• Continental Interpreting

Chinese Document Translations: Simplified Chinese vs. Traditional Chinese

Updated: May 19

Traditional Vs. Simplified Chinese


Chinese is the second most requested language  for document translation services at our company each year.  However, our clients often pose the question of whether their documents should be translated into Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese.  Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer because it depends on the demographics and location of the target audience who will be reading the document; as well as how the document will be used.


Basic Differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese


Simplified Chinese was a new writing system derived from Traditional Chinese characters in the early to mid-20th century.  This new system was created to promote popular literacy in China – as Simplified Chinese characters required fewer strokes and generally made it easier and more efficient to learn.


Why Audience Matters


When requesting Chinese translation services, it is important for translators to understand who will be reading the final document.  In order to provide your audience with the best possible translation, it’s essential to first identify the readers’ region or country of origin.  Then, and most importantly, the translator will consider the audience’s background to determine whether a document is best translated into Simplified or Traditional Chinese.


For example, Chinese translations are vastly different if you’re communicating with an audience in mainland China versus one in Hong Kong or Taiwan.  When communicating with people in The People’s Republic of China (commonly known as mainland China), Singapore, and Malaysia – we are going to want to focus on Simplified Chinese translation. Adversely, we will often use Traditional Chinese, for areas such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.


Why Expertise in Chinese Translations Matter


If you’re uncertain of which version of Chinese is best for your audience, there’s no reason to make the determination on your own.  When working with a professional language translation company, such as Continental Interpreting Services, you’ll have access to an expert in Chinese translations who will guide you through the process of deciding whether you need Traditional or Simplified Chinese translation.  Our language specialists work to help determine the important details to ensure a properly translated document.


What About Mandarin and Cantonese Translations


Since Mandarin and Cantonese are two of the most common dialects of spoken Chinese, many assume they are different when written.  In fact, the main differences between the two dialects are mostly found in their spoken forms.  This means that Mandarin and Cantonese speakers can generally communicate through writing because of the standard Chinese writing system.


In more casual language use, there are differences that might occur between the dialects, including the diction and vocabulary that is unique to the dialect or country of origin.  However, the basic message would still be understood.  An example w