Want to hire the perfect voice actor for your Chinese language project?
Before you reach out to a Chinese voice over artist or voice over agency, there are a few things you need to know about Traditional vs Simplified Chinese, Taiwanese and Cantonese.
This information will ensure that you hire a talent who speaks the correct language and dialect of your target audience. We’ll be discussing the differences between Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese in this blog.
We’ll begin by saying that we understand how getting a grasp of this subject can be difficult, especially if you’re new to languages. But don’t worry! We’ve put together this easy-to-understand guide to help you out.
A Brief Introduction to Chinese Languages
You may not realize it, but the term “Chinese language” is actually very vague. China itself is a massive country with over 14.1 billion people. It also has several territories.
There are many different rules and preferences when it comes to Chinese written and verbal communications. The Chinese use both formal and casual language when writing. Their verbal communication has different dialects that are highly regionalized.
In order to choose the right voice over artist, you must know what dialect your target audience speaks. Mandarin and Cantonese are the two most commonly spoken Chinese dialects. Mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore all speak Mandarin. It’s important to realize that Mandarin can be spoken with many different accents.
If your audience is in mainland China, you’ll want to hire a voice actor who speaks Standard Mandarin without an accent. This is also known as ‘Pu Tong Hua’.
Cantonese is one of the Chinese dialects. It’s spoken in Guangdong province and Hong Kong. It is a completely different sounding language than Mandarin and more dynamic.
Other dialects such as Fuzhou, Xiang, and Gan are spread across Asia, including Shanghai, Western China, and the Hunan province. Read more about localization for China in our previous blog, Go Global: Localizing Your Business for China.
An example of a Mandarin voice over
Traditional vs Simplified Chinese
Here’s some background on the origins and differences between Traditional vs. Simplified Chinese.
What is Traditional Chinese?
Traditional Chinese is a formal and complicated language that looks beautiful on paper. There are over 50,000 detailed characters in the language. Modern dictionaries typically only list about 20,000 characters.
The use of Traditional Chinese depends on the region and situation. As a rule, Taiwan and Hong Kong use Traditional Chinese in writing. Other regions use it on a situational basis.
For example, people in mainland China may use Traditional Chinese characters when practicing calligraphy or designing logos. Generally, people living in mainland China can read Traditional Chinese, even though Simplified Chinese is primarily used in China.
When it comes to verbal language, Traditional Chinese is spoken differently in Taiwan than it is in Hong Kong. Word choices and grammar vary greatly. Because of this, you’ll never want to use the same voice over script for an audience in Taiwan as you do for an audience in Hong Kong.
What is Simplified Chinese?
To achieve this, the CCP standardized many already-simplified characters in vernacular use. They also created some of their own. In addition, they established simplified characters with many meanings in order to shrink the language.
Simplified Chinese users have an average knowledge base of around 8,000 characters. The CCP also created an official “List of Commonly Used Standardized Characters.” It consists of a little under 300 characters.
Like China, Singapore uses Simplified Chinese. However, as we mentioned above, territories including Taiwan and Hong Kong do not. Most people living in Taiwan and Hong Kong can’t read Simplified Chinese.
We created this infographic to help you remember what spoken and written language you might choose based on your target market: