Hakka is a dialect of Chinese and therefore should be considered when speaking however what about writing? From a translation perspective is there a specific way to write Hakka or is this the same as Simplified or Traditional Chinese?


5 Answers 5


I have an old Hakka textbook, published in Singapore in the 1950s. It is written in transcription (for the learner) and in Chinese, using Traditional characters, including some Hakka-specific characters -- borrowed most probably from Cantonese -- like 冇, 唔.

Below are a couple of pages. Today, though, it is rarely written, and when it is, the writer will use whatever character set he or she uses for Mandarin.

Cover page

Pages 2-3


Hakka is a spoken language, as you have pointed out. Traditional and simplified Chinese are variants on a writing system. You can write Hakka in both traditional and simplified Chinese. Before simplified Chinese even existed (i.e. before the 1950s), Hakka would be written in traditional Chinese (the only writing system for Chinese). Nowadays, Mainland and Singaporean Hakkas would tend to write in simplified Chinese, whereas Taiwanese and Hong Kong Hakkas would probably write in traditional Chinese—these just depend on the practices of the respective regions. Hakka can also be written in various romanization schemes, including Pha̍k-fa-sṳ. The Hakka Wikipedia uses both Chinese characters and PFS (sometimes mixed with other similar romanization schemes). There is a Bible published in both traditional Chinese characters and PFS.

AFAIK, the only official attempt to "standardize" Hakka writing is by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education with its suggested characters (part 1, part 2). The MOE also has a romanization scheme for six different Taiwanese dialects. This dictionary more or less follows the MOE-suggested characters and uses the MOE romanization scheme.


I am not aware of any Hakka writing. Theoretically, you could express Hakka expressions using Chinese characters used for Mandarin PLUS Hakka-unique Chinese characters, either old characters not used in modern Mandarin or created specially for Hakka. This methodology has already been adopted in Hong Kong for Cantonese and in Taiwan for Minnan Yu. Missionaries who came to Hakka speaking areas about a hundred years ago might have invented romanised Hakka for the purpose of producing a Hakka Bible. I don't know if they did.

Whether simplified or traditional is a matter of the appearance/shape of the characters. Simplified characters have less number of writing strokes than their traditional counterpart. In any case, only a very small portion of the full set of Chinese characters are in the simplified form. Thank you.


There will not be an official writing system for hakka if there is no country using it as their official language. Although recently Taiwan has acknowledged Hakka as one of their national languages, the standard is still a long way to go. Taiwan cannot go out and dictate the whole hakka diaspora on how they want to write Hakka in each region on the planet. The only way to solve this is to set up a World Hakka language Commission, which should be responsible for compiling and approving a united writing system for all the variety of Hakka on the planet. IMHO.


Chinese is a total different language compared to other languages since it's ideographic. For thousands of years, it's been learned by Han people all over the country. People in different regions may have different pronunciation for the same word, but we can still understand what the meaning of what's written down.

This is interesting. The Chinese writing system is like the binary program for computers, dialects vary like programming languages. No matter what kind of programming language developers choose, the true meaning of what developers want the computer to know will be translated to binary.

Hakka, a branch of Han, also writes Chinese for hundreds years. There isn't an official writing system for Hakka based on the pronunciation since it's not necessary. So there is no difference between writing system of Hakka and Mandarin.

But things changed when westerners (especially missionaries) came to China. Because learning the pronunciation of a local language is much easier than learning the writing system, they chose to create a new writing system based on the pronunciation for translating the Bible. When people get used to learning a language this way, it will reflect on the Chinese writing system as well. An obvious example is Cantonese used in Hong Kong. The writing system looks like Chinese, but in fact it's in western style. Because many characters created for Cantonese focus on the pronunciation, don't care about the original meaning of each character.

I'm sorry, my answer seems out of topic. But I am just trying to explain the simple answer for the question. -- "Yes, they are the same. Because there is not official writing system for Hakka."

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