Using Simplified Chinese in Language School

I will be studying in Tunghai University this year and I am curious if there is an option to use simplified characters. I’m aware that I will need to learn traditional characters to read and get around Taiwan however, I’m curious if its okay if I am allowed to just learn to recognise traditional characters but write in simplified?

In the event I forget a traditional character when writing something is it okay to just use the simplified character or is that a big no no?


Yes. You’ll get points taken off.

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I think it’s kind of unpolite to come to Taiwan and use the crippled language of the enemy.

Like my university professor used to say “there is no such thing as traditional characters or traditional chinese, just normal chinese and simplified chinese. Just learn the normal one.”


Is Singapore also the enemy?

Wow, he sounds extremely uneducated in linguistics.


As you can already see, many people in Taiwan are irrationally attached to the traditional characters as they see simplified/modern Chinese as a threat. Having said that, while I’ve found that there is a reluctance to accept simplified Chinese, I’ve also found that educators will accept it and even cater to it, if necessary. Be humble, recognize why people might have the passionate views they have, and accept that many might not take kindly to you using simplified Chinese. However, simplified Chinese is undoubtedly more useful in the real world, so make sure that you improve your proficiency in it. Traditional Chinese is not useful for Mandarin speakers outside of Taiwan and possibly HK.


Isn’t 台 in 台灣 a simplified version of 臺 and everybody uses it?


Perhaps the most important question there - perhaps someone might be able to answer this - is whether students are required to write by hand (in tests etc.) ? If you are allowed to type everything, then it’s a very small task for someone who’s able to read and type simplified to learn to read/type traditional (and vice versa)


Writing by hand from memory (no aids) is no longer required on the SAT (in the US). The IB tests still require it as far as I know. All the various tests I’ve ever taken as a professional (not in school) using Chinese have required handwriting-from-memory even when the job had nothing at all to do with that (for example, a job doing wiretap surveillance required us to write a business letter in Chinese. Weird.) Of course you can often “cheat” by copying characters off other portions of the test that have text, but it won’t cover everything. I just do a solid month of before a test and then forget about it until the next time, usually about 5 years down the road.

These days, my beginners all read both Simplified and Traditional. In fact, in my part of the teaching world, we don’t even mention that there are two different sets of characters until a student asks about it (usually takes 3-4 readings for somebody to notice that a word “looks different”.) I don’t push handwriting so there’s really no issue on that end; they just type in whatever character set they want, or when they are writing by hand (such as for a test) they use a simple word list that contains characters and Pinyin. They know to choose either simplified or traditional and stick to it within a piece of writing.

The whole fuss about Simplified vs Traditional is more in the minds of teachers and patriots than it is in those of students, assuming they start out reading both and read extensively at their level. Of course that’s not a given in most courses so it’s just FWIW. The difficulty of recognizing both is trivial if you read a lot (unless you’re trying to make an excuse to get OUT of reading a lot, like we did [successfully] in grad school in Taiwan when we claimed we just couldn’t read Simplified characters in the über-boring translation theory book the prof wanted to assign.) I feel like it might be harder to get that one to stick these days, though.

At the end of the day, though, with the exception of a handful of schools that have a lot of money and prestige, schools rely on students as customers, and the customer is [nearly] always right about stuff like this. If you ask respectfully and without side comments like “traditional characters are useless anywhere else”, it’s possible you’ll get your way. The main problem would probably be that the teacher would feel she couldn’t spot wrong characters easily as she might not be too good at simplified characters herself, though that might not be said (or true…I’m just speculating).


Also – and I’ve probably said this somewhere before on – I once did a survey standing in front of the train station, asking several hundred (Chinese native speaking) people what they wrote by hand. Shopping lists, birthday cards, phone messages and forms, that was all. UNLESS they were students, in which case they had to write everything by hand. So we’re training students to write by hand because…?


I think everyone above pretty clearly answered your question, so I’ll add this: writing Chinese in the year of our lord 2021 is not a very practical skill. I don’t mean it’s impractical or not necessary. I mean there are more important things to focus on:

Number 1 is speaking and understanding what others are saying.

Number 2 is understanding how to recognize characters of words you already know how to say/understand what others say.

Number 3 is having enough understanding of the words you already know how to say that you can type them into your phone/onto your computer and pick the right one. Which leads to 3b, really understand zhuyin or pinyin (or both) and not just kinda get it. Know if the word is “si” or “shi” or “xi”, even if Taiwanese pronounce them all the same way or sometimes even reverse them and tell you you’re wrong. When you type a word, your “correct” pronunciation will be what brings up the correct character, not the mispronunciation or approximation (though input software has gotten better about guessing what you might mean in the past few years)

At some point you’ll be able to recognize radicals and guess the meaning of words based on those, context, and prior knowledge. That’s later on though, and more of a reading skill than writing. And you’ll want traditional characters for that because simplified bastardized a lot of those characters’ actual meaning/radicals.

Of all the things you need to know in Chinese, handwriting characters off the top of your head should be the last of your priorities. Even if you need to hand write a letter to someone, in a real life situation you will probably have your phone or computer nearby, in which you will be able to type what you want to say if the above suggestions are satisfied. If you understand stroke order, you just copy your typed text by hand. If you don’t know a character, there’s always Pleco. Download it if you haven’t already.

I will also add that your environment will be traditional characters. Even if you studied simplified characters before, when you get here, everything will be traditional. It’s a waste of time to continue focusing on simplified. As soon as you need to order food on a restaurant or look up a location on a map, your understanding of simplified characters will be a hinderance to your ability to exist in Taiwanese society. When you start making local friends, many of them will not be able to understand your texts in simplified, even if they “don’t understand” on purpose.


Thanks guys for all the responses. I hope I didn’t come off as too arrogant when I said I wanted to use simplified characters!

I think maybe the flexibility in using either characters might be dependent on the language school and/or teacher. My vocabulary and chinese knowledge is quite limited since I know about 300 characters, so it shouldn’t be much hassle to learn the traditional forms of those characters I learned. I guess I was concerned that maybe if I forgot how to write a certain character I could just jot down the simplified version in class.

Also, the writing aspect doesn’t seem to be a very practical skill for me as most of the time if I do use chinese, I just type and text.Even when I took online chinese class I would just jot down the pinyin as I can’t write some characters immediately off the top of my head.

I do hope to focus more on speaking and understanding chinese as opposed to spending most of my time trying to memorise stroke order and how to write characters. But then again, maybe the language centre I am attending has many writing tests solely on traditional characters so I will have to toughen up and keep the head down haha!


Of course this is OK and better than writing nothing. Most Taiwanese people can read simplified even if they can’t write simplified, and most will use simplified characters in day-to-day life like 区, 会 etc. etc.

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4 posts were split to a new topic: From simplified Chinese

I think this is what you need to worry about. Unfortunately I can’t find any recent discussions on this site about Dong Hai University (this thread’s last post was in 2007). But I can easily imagine teachers who insist that you must write traditional characters by hand, unaided by smartphones or dictionaries, and other teachers who let you type everything.

I hope the teachers in that first group don’t exist - unless it’s for a course specifically about learning how to write traditional characters - but I have a strong suspicion they’re out there.


If I remember correctly, there are only about 500 characters that differ from simplified to traditional. They do tend to be very commonly used characters, but not all 300 characters that you learned will be different (think about the very basics like 你,我,是,他,她,它,就,北,中). Even as you get into common words that are different, things like 馬 (马) and all variations that use it (like 嗎,媽,罵) all change the 馬 accordingly, so you can pretty quickly make the connections.

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