Traditional or Simplified Chinese: Which One Will You Learn?


Whether you just finished your HSK test or are in the process of learning Chinese, you might be wondering whether you should learn traditional Chinese characters or simplified Chinese characters. So many people have asked this question before you, and the answer is not straightforward. It depends on your personal circumstances and learning goals.

If you’re planning to study in China or South Korea, or if you’re an adult learner who wants to read children’s books, simplified characters would be a better option for you. If, on the other hand, you plan to study in Taiwan or Singapore and want to read academic books about modern China, traditional characters would prove more useful to your long-term goals as an adult learner. 

In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits of each character set, as well as some of the drawbacks, so that you can make an informed choice.

Traditional Chinese Characters

It is also known as orthographic characters, and the term “Traditional Chinese” is used when referring to it in English. The most noticeable thing about traditional Chinese characters compared to simplified Chinese characters is that they have by far the most strokes. Many people who use traditional Chinese characters enjoy writing in this form, despite the fact that it may appear to be difficult to write and read. They take great satisfaction in their ability to use the beautiful traditional Chinese characters. In point of fact, there are some characters that are so intricate and beautiful that they may now be referred to as “art.” 

It is estimated that more than 1.3 billion people speak Chinese around the world, not just in China and other parts of Asia where Chinese people traditionally reside, but also in other countries where large numbers of Chinese people and overseas Chinese have settled. Traditional Chinese characters are used in some locations, whereas simplified Chinese characters are used in other regions. The Chinese characters used in each region can be broadly categorized according to this division. Traditional Chinese characters have not been simplified in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau, in part because these regions were excluded from the scope of a policy enacted in China under the Chinese Character Simplification Bill. As a result, old traditional Chinese characters are still utilized in these regions. In addition, there are a few classic Chinese characters that are utilized in a manner that is exclusive to the area.

Having said that, learning traditional characters can be challenging due to a large number of possible combinations. Over 50,000 traditional characters are reportedly still in use in today’s society, according to one estimate. Using simplified characters is a good option to take if you don’t feel up to taking on a significant challenge.

Which of these should you prioritize learning? In the end, the decision is yours to make. But regardless of which path you choose, studying Chinese will provide you with a rewarding experience.

Pros of Learning Traditional Characters

Chinese-learning communities are divided on this question: should i learn traditional or simplified chinese? Here are some pros of learning traditional characters:

1. Traditional characters are more aesthetically pleasing. Let’s be honest, they just look nicer than their simplified counterparts. If you’re going to be staring at these characters for hours on end, you might as well enjoy looking at them!

2. Traditional characters are more historic and have more meaning behind them. Simplified characters were created in an attempt to make Chinese easier to learn and write, but in the process, a lot of the history and meaning of the original characters were lost. If you want to learn about the origins of Chinese writing, traditional characters are the way to go.

3. Learning traditional Chinese characters will make you stand out from the crowd. Because simplified Chinese is now so prevalent, if you can read and write traditional characters, it will really set you apart from other learners. This could be a big advantage if you’re looking to impress potential employers or clients.

So there you have it: three compelling reasons to learn traditional Chinese characters! Whatever you decide, just make sure you put in the hard work and enjoy the process—after all, learning a new language should be fun!

Cons of Learning Traditional Characters

Learning Chinese characters can be incredibly frustrating. Not only are there thousands of them to memorize, but there are also two different writing systems to choose from: traditional and simplified. So if you are thinking of “should i learn traditional or simplified chinese?” Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Because traditional characters are more complicated than simplified characters, it is possible that learning traditional characters will take more time. 
  1. Because traditional characters are not used as frequently as simplified characters, it may be challenging for you to find materials and resources that can assist you in learning traditional characters.
  1. Traditional characters are not used in Mainland China; therefore, if you ever travel there, you may find that you are at a disadvantage because of this.

Whether or not you should learn traditional or simplified Chinese characters is a personal decision. Consider your goals for learning Chinese and make the decision that is right for you.

Simplified Chinese Characters

If you’re considering learning Chinese, you may be wondering “should i learn traditional or simplified chinese?” The answer, of course, depends on your individual goals and preferences. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind when making your decision. First, traditional characters are used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, while simplified characters are used in mainland China. This means that if you want to be able to communicate with people in both regions, you’ll need to learn both sets of characters. 

Simplified characters were created in an effort to increase literacy rates. They are characters in the Chinese language that were once somewhat complicated but have been reduced in complexity and given a new form that is simple and easy to understand.  Chinese characters were originally hieroglyphs, but as different concepts needed to be expressed, a technique for combining these hieroglyphs to make new characters was devised, leading to the development of a huge number of Chinese characters one after another. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that Chinese is not written using the Latin alphabet. This means that regardless of which set of characters you choose to learn, you’ll be starting from scratch when it comes to learning the written language. Regardless of which set of characters you choose to learn, Chinese is sure to provide a rewarding challenge.

Pros of Learning Simplified Characters

There’s a big debate in the Chinese-learning world, but it always comes down to asking yourself this question: “should i learn traditional or simplified chinese?” There are pros and cons to both, but ultimately it depends on your personal preference. If you’re leaning towards simplified characters, then there are a few things you should know. 

  1. The creation of simplified characters was motivated by a desire to simplify the Chinese language for readers and writers. They’re less complex than traditional characters, which can make them easier to learn, especially for beginners.
  1. The characters in Simplified Chinese have fewer strokes than traditional Chinese characters, which makes them easier to remember. 
  1. By a significant margin, simplified characters are the most widely used.

It is not surprising to see simplified characters utilized in the majority of Chinese textbooks sold in bookshops as well as in the majority of Chinese classes taught in educational institutions. However, it is fundamentally not true that “when you learn simplified Chinese, you can’t converse with native speakers of traditional Chinese.” If you study simplified Chinese, you will be able to talk with native speakers of traditional Chinese. The only exception to this rule is when the pronunciation itself is different, such as in Cantonese or Shanghainese. However, if the pronunciation remains the same but the Chinese characters change, it is still possible to carry on a conversation without any difficulties.

The decision of whether to learn traditional or simplified characters is up to you. If you have the time and patience, learning traditional characters will reward you with a richer reading and writing experience. But if you’re looking for a simpler way to learn Chinese, then simplified characters may be the way to go. Whichever route you choose, we wish you the best of luck on your journey to fluency!

Cons of Learning Simplified Characters

Do you, as a learner of Chinese, ever wonder about this? “should i learn traditional or simplified chinese?” Simplified characters are easier to learn and memorize, yet mastery of this form is not without its downsides.

  1. It is difficult to read the classics written in traditional Chinese characters, which hinders the continuation of traditional culture. If you’re interested in reading classical Chinese literature, then you’ll need to learn to read and write traditional Chinese characters. Many of the great works of Chinese literature were written in traditional characters, so you’ll miss out on a lot if you can’t read them. 
  1. Because of the large number of elderly Chinese people who are only able to read traditional Chinese characters, if you want to be able to communicate with these people, you will need to become familiar with traditional Chinese characters as well.

On the other hand, if your goal is simply to be able to read and write modern Chinese, then simplified characters will suffice. Most newspapers and books are now written in simplified characters, so you won’t miss out on any current publications. In addition, many younger Chinese people can only read simplified characters, so learning them will help you communicate with a wider range of people.


Do you still find yourself asking, “should I learn traditional or simplified chinese?” or “Should I learn both at the same time instead?” The answer, of course, is both. It is ultimately up to you whether to learn traditional or simplified characters. If you’re not sure which to choose, try experimenting with both and see which feels more natural for you. Whichever you choose, just remember that learning Chinese is a long and difficult process – don’t get discouraged if it seems overwhelming at first!

Learning both versions of the language will give you a well-rounded understanding of Chinese culture and history. Plus, it will make you more attractive to potential employers. After all, being able to read and write in both traditional and simplified Chinese shows that you’re a versatile and adaptable thinker. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start studying!

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