Beginners’ Chinese: a taster course
Beginners’ Chinese: a taster course

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Beginners’ Chinese: a taster course

1.5 Simplified and traditional forms of Chinese characters

In this section you will learn about traditional and simplified characters and work on some activities.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese government introduced a range of ‘simplified characters’ ( 简体字 jiăntĭ zì) in an effort to improve the literacy level in the population. About 2,000 characters have been simplified and the rest of the characters remain the same. It is useful to be aware of traditional forms (sometimes referred to as ‘complex characters’ ) ( 繁体字 făntĭ zì ), as they are still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese communities.

In most cases, the simplification of the 2000 characters involved reducing the number of strokes, while also preserving either the overall shape of the character or of one part of the character. Table 3shows some examples of characters in both simplified and traditional form, and the number of strokes that these forms comprise.

Table 3 Examples of traditional characters

简体字 jiăntĭ zì Strokes 繁体字 făntĭ zì Strokes
xué to learn 8 16
medical 7 18
mén [plural suffix to make pronouns such as ‘we’] 5 9
guó country 8 11

Now have a go at identifying simplified and traditional characters in Activity 4.

Activity 4 Identifying simplified and traditional characters

Open Google Translate in a separate browser and select Chinese (Simplified) on the left side and Chinese (Traditional) on the right side. Then copy and paste the characters from the Simplified column in Table 4 into Google Translate to see how the same word looks in traditional Chinese.

Table 4 Simplified and traditional characters

English Pinyin Simplified Traditional
to love; love ài
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book shū
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to meet jiàn
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Words: 0
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Answer

Table 4 Simplified and traditional characters (completed)

English Pinyin Simplified Traditional
to love; love ài
book shū
to meet jiàn
CHN_1

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