mandarin and Cantonese and mandarin can be written in either simplified or traditional Chinese. For example, mandarin is spoken in both Mainland China and Taiwan, but the former uses simplified Chinese and the latter traditional Chinese.

What about your website translation?

The main issue here is to make sure the Chinese characters are rendered properly.

Normally, Big-5 encoding is used for traditional Chinese and GB2312 is the preferred encoding for simplified Chinese.  The Chinese authorities started to push for a new standard GB18030 some years ago which supports both traditional and simplified ideograms but it has not taken much traction.

This article uses HTML entities (UTF-16) to display traditional and simplified Chinese ideograms. For example, 中 is coded internally as 中 This allows to mix different languages in one webpage.

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