Learn How to Read and Write Chinese Characters
Simplified Chinese characters are used in China and Singapore, while traditional characters are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, since the simplified system is based on the traditional one, more than half of commonly used characters are the same in both styles. Therefore, knowing one style definitely helps with learning the other.
Character simplification was part of Mao Zedong's pre/Cultural Revolution in 1960's China. This explains why Hong Kong and Taiwan continue using traditional characters. It also explains why you typically see traditional characters being used in non-Asian countries (e.g. Chinese restaurants/newspapers in America/Europe), as many Chinese living overseas emigrated pre-1960's.
Please note that Chinese characters are not based on phonetics (sound), so learning how to write Chinese does not necessarily help you with learning how to speak. But aside from the benefits of being able to read signs while traveling, experiencing Chinese literature and so forth, many people enjoy learning Chinese characters solely as a beautiful art form. If your interest lies in Chinese calligraphy or art, you'll most likely want to focus on the traditional system, because of its longer history.
While there are well over 50,000 Chinese characters, you don't need to know them all!
• Knowing just 1,000 Chinese characters will enable you to understand approximately 90% of written Chinese.
• Knowing 2,500 characters will enable you to understand approximately 98% of written Chinese.
• And knowing all the 4,000 characters in our database will enable you to understand virtually 100%.
• To be considered literate, you only need to recognize around 3000 characters.