Written & Spoken Forms of Chinese: When, Where & How?
For effective Chinese localization, there are normally three key markets that need to be considered:
Simplified Chinese is written, Mandarin is spoken
Hong Kong:
Traditional Chinese is written, Cantonese is spoken
Traditional Chinese is written, Cantonese is spoken
Written form for China, Hong Kong & Taiwan:
Simplified Chinese is the standard for the Chinese mainland, whilst Traditional Chinese is the standard written form for Hong Kong and Taiwan. In some cases, the Traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan would be acceptable for the Hong Kong market; for example, in packaging or DVD/TV user manuals. However, when it comes to specific marketing materials and end-user materials for corporations, such as training materials and corporate brochures, it becomes increasingly important to take into account the unique nuances and flavors of Hong Kong, which are quite different, stylistically, from those of Taiwan. In this case, the written language directly reflects the influence of Cantonese, the language spoken in Hong Kong.
Another good example is Microsoft Office, which uses Traditional Chinese characters while incorporating local nuances for both the Hong Kong and Taiwan markets.
Spoken form in China, Hong Kong & Taiwan:
While spoken Chinese is most often thought of as either Mandarin or Cantonese, ISO-639 actually classifies Chinese as a language family, comprising of 13 sub-languages (see 10 sub-languages as illustrated in the above graphic).
Mandarin is the official spoken language of Taiwan and China, whereas Hong Kong and Macau use Cantonese. As such, a Taiwanese national who can speak Mandarin is highly recommended for Taiwan.
In conclusion, particularly in the corporate environment, it is highly recommended that all three territories be treated separately, in both their written and spoken forms. Failure to do so could result in sub-standard results, or worse, be politically offensive; especially so in Taiwan, where its status as a separate state can be a sensitive issue.
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