CommGap International Language Services


Simplified VS Traditional Chinese: Which one do you need and why does it make a difference?

December 20th, 2018

Not surprisingly, Chinese is one of our most requested languages. 

With over 980 million potential clients in mainland China, and another 20 million in Taiwan and Hong Kong, introducing products and services to such a wide audience can lead to great benefits. 

So, should you translate into Simplified or Traditional Chinese? Mandarin or Cantonese? What are the differences? 

The first important difference is between spoken and written languages.  

Mandarin and Cantonese refer to the spoken dialects. When choosing which form to use for a written language, you’ll need to decide between Simplified and Traditional. 

The table below should help you decide which language you need for interpreting, or for written translations, depending on the area you are targeting. 


Market  Spoken  Written 
Mainland China  Mandarin  Simplified 
Taiwan  Mandarin  Traditional 
Hong Kong  Cantonese  Traditional 
Singapore  Mandarin  Simplified 


So if you are targeting Hong Kong or Taiwan, a written translation in Traditional Chinese is the best way to go. If your target is Mainland China, then you want Simplified Chinese. Note that even though Taiwan and Hong Kong both use Traditional Chinese characters, their writing styles have significantly diverged from each other. 

What about Chinese populations living overseas? There are several factors that may determine what language these groups will use, including their ancestry, assimilation through generations, and the official policies of their home country or country of residence. Typically, Cantonese is the dominant spoken variety and the written form most often used is Traditional. However, this is evolving as more and more mainland Chinese emigrate and travel.  

Why are there two written versions, anyway? In the 1950s and 1960s, the government of mainland China, People’s Republic of China (PRC), began promoting the use of simplified characters in print to encourage literacy. The simplified characters were created by reducing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a large portion of Traditional Chinese characters. A number of rules govern the simplification of characters. Like all languages, Chinese characters have continued to evolve over time. Which written form is better? The debate between supporters from both sides is emotionally and culturally charged.  

Beware of companies that tell you they can translate into one form and simply edit for the other by changing “a few” characters here and there. Experience shows that the nuances of each dialect are best handled by native translators of each area giving them proper individual attention. 

Let CommGap help you with your next Chinese project! Contact us at or call us at 801-944-4049.