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Differences Between Spoken And Written Chinese

Most spoken words are shorter or more informalsynonyms of their written counterparts. In the following example, is a shorter version of, and is a less formal and more commonplace version of.

Sometimes the written words will not even be near synonyms of their spoken-style counterparts. Take for example how written sources normally use sacrificed ( xshng) to describe military casualties, as opposed to the word meaning died (sle) that would normally beused.

While the essential point of these two sentences is that the wife is stingy, is much more lively andnatural-sounding than, which is more precise in its meaning. The spoken version could be in a playful way, but the written version is less flexible in its interpretation.Written materials in China are meant to be taken more seriously, and magazines and newspapers make less effort to attract readers with humorous and catchy.

The following table is a list of some words which canbe interchangeably used depending on whether you arespeaking or writing. Fora more completelist of 5,000most commonly seen charactersin newspapers and other print sources, refer toHSK (Chinese Proficiency Test)test prep materials.

Patrick Kim is an editor at TutorMing. He has a B.A. in East Asian Studies from UCSB, and has worked in China for 3 years. His hobbies are soccer, being outdoors, and studying Chinese.

Formal language is not limited to writtenmaterials,butalso is often used in public service announcements or formalized customer service. The following examples demonstrate how some cashiers speak to customers more formally than other cashiers.

In each language, spoken and written styles have their differences, especially when the written language has a long history. AsChina has a very long written tradition dating back to the Shang dynasty (3500-3000 years ago), the spoken languagediffer considerably more than in most languages.Written Chinese is much more formal than spoken Chinese, making it difficult for many Chinese learners who are able to carry on normal conversationsto read a newspaper or write abusiness letter.Even if written Chinese isnt within the scope of your Chinese learning goals, it is useful to be able to recognize it and differentiate it from spoken languageas you progress through your Chinese lessons.

Especially when describing decorated soldiers who died in a historic battle, written sources are likelyto depictdeath very differently, paintinga rosier picture than their spoken counterparts. As you can see in the following example, you would need to know more vocabulary to read a sentence in the newspaper than if you were to understand it in conversation.

Meaning: The government sent aid to the disaster-affected region.

Meaning: Revolutionary soldiers were killed.

It is useful to know which words are and which words are as you progress through your learning and accumulate more vocabulary.Your word choice in ajob interview, for example, could mean the difference between coming across as morepersonal, or more formal and professional. As inother languages, the differences in whichwords are used in spoken language and written language are fluid, and itnecessary to exposure to native speakers while learning the differences between and .

Meaning: Your change is 1 yuan 5mao.

Meaning: Revolutionary soldierssacrificed their lives.

Meaning: He despises that his wife is so stingy.

Until the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), all government documents were written in alanguage that is incomprehensible to most Chinese people today, in the same way most people in Europe dont understand Latin. However, aspects ofclassical language that are not normally heard in conversation remain in newspapers, books, official addresses, and documents today.


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