Mandarin and Cantonese

Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken languages, Mandarin is the official language of China and Taiwan while Cantonese is a dialect spoken in Hong Kong and a southern province of China called Guangdong (but most people there can still speak Mandarin since it’s a national language). These two dialects sound totally different.

However, as far as translation is concerned, a more relevant issue is the choice between Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

They are written languages, so they actually refer to the “characters” used. Whereas traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, Simplified Chinese is used in Mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore. Not only do these two written languages look different, the terms and sentence structures are also different.

When it comes to written and spoken languages in greater China region, it can be really tricky, so the table below sums it up.

Region Written Spoken
Mainland China Simplified Chinese Mandarin+dialects
Taiwan Traditional Chinese Mandarin
Hong Kong Traditional Chinese Mainly Cantonese
Macau Traditional Chinese Mainly Cantonese
Malaysia Simplified Chinese Mix of English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Malay depending on ethnicity
Singapore Simplified Chinese Mix of English, Mandarin, Hogan, and Indian depending on ethnicity