楊 – Yang2 – Poplar, (a surname)
The name of the Taikonaut I mentioned yesterday (he did land safely, by the way, he is now on his way to Beijing to start his new career: parades) was 杨利伟 – Yang Liwei. But, if you tried to look up the words in that name in my dictionary, you might have had trouble. That’s because it was written in Simplified Chinese.
Simplified Chinese is the set of characters that are used in mainland China and somehow also Singapore. The other Chinese speaking countries, and other countries that use Chinese characters in their language (like Japanese) generally use the Traditional characters. The Simplified character set was an idea by the Chinese government to make Chinese easier to learn and use. In many cases, the characters were returned to older, simpler forms. In other cases, the Simplified characters were just made up from scratch. 中文.com has more to say on this.
Here’s Yang Liwei in Tradtional Chinese:
And again in Simplified:
For this name, the first and last characters are different, but the middle one is the same. I’m not sure what percentage of characters are different in Simplified vs. Traditional, but it’s enough that somebody who has only learned the Traditonal ones (like Jenny) finds it almost impossible to read something written in Simplified.
I also have found that translating from Simplified to Traditional and back again is not as easy as you might think. It’s not always a one-to-one mapping. More than one Traditional character can simplify to the same Simplified character. And it gets even worse, as you can see in the documentation for this Perl module that attempts to convert between the two.
By the way, back to Yang Liwei, I absolutely love this picture. This is what they saw when they got to his capsule and opened the door: