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Lesson Transcript


Hi, everybody! Olivia here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Cantonese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are Simplified and Traditional characters? Do I need to learn both?
In 1949 the Chinese government introduced and promoted simplified Chinese to improve literacy rates. Mainland China adopted the modern version of simplified characters, while Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan continued to use the traditional script. If you can read traditional characters, you can easily learn the simplified form used on the mainland, but not vice versa.
Let's get into more details. Which one should you learn, Simplified or Traditional?
Learning simplified Chinese is more suitable if you stay in Mainland China or Singapore, since simplified characters are used in these regions. On the other hand, traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan and are necessary to learn if you live there.
The traditional form of Chinese is the older and more classical form, and this is the form used in the most famous and best pieces of Chinese literature and Chinese Calligraphy.
Though complex, it is really a work of art that builds tens of thousands of characters representing different words, developed from a few hundred simple pictographs and ideographs assembled in different combinations. In Cantonese, “traditional characters” are called 繁體字(faan4 tai2 zi6), literally "complex characters."
Parts within a character often give hints of the character's meaning or pronunciation. For example, let's look at the character 雲 (wan4) "cloud." At the top there is 雨 which means "rain", and at the bottom there's 云 which gives an hint about the pronunciation: wan4.
What about native speakers? Can they understand both Simplified and Traditional characters?
All native speakers in Hong Kong learn traditional characters at school, but most of them can easily recognize or guess the simplified form since they somewhat follow a pattern.
Here are some examples of Traditional characters and their Simplified version:
風 and 风 "wind"
後 and 后 "behind"
實 and 实 "solid"
適 and 适 "appropriate"
廣 and 广 "broad"
廳 and 厅 "hall; room"
慶 and 庆 "celebration"


How was it? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
"See you next time!", 下次見! (haa6 ci3 gin3!)