Around age five, your children are ready to learn Chinese writing.
I started teaching my daughter writing Simplified Chinese Characters when she was five.
But that’s for us. You can always start early if your children are up for it.
So, when children are ready, the question is: should your children go for Simplified or Traditional Chinese writing?
It’s a great question because many non-native parents are wondering what the differences between these two types of Chinese, and which one to go for.
Before making the decision, please allow me to present you with the FACTS between these two types of writing so you can decide the one suitable for your children.
Let’s start with the…
1. Differences between simplified and traditional Chinese characters.
• Simplified Chinese characters have Fewer strokes, while
• Traditional Chinese characters have More strokes.
Check this example image on the right. The Chinese characters on the left side of the image are Simplified and the Traditional characters are on the right.
As you can see, Traditional Chinese characters are more complicated to learn as children have to memorise more strokes.
One thing worth noting though is that about 80% of simplified Chinese characters are the same as traditional Chinese characters.
Only 20% of Chinese characters approximately are simplified from traditional Chinese characters since 1956.
Although mainland Chinese don’t use traditional characters themselves, they can recognise and read most of the traditional Chinese characters if not all.
• simplified Chinese characters are used in Mainland China, overseas Chinese communities in Singapore and Malaysia, whilst
• traditional Chinese characters are used in Taiwan, Hongkong, Macau, and some some overseas Chinese communities as well.
For older Chinese who have migrated to other countries before 1956, they would prefer traditional Chinese because they haven’t learned simplified Chinese back in their days before migration.
For younger Chinese generations, I mean those who were born in Mainland China after 1956, they use simplified Chinese.
2. When and why did some traditional Chinese character change to Simplified characters?
Before 1949, all Chinese were using traditional Chinese characters although there were debates and efforts made by then Kuomintang government to simplify Chinese characters.
However, the plan was suspended and didn’t carry through until after 1949, when the People’s Republic of China (China) was established and released the 1st simplification of Chinese characters in 1956 and the 2nd version in 1964.
The reasons for such simplification on some complex characters are:
• to simplify the number of strokes required,
• to reduce the complexity and cumbersome of certain characters,
• to enable easier learning, and
• to speed up writing.
3. So, should your children learn simplified or traditional Chinese?
This is a personal preference, really.
Ultimately, it’s your answer to this million-dollar question:
where your children would be most likely using the Chinese characters in the future?
• Would it be in Mainland China or Singapore etc. where Simplified Chinese characters are used for writing, or
• Would it be in Taiwan and Hong Kong where Traditional Chinese is used?
Obviously, you want your children to learn something relevant to his or her future.
Once you’ve chosen one writing system, it’s a good idea to stick with it for two reasons:
1. Two writing system has a different approach.
2. Your child won’t get confused.
4. My recommendation
If you ask me, I’d recommend Simplified Chinese although I know some people might disagree.
Yes, you can say I’m a bit biased because I use Simplified Chinese.
Aside that, please hear me out from a practical point of view:
Reason No.1 – More people use Simplified Chinese than Traditional Chinese in the world.
As of 2018, it’s reported mainland China has a population of more than 1.39 billion people. All of them use simplified Chinese characters.
The influence of simplified Chinese characters is and will be massive, with the rising economic power of China.
Learning simplified Chinese could lead to a better job and business prospects for your children, considering that many people are using this type of writing in China alone.
Don’t forget, the simplified Chinese characters are used in Singapore, Malaysia and many overseas Chinese communities as well.
Reason No.2 – Simplified Chinese characters are easier to learn.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Simplified Chinese characters have fewer strokes.
For children, less is more.
When it comes to choosing writing Chinese characters, it’s better to get children started with simpler ones so that they don’t get discouraged with too many strokes.
In English writing, we all love simple and plain English writing.
In Chinese writing, there is no difference.
TAt the end of the day, our goal is to teach children to read, write and use the Chinese language.
Who wants children to write more when they can achieve the same outcome, if not a better, with writing less?
Plus, once children learned to write Simplified Chinese characters, they can generally recognise most of the traditional characters anyway.
This is certainly my experience, and likely the same for many Chinese from Mainland China.
Back to my school days in China, not one day that I’ve learned Traditional Chinese writing, but I can still read all the books in Traditional Chinese language.
Why? It’s because Chinese characters are logographic, meaning each Chinese character is a symbol. When a native Chinese read a character, we read it as a whole like a picture.
It’s a bit like when you look at certain shapes (the Traditional characters), you can sort of recognising the meaning of the shapes.
Then, by associating those shapes (or the Traditional characters) with what you’ve already known (the Simplified characters) in your brain, you will know the meaning right away.
Last but not least, I sincerely hope this post can provide some assistance for you to decide between Simplified and Traditional Chinese is the way to go for your children because I know this can be confusing for many non-native Chinese parents.
In any case, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you know some useful information that I haven’t covered here, PLEASE do share it with us in our Panda Mama Chinese Community, or leave your comments below. Thank you.