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Traditional or Simplified chinese characters?


After I learn pinyin, should I learn Traditional or Simplified chinese characters?

For learning: Chinese (Mandarin)
Base language: English
Category: Culture


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    As an American of Taiwanese descent, I have a preference for traditional Chinese characters. However, for ease of learning and for pragmatic reasons, I would suggest learning the simplified characters first.

    The traditional characters are used only in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and the overseas Chinese diaspora. Knowing the traditional characters will also give you instant access to 99% of the Japanese kanji in current use. The simplified characters are used in China, Malaysia, and Singapore. However, just the sheer number of simplified Chinese characters argues for its use by a foreign learner of Chinese. China has a population of 1.35 billion, Taiwan and Hong Kong combined have approximately 30 million.

    Simplified characters are also known as "simplified" exactly because the number of strokes per character has been reduced. This makes for easier learning for the non-native speaker.

    Once you have learned the simplified system, you can then proceed to learn the traditional script, which in my opinion, is a much more beautiful writing system, and opens your world to thousands of years of Chinese history and literature (although with computer technology, you can easily switch between scripts in electronic media).

    Example of a famous Chinese poem in traditional script:


    Same poem in simplified script


    In sum, once you have learned the simplified script, you can proceed relatively easily to the traditional script.

    I know only a LITTLE Chinese, but I suggest that you learn the simplifed characters first.

    But when you have time, also learn the traditional characters, because if you know the traditional characters, then sometimes you can guess what the simplified characters mean.

    Here in the United States, most people still prefer the traditional characters. But little by little, more people are using the simplified characters.

    In my opinion, the traditional characters are very beautiful.

    (I have read that today's traditional characters were once the simplified characters of many, many years ago!!!)

    Learning simplified characters first is definitely the easier option, and I think the most logical. You can learn simplified radicals which the characters are made up of (for example 乌), and then once you know these, the traditional equivalents are often recognisable (烏).

    I can read about 2000 simplified characters now and the gradual transition from simplified to traditional is actually going much easier than I had anticipated. Once you can read enough of a text to understand the context, your brain can kind of fill in the blanks so to speak for a lot of traditional characters. (A bit like how this works: S1M1L4RLY, Y0UR M1ND 15 R34D1NG 7H15 4U70M471C4LLY W17H0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17).

    There are of course many tricky traditional characters that need to be studied and memorised, but I find these extremely interesting since they have retained the cultural richness that has been lost with the simplified script. Either way, learning Chinese characters is a joy ^^ Good luck!


    Depends on where you want to go. If you want to go to Japan, Taiwan, or Hong Kong for study and travel then choose traditional. If you want to go to mainland China or Singapore, then choose simplified. Someone here pointed out Japanese includes traditional characters from China, so when you go to Japan you will be able to read quite a lot of signs there.

    My opinion might be completely clashing with the above three commenters' suggestions.

    I've been studying Chinese for 6 or so years now, taking two years of simplified in high school (though high school is a joke), then 2 years of traditional in college followed by another 2 years of simplified in college.

    Although the initial learning curve is slightly higher for traditional than with simplified, transitioning from traditional --> simplified is a hell of a lot easier than simplified --> traditional. Traditional preserves many of the chinese radicals that got booted out of preference for boosting reading / writing / overall literacy rates in China.

    Whenever I read traditional, I can almost always guess the meaning of a character just from its parts if I don't recognize it, but with simplified there are far fewer distinctions. Also, the simplifications of Simplified Chinese sometimes don't make much sense, or they are incomplete. Examples...

    登 [deng1] is a good example, as it represents the sound in these three characters:

    燈 [deng1] --> 灯 the 登 part gets simplified into 丁 [ding1]
    瞪 [deng4] --> 瞪 the part remains unchanged
    鄧 [deng4] --> 邓 the part gets simplified into 又 [you4]

    And for minute distinctions with simplified characters...
    於 [yu2] --> 于
    干 [gan4] --> 干 stays the same, but looks similar to above at quick glance
    乾 [gan2] --> 干 As a result this assigns two meanings to '干'

    無 [wu2] --> 无
    天 --> 天 stays the same, but looks similar to the above at quick glance

    Stupid simplifications:
    沒有 --> 没有
    夠 --> 够

    There are plenty of other examples where simplified has made things more complicated, I'm just too lazy to look for them all right now. In short, traditional = harder learning curve, but makes more sense. Simplified = slightly easier on the eyes and easier to learn, but rather illogical at times.


    I should say most of Chinese characters are same, there only minority has different with traditional or simplified. You may learn the one you need, and in the future you could learn the different in you need.

    it might have some thing related to the aethetic senses as some people said, yet since I'm no artist, so no comments on that aspect...

    however, really, I don't think the formation of either S or T has anything to do with the thousands of years of Chinese history/Culture...

    "you should see the moon which the finger's pointing at, instead of merely focusing on the finger"

    “meanings slough off images, images slough off words”


    Words are merely vessels... so it's only a matter of preference... or pragmatic issue...

    if you plan to go to China -- learn Simplified
    if Taiwan and Hong Kong -- learn Traditional

    The Simplified chinese characters enough ! Our country general simplified Chinese !

    " the simpled is more easily to learn and understand "
    不盡然 簡體字過於省略 造成 形近字 大量孳生

    " I don't think the formation of either S or T has anything to do with the thousands of years of Chinese history/Culture..."

    這裡每個人都從 空間上思考問題 而且也都不完全
    不如從歷史 文化與國際關係的角度再觀察看看

    簡體 : 正體
    境內使用人口之比 : 中國 13億 : 台灣 2300萬
    海外使用人口之比 : 東南亞 + 海外新橋社? : 日 韓 越 + 海外舊橋社 ?
    歷史長度比 : 60 年 (1953) : ~ 2564 (BC551 孔子誕生) 或至遲 2215 年~ (BC202漢朝建立)
    境內累積經典文獻與書法繪畫藝術比 : 0 : 1
    海外累積經典文獻與書法繪畫藝術比 : 0 : 1 (日 韓 越等漢字文化圈內國家)

    沒有 改為 没有 是忽視中國文字學的錯誤
    而漢字簡化最大敗筆 是
    1 中國人視漢字為一國獨有獨享
    而忽略了 漢字其實也是其東亞漢字文化圈內國家的文化載體 此一事實
    推行簡化漢字 切斷了與他國的文化聯繫
    2 推行漢字 同時也斬斷了 中國人自己的文化傳承臍帶

    但是 無論如何 無庸置疑的是 正簡字各擅一場 建議擇爾所好而學

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