We all know there are two kinds of Chinese in translation industry, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. But many clients get confused about the exact languages; it is hard for them to decide which specific Chinese dialect to choose.

They often ask: is the Traditional Chinese in Hong Kong the same as the version in Taiwan? And they often make mistakes by specifying this target language: Cantonese. They think Cantonese is same as Traditional Chinese.

Several months ago, one of my clients sent me a new translation job, the service requested is to translate from Portuguese into Mandarin ZH which perhaps means Simplified Chinese, but the file name indicates as Traditional Chinese, Hong Kong. I have to confirm with the client what languages they exactly need, although there is big time difference between two sides.

Finally, the answer was coming; it is “we need the work to be translated into Traditional Chinese. Isn’t that Mandarin Chinese?” they totally mixed up the two languages (spoken and written).

In order to make thing going smoothly and get efficient communication, it is important for us to “educate” clients to understand the differences about the two languages,

But, what are the differences between these languages? Please see the below:

Simplified Chinese

Simplified Chinese is the standard written script of modern Chinese, which is comparative with Traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese is mainly composed of simplified characters which PRC advocated to use in 1950 and later. Now it is mostly used in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Chinese community in Southeast Asia.

Traditional Chinese

Long after the Chinese civil war (which caused the separation as we know), Chinese Nationalist Party retreated into Taiwan. Traditional Chinese become the official language of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.

Both of the language uses the standard Chinese grammar, so there is no big difference in expression, but there are big differences in technique glossary and terms, especially in IT field. For example, “ballpoint pen” is called by “原子笔” in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but it is called by “圆珠笔”.