Overwhelming as it could be, regardless of whether you have prior knowledge of the language or not; Ethnologue states that China has 297 living languages. These languages are spoken by 56 recognized ethnic groups. Before delving further into this subject, it is necessary to understand that Simplified and Traditional Chinese are terms used for the writing system, i.e. Chinese characters.
Various pictorial writing systems have existed in China, throughout its history of ruling dynasties. This situation changed, when during the Han Dynasty, there were efforts made to stabilize, perhaps, standardize the written as well as spoken Chinese language, in order to create uniformity and structure in the country. This is why, Chinese characters are known as Hanzi (汉字).
The distinction between traditional and simplified characters came about during 1950’s when the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC) introduced Simplified Chinese aiming to improve the literacy rate as well as to gain consistency in government operations. Whereas, the Republic of China (ROC), retained the usage of Traditional Chinese, which was more or less, in the same form, since Han Dynasty.
Traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau whereas; Simplified Chinese is used in Mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia. Below is an example of how the word ‘China’ is written in these two forms –
Coming now to spoken Chinese language, it is to be understood that there are many spoken dialects in China, but the standard form is known as Mandarin (Putonghua) and is spoken by nearly 70% of the population. It is also spoken in Taiwan and Singapore, although Taiwan uses Traditional Chinese characters. The other spoken form often found to be differentiated from Mandarin, is Cantonese. This is primarily spoken in Hongkong, Macau as well as in a few provinces of Mainland China.
These two distinctions play a major role when it comes to understanding Chinese text or when you want to associate with the Chinese for business purposes. While planning to merge with Chinese companies, it is important to understand the location, which would then enable you to understand the language that needs to be used for English – Chinese Translation as while dealing with them, it is vital to follow their business etiquettes.
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