Where are traditional Chinese characters used today?

Order a Chinese translation: traditional or simplified?

Which Chinese do you want to translate into? Are there differences that have to be considered for a Chinese translation, and how should one generally adapt to this market? With this article we want to try to shed some light on the “Far Eastern” darkness. Countless German companies have business relationships with China, and the number is growing almost every day. The People's Republic of China has developed into one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In connection with this development, the demand for Translations into and from Chinese.

The Chinese script

The Chinese writing system is the same everywhere, but the spoken variants differ greatly between north and south. This would be comparable to Standard German, which is understood everywhere in Germany, and the dialects of Bavarian and Low German, whose speakers will not understand each other.

The Chinese script has a total of around 100,000 characters. In everyday life you can get by with around 3,000 to 5,000 characters; reading a newspaper requires around 7,000 Chinese characters. Be there two standard briefs differentiated, the traditional and the simplified writing system. Choosing the right variant depends on the market or country of your target group that you want to reach.

Simplified Chinese translation:

This simplified Chinese ("Simplified Chinese") is used today in the People's Republic of China (Mainland) and by people of Chinese origin in Singapore used.

Translation in traditional Chinese:

The traditional character set ("Traditional Chinese") continues to be used outside of the main Chinese country; H. in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.


Are there big differences between the traditional and simplified writing systems?

In the mid-1950s, people in the People's Republic of China wanted to make literacy easier and simplified the characters in traditional Chinese, which can consist of up to 33 single strokes. The aim was to ensure that both foreigners and less educated people from their own population could memorize the Chinese characters more easily and thus learn to write and read.

A simplified version with fewer single lines per character was developed for over 2000 characters. The number of bars per character has been reduced by about half.


Which Chinese should I specify when ordering a German-Chinese translation?

Since there are significant differences between the two fonts, it is best to specify when ordering a Chinese translation for which destination country this is intended. It is important that the customer knows their target audience for the translation in order to use the correct Chinese characters accordingly. Here is a brief overview:

  • Mainland China (PR China) and Singapore -> Simplified Chinese
  • Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau–>Traditional Chinese


Can you translate into Mandarin or is it a dialect?

The "Spoken" Chinese contains 7 main languages ​​as well as numerous dialects. These languages ​​are very different from each other and are often called Dialects the Chinese language because (except for Cantonese) no generally accepted written language to have.

Mandarin has the largest share of all Chinese languages ​​with over 70% distribution. This is based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin (North Chinese) Mandarin or (modern) Standard Chinesewhich is known simply as "the Chinese" or "Chinese".

Similar to written German: Spoken German and written German also differ significantly. There are various local dialects in Germany, including, for example, Bavarian, Alemannic, Franconian or Hessian, and other dialects are much older than that Standard German, which was increasingly used as a standard language for communication in everyday life. German is therefore an umbrella term for various dialects that are not used in writing or primarily spoken.


Is Cantonese also a Chinese language?

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China officially has Chinese as its official language (Cantonese and Standard Chinese) and English.

The Cantonese language is a Chinese language and is mainly spoken in southern China. Cantonese is much better known than other Chinese languages ​​or dialect groups, as Hong Kong plays an important economic role in the world. In addition, Cantonese has its own written form, which today is mainly based on Hong Kong and Macau concentrated.

As a British colony, Hong Kong was less of the standardization of the up Mandarin based written language affected, so today's Standard or Mandarin Chinese. British colonization thus isolated the Cantonese speakers of Hong Kong from mainland Mandarin Chinese. That's how it went written Cantonese with many characters that cannot be found in standard Chinese. Standard Chinese and Cantonese differ significantly in terms of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.

The majority of the population in Hong Kong speaks Cantonese. However, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan will still continue traditional characters used.

Hong Kong has not been a British colony since 1997, and Mandarin has been spoken there more and more since then. Standard Chinese has established itself strongly in recent decades through increased integration with the mainland.


Short excursion into the history of the Chinese language

With around 1.2 billion speakers, the Chinese language is the most widely spoken language in the world, ranking ahead of English and Spanish. The Chinese script is around 3500 years old, the oldest characters found date from around 1400 BC. At that time there were already around 1500 different characters. These were similar to pictograms or symbols that represented objects.

Even today, many characters in modern Chinese are derived or expanded from these pictorial symbols and connected with other symbols. So one connected z. B. the character for "tree" with a rising "sun" behind it to create the character for "east".

It is assumed that there was originally a uniform language, the language of the Han Chinese from prehistoric times, from which separate language branches developed due to regional isolation and geographical peculiarities. The large plains in the north of the country favored the spread of the northern Chinese language variants, while the mountainous region in the south, criss-crossed by rivers, encouraged the diversification of the language. In addition, a supra-regional language can be recognized in each Chinese dynasty, i. H. the language of the respective capital was spread in the rest of the country by the officials, traders and scholars, but not nationwide and uniformly.

It was not until the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty that Mandarin or today's Old Mandarin, the language of officials, was spread as a general standard language. This is based on the northern language variants, since Beijing became the capital at that time. In the course of strengthening national awareness, the demand for a common language, which should be spread uniformly throughout the country, became more urgent.

In 1913 a "National Conference for the Unification of Pronunciation" took place, on which uniform pronunciation standards were established, whereby the Beijing pronunciation with southern phonetic peculiarities was decided to democratically settle the dispute between northern and southern language variants. In 1924, the Beijing pronunciation was established as the standard.

Writing reform in the People's Republic of China

In 1955, after the founding of the People's Republic of China, the "National Conference on Writing Reform" took place. It was about spreading the general Chinese language and promoting linguistic diversity, i.e. H. the retention of dialects is discussed. The so-called Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 did not exactly have a beneficial effect on the development of the language. The Chinese constitution then laid down the "nationally used general language" in 1982, the Mandarinthat on the Mandarin or the Mandarin dialect of Beijing as the standard language for all parts of the country.

In addition to standard Chinese, there are nine other Chinese languages, e. B. Cantonese or Wu, each with many millions of speakers.



Not all Chinese are the same. It must be considered for the respective target group or the target country which language or script variant is to be used.

Techni-Translate translation agency specializes in Chinese translations. Our Chinese translators know the culture and peculiarities of the Chinese language in their home country. We would be happy to advise you, our linguistic and technical competence in the Chinese language makes us the perfect partner for German-Chinese translations.


Your Techni-Translate team


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