Chinese language

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Chinese Written Language

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The Chinese language is the oldest written language in the world with at least six thousand years of history. Chinese character inscriptions have been found in turtle shells dating back to the Shang dynasty1 (1766-1123 BC) proving the written language has existed for more than 3,000 years. The Chinese written language uses single distinctive symbols, or characters, to represent each word of the vocabulary. The vast majority of characters are written versions of spoken sounds that have meaning. A large dictionary usually contains 40,000 characters.2 One must be able to recognize 2,000 to 3,000 characters to read a newspaper. Although the written system has been altered over time due to revolutions and political changes, the principles of the language along with the symbols and characters have remained basically the same.

Although many Chinese dialects exist, the written language is a common form of communication. Even though people are not able to verbally communicate in different provinces, they are able to understand each other in writing. However, the written language can be further subdivided into three forms: simplified, traditional, and informal slang or phonetic. There is also a form called “pin-yin” which is the Chinese language transcribed using a roman spelling.

Chinese

Simplified Characters

Primarily Chinese in China uses simplified characters. It is taught in Mandarin-Chinese classes internationally as well. These characters are simpler, i.e., have less pen-strokes, than traditional Chinese characters. Simplified characters have existed for hundreds of years, but only became officially acceptable in formal writing after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in an attempt to improve literacy among Chinese in China, during the 1950’s. 3 The Chinese newspaper “Ren Min Ri Bao” or “People’s Daily” uses simplified characters as do subtitles of news reports or videos that come from China. Because there are not as many readers of this paper in the United States, the paper is not commonly carried in local Chinese stores. People who are literate in simplified Chinese characters may not be literate in traditional Chinese.

Traditional or Classical Chinese Characters
Traditional or classical Chinese

Traditional or classical Chinese characters is taught and used by Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and elsewhere. Many textbooks, newspapers, and subtitles for movies are written in traditional Chinese. Examples of Chinese newspapers distributed in the United States that use traditional Chinese characters is “Ming Pao” or “Sing Tao” newspapers. Cantonese speaking Chinese from Hong Kong generally reads these papers. On the other hand, Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese reads the Chinese “World Journal” newspaper in the States. Both papers are commonly sold in local Chinese stores and restaurants.

Informal slang or phonetic characters

Chinese language
Cantonese speakers have also developed an informal slang or phonetic characters. These characters are used in addition to traditional Chinese characters in an informal setting, such as in comics or entertainment sections of newspapers or magazines. The informal characters are used to sound out the Cantonese dialect. Often, you cannot find these characters in the dictionary. People from China, Taiwan or other countries have to learn to recognize these characters before they can read all sections of Hong Kong-based news papers.

GET CHINESE TRANSLATORS AND INTERPRETERS. CALL 080-3753-1249, 081-1445-6164

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