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How many types of Chinese are there?

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One of the most common mistakes people make when asking for Chinese translation is that they get dialects mixed up with written forms of language.

When we get a request for Chinese translation and we ask which kind the customer would like, the answer we often are given is “Mandarin”. While Mandarin is most definitely a Chinese language and one of the most common spoken it’s not a written form of the language.

Traditional and Simplified Chinese

There are two written forms of Chinese – Traditional and Simplified.

Simplified Chinese was developed by the Communist Government in an attempt to improve the literacy rate in the population. It was thought that the Traditional Chinese had too many characters to learn and that was holding back the progress of the nation. So, Simplified Chinese was adapted from the traditional form and has far fewer characters.

But which Chinese do you need?

Somewhat confusingly both written forms are still used in China, and the style used depends on which part of China you live in. So when choosing which Chinese to use you really need to know where the document will be used.

Most commonly Simplified Chinese is used near Beijing and the surrounding areas as this is where the Communist Government had more influence. At the outlying edges, Hong Kong for example, traditional Chinese is still widely used.

Recently the Chinese Government has made moves to try to phase out Traditional Chinese in favour of Simplified, so going forward that will have more use.

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