Start with Chinese translation

Is your business looking for Chinese translation services? Be aware that the potential benefits are huge: Mandarin has about 955 million native speakers, making it the most commonly used language in the world; China is the fastest growing consumer market in the world and the second largest importer of goods; The Belt and Road Initiative will reshape global trade; Chinese translation can also help you reach the Chinese community closer to home. While the potential benefits are real, the potential difficulty is also true. To avoid accidents, please read our Starter Corporate Chinese Translation Service Guide.

1. First of all, we must find out more than one language in China.

Foreign customer consultation asked China only Mandarin? If you answer “yes” then you can only get partial satisfaction. Mandarin (commonly known as standard Chinese or Mandarin) is the official language of China, Taiwan and Singapore, but it is not the only language spoken by people in China. Today there are 299 living languages ​​in China. About 70% of Chinese speak Mandarin, and although the government wants to increase it to 80% by 2020, it is important to know your audience. Depending on what you are translating, the media you are using and the audience you are trying to reach, Mandarin may be sufficient. However, in some areas, such as Hong Kong, it is also important to respect local languages ​​such as Cantonese. Calling standard Chinese “Mandarin” itself is an oversimplification process. “Mandarin” also refers to a group of dialects used in northern and southwestern China. When speaking, these dialects are not completely interdependent.

2. Written Chinese – a common language?

Spoken Chinese is very different, but all Chinese use the same writing system. Therefore, even if the dialects they speak are incomprehensible to each other, the Chinese can read and understand the same text. In other words, you should pay attention to some changes in written Chinese. The first is the difference between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

3. Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese

Chinese characters are complex, so since the 1950s and 1960s, the Chinese government has begun to promote the use of a simpler character that requires fewer strokes to write. So mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore now use Simplified Chinese, but currently Taiwanese and Macau and Hong Kong still use traditional Chinese characters. But there is a difference in vocabulary, grammar and tone between all these regions. So in addition to converting to the appropriate script, you may need to further localize your content to accommodate the use and preferences of local words. For example, in Hong Kong, advertisements are often written in vernacular Cantonese to attract local audiences. Just as English in the United Kingdom and the United States, some words have different meanings in different fields. For example, the term “computer” in mainland China is translated as “calculator” in Singapore.

4. Graphic design considerations for Chinese text

Chinese characters are more complicated than the letters in the Roman alphabet. Can your audience easily read your content? You may need more space, including vertical and horizontal spaces, to make your text look more engaging and professional.

5. Does your business need a Chinese name?

Written Chinese is a language script with thousands of texts that represent different contexts, which makes translating your company name into Chinese is a tricky business. You can choose to rely solely on the literal meaning of the pronunciation, but they cannot reveal what they really mean. This may have an adverse effect on your brand. For example, consider the unauthorized translation of the infamous Coca Cola. Fortunately, Coca-Cola’s professional translation team is able to come up with something better: Kekoukele, which sounds like Coca-Cola, means “delicious fun” or “make your mouth happy”. On the other hand, Best Buy ended Baisimi. This means “buying after 100 times of thinking”, which does not fully stimulate consumers’ desire to buy. In 2011, the company closed all nine Chinese stores.

6. Just translation may not be enough

For the Chinese market, even accurate verbatim translations are not enough. You must also consider different cultural elements, especially advertising and marketing communications. For example, color can bring different connotations to Western culture in Chinese culture. Views on the numbers of “lucky” and “unfortunate” may seem like the superstitions of Westerners, but they are so mainstream in Chinese culture that it is almost universal. Sometimes it may be necessary to change, redesign or convert content to take these differences into account.


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