I'm designing a Multi-language app and a major user group is Chinese speaking people with disability. The app will be on both iOS and Android. I don't speak or read any chinese language.

The app content for Chinese speaking users will be in Chinese Simplified (lang='zh-Hans'). We want to ensure that the content will be compatible, usable and understandable with the native screen reading software.

The app will provide information on emergency situations, so it's critical that important information not be lost in translation.

My questions:

iOS If an iOS user is using VoiceOver and iOS is set to either Mandarin (China mainland), Mandarin (Taiwan) or Cantonese (Hong Kong) - How does Simplified Chinese read out? Is it understandable to native speakers of the above languages?

Android If an Android user is using TalkBack and Android is set to either Cantonese (Hong Kong), Chinese (China), Chinese (Taiwan) - How does Simplified Chinese read out? Is it understandable to native speakers of the above languages?

  • 1
    Believe it or not, this is not a language question and thus is not a question for Chinese StackExchange, but rather how iOS and Android would handle mismatched language codes. To give an analogy, it's the same as asking "if my phone was set to en-GB, how would an app whose content is in en-US read the app content aloud?".
    – dROOOze
    Oct 5 at 3:19

1 Answer 1


Computer scientist here:

You should use traditional chinese (zh-tw) and then convert that to zh-Hans. There is a one to many relationship between zh-tw and zh-Hans so it's just a dictionary lookup for any text IF you go from traditional to simplified. If you're using Python, this library does it fine: https://pypi.org/project/chinese-converter/. If you do your development in simplified there is no way to auto-convert it to traditional (though I'll tell you from experience that the Google Translate API does it with high reliability). Subsequently, unless you're really dead set on only targeting mainland China and Singapore, it makes a lot more sense to do your translation in traditional and then just autoconvert that to simplified. The only major consideration there is if you're going to be using slang which does differ significantly in the various regions.

For example - in simplified Chinese they took 瞭 and 了, which both exist but with potentially different meanings in the traditional chinese character set and merged those both into just 了. If you start with traditional a simple dictionary lookup will get you the correct simplified chinese version. However, if you start with simplified, there is no foolproof dictionary lookup that will get you the correct traditional. Best you can do is feed it into translation software which uses user-taught statistical analysis to guess the correct one. Here is some very simple code I wrote for converting books I find online from simplified to traditional using Google's API: https://github.com/grantcurell/simplified_to_traditional. WARNING: There are character limits and if you hit the API to fast Google will block you.

As far as how voice works - traditional / simplified Chinese characters are pronounced the same way. The only variation is some regional preferences in tones. The character sets are mutually intelligible. I predominantly read in traditional but can read both. If you write something in simplified chinese and have it read out loud anyone in the Mandarin speaking world will understand what was said.

That said, it requires more effort for me to read simplified and I'm much less likely to use an app that only supports simplified characters. It's not that I can't read them, I just have to think about it more which can be obnoxious.

  • The developer does not speak or read any Chinese language. However, there are difference over different Chinese in translation. Since machine translation will be applied, it would be better to directly apply it to different Chinese rather than use tools to convert.
    – wznmickey
    Oct 10 at 7:40
  • You do not need to speak or read Chinese to apply any of the techniques I have suggested. I am not suggesting machine translation. I think you might be conflating a dictionary lookup with machine translation. Google Translate 百度翻譯 are examples of machine translation tools. Traditional->Simplified conversion, slang not withstanding as I mentioned, can be handled reliably with dictionary lookups. I may be misunderstanding your last sentence. 你可以用中文問我 Oct 10 at 15:10
  • If you can not speak or read Chinese, 就不太可能能够独立完成英文到中文的转换。如果要使用机器翻译,那么由于大量外来词在不同地区翻译方式的不同,仅仅进行简繁转换是不行的,汉字简化涉及到的多对一不会涉及旧有词的冲突,比如大量成语,但是涉及到大量外来词的翻译(eg 滑鼠,鼠标)不会由自动化的转换工具进行转换,仍旧需要单独的考虑。
    – wznmickey
    Oct 10 at 15:18
  • 那不是他的問題。他想知道如果他寫一個會用聲音讀在屏幕上文本的程序,如果那個讀文本的程序讀簡體字,一個用繁體字的人會不會聽得懂。我的答案回答這個問題也解釋如果他的程序要有自己的中文翻譯,他應該用繁體字寫一下然後直接編譯到簡體字。他可以用大陸的説法和繁體字,然後編譯到簡體字。這是因爲他明確不是個很大的app寫著。我知道如果錢不是個問題的話,他應該有兩個版本,有自己的翻譯,單多大部分的app寫著沒有那麽多錢/時間。如果他有的話,他就不會在這裏問了我們 Oct 10 at 15:33
  • zh-tw 实际并不代表繁体,而是台湾使用的中文,只是其形式恰好为繁体,不存在完美的将其转换为大陆用语的工具,因为这不仅仅是繁体和简体的区别,还包括大量其他的区别,在有可能的情况下,我还是建议针对不同语言单独翻译,如果存在限制只能翻译一种的话,开发者必须注意到可能存在的问题并不只是文字样式的不同,还有许多不同支持需要考虑进去。最好是提前预估哪种语言的使用人数及潜在收益决定,因为不存在完美的翻译方案。
    – wznmickey
    Oct 12 at 12:14

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