Updated: Feb 3
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Many parents struggle with teaching Chinese to their toddlers will often face a question of where to start: do I teach traditional or simplified Chinese? Most likely those who already read and write Chinese fluently will teach the one they are most comfortable with; but here at Cantonese Mommy, we realize that there is a new generation of parents who want to teach but may not be fully biliterate.
While the absolute number of those who uses traditional Chinese characters is less than those of simplified characters, the effort it takes to learn either for new learners is quite similar and therefore my suggestion is to learn both at home. Why limit yourself to only buying traditional Chinese or simplified Chinese books? There are many great published Chinese books that only come out in traditional OR simplified. What matters more is whether or not it is a good book.
📚 This is what I do: I use label maker to make traditional characters labels and tape onto the book. It's not necessary to do this for all the books. Try to pick a few favorites that your child(ren) are actively interested in, and get them to notice the difference in the Chinese characters.
Having mentioned the above, I would like to add that there are some other considerations for Traditional vs Simplified books.
1) Price. My Chinese book collection has been increasing leaps and bounds over the years, and in general, I have found that Simplified books are cheaper.
2) Variation on Vocabulary. There are many ways to say the same thing in Chinese, and it can depend on which country you are in as well! For example: Bicycle is written as 腳踏車 in Taiwan (T.C), 單車 in Hong Kong (Cantonese / T.C.) and 自行车 (S.C) in Mainland China.
3) Font Size. Simplified Chinese books published in Mainland China often have smaller font size. Traditional Chinese books published in Taiwan and Hong Kong are usually printed in larger font sizes.
For Mandarin learners, one additional consideration is how the pinyin in written.
Books published in Mainland China are simplified with Pinyin (拼音), some books published in Hong Kong are in Traditional Chinese with Pinyin (拼音), and books published in Taiwan come in Traditional Chinese with Zhuyin (注音 ㄅㄆㄇ).
Whatever your family decides, I highly encourage you to keep reading. Children are very smart! They will be able to learn both traditional and simplified Chinese characters in no time, and our goal as caregivers is to try to give them a little exposure of both everyday!