When I'm in China and having trouble communicating in English, I type in a sentence in Mandarin on my iPhone. I'm good enough to write one or two sentences in Mandarin, although I can't handle an oral conversation in it.

That being said, I understand Simplified Chinese only. So how likely are the Taiwanese to understand Simplified Chinese? Do younger people understand it better than middle-aged or elderly? Are there any other variables that make one subset of people understand it better than others?

And, last but not least, does using Simplified Chinese have a chance of disgracing them?

  • Do you need to communicate with hotel personnel? Waiters? Business partners? Distant family members? This probably depends on the context.
    – JonathanReez
    Nov 24, 2016 at 9:44
  • @JonathanReez Waiters, people on the street, public transportation personnel, and shop clerks. What do you mean in distant family members? Is it related to traveling?
    – Blaszard
    Nov 24, 2016 at 9:47
  • Well, you might have relatives in Taiwan.
    – JonathanReez
    Nov 24, 2016 at 9:59

3 Answers 3


I don't think you will have trouble with simple sentences. Most of the simplified characters bear some resemblance (phonetically, for example) to the original more complex characters. Some are unchanged. Every time I have asked someone fluent in Chinese whether they had trouble with the simplified vs. traditional the answer has been 'no'. Bear in mind, I was not translating classic poetry but simple survival or technical Chinese.

I have heard it said that the simplified characters are 'uglier', that they lack balance or whatever.

I don't think anyone will be insulted if you only know simplified characters, they are well aware that most learners of the Chinese language are going to be learning the language spoken in the mainland with 1.3bn people. Rather they will likely be impressed by your ability to handle hanzi.

Mandarin is the official language of Taiwan, for historical reasons (the government of CKS fled to Taiwan as the communists took over and imposed the language on the original residents), and their version is easily understood. There are a number of other dialects and languages spoken, of course, and a few very old people may still be fluent in Japanese. The majority of people actually speak a couple of other dialects as well as the official language, so there are some differences in the idioms etc. One example, which may or may not still be valid, is that in the mainland a girlfriend (or boyfriend) would be airen (爱人), but in Taiwan it meant mistress. I think it's still okay to call waitresses in Taiwan xiaojie (little miss), but less so in the mainland. Also some mainland expressions are probably a bit 'colorful' for Taiwan. The slang term for 'cool', for example, the second character of which doesn't even appear in many dictionaries.

I understand Pinyin is now taught in Taiwan as of about 10 years ago (they used to use a different transliteration system), but that won't help so much with older people.


I am Taiwanese.

For the younger people and middle-age, it's okay to use simplified Chinese, but for older people, I am not sure if they understand or not.

I also think it's okay to use simplified Chinese and don't worry to be disgracing to us, we understand that Mandarin is not your mother tongue and we are very kind to foreigner.

Welcome to Taiwan.

  • 2
    "We are very kind to foreigners." Very true from Day 1. Everyone is so kind here.
    – Blaszard
    Nov 26, 2016 at 10:25
  • Hope you enjoy your trip in Taiwan~ The weather is very good right now.
    – Jimmy Lin
    Nov 29, 2016 at 8:33

Based on my experience from travelling to China and Taiwan more than thirty times, there is no big difference between the languages spoken in mainland China and Taiwan. After they increased their trade and economic cooperation, many Taiwanese people speak almost perfect Mandarin as many HK people do.

Those who work at the information desks of any transportation terminal and shop clerks in China and Taiwan's major cities speak a relatively good English and I didn't have any communication problem using English in both countries. The problem may arise when you travel to countryside.

Since they will know you are a foreigner the minute you ask a question, you should not worry about disgracing anybody using your iphone or simplified Chinese characters. You need to note that there are many Japanese speakers in Taiwan and you can try it.

  • 1
    I am not sure that native Mandarin speakers would characterize the Mandarin spoken by HK native Cantonese speakers as 'perfect'. Nov 24, 2016 at 15:17
  • 1
    @SpehroPefhany The dialect spoken in Taiwan is far closer to Mandarin than Cantonese. I inserted "almost" before "perfect". Fair point.
    – Rathony
    Nov 24, 2016 at 15:22
  • 1
    Found the quote: 天不怕,地不怕,只怕廣東人說普通話 = I fear neither heaven nor earth, I only fear Cantonese speakers trying to speak Mandarin. Nov 24, 2016 at 15:46

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