When it comes to taking your business global, one of the largest markets to aim for is China. Boasting a population of over 1 billion, it’s an audience that cannot be ignored. Reaching the Chinese market is slightly complicated by what we mean when we say ‘Chinese’ when referring to a language. In this blog post, we’re going to look at Chinese translation services, what you need to know to get started, and some key points to remember when requesting the assistance of a Chinese translator.
When working with a Chinese translator, remember there are 2 kinds of Chinese
In China, there are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of languages, depending on the governing body that classifies them in China. Of these, the most widely known outside of China are Mandarin and Cantonese. When it comes to Chinese translation services, most often we are referring to Mandarin Chinese, with a speaking population of about 800 million people. Before we go into detail on Mandarin, it is worth highlighting that none of the individual languages in China are intelligible to one another. They aren’t merely dialects from which meaning can still be derived.
And two kinds of written Chinese
In Asia, there are two kinds of Chinese used for written Chinese: Traditional and Simplified. Traditional Chinese characters are still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, while mainland China used Simplified Chinese. Simplified Chinese is based on the grammar rules of the Mandarin used in Beijing, and was made widespread in an effort to increase literacy across China. Its characters contain fewer strokes, with some shorthand introduced for some glyphs, too.
How difficult is Chinese as a written language?
Dictionaries for Simplified Chinese contain in excess of 40,000 characters, though only a quarter of them are commonly used. It is important to note that even a highly experienced Chinese translator would not be familiar with every character in Simplified Chinese. The following is a rough breakdown of the number of characters against literacy levels in China:
- 2,000 characters: just qualifies as literate
- 3,000 characters: the amount of characters required to read a typical newspaper in China
- 4,000-6,000 characters: the amount of characters someone who is well-educated typically understands
- 10,000 characters: the amount of characters a scholar typically understands
As a result of the complexity of the language in its written form, it is worth remembering that requesting Chinese translation services relies on a level of knowledge of the language that is likely superior to your target audience, to ensure the translation is understood by the most people.
Why is a professional Chinese translator so important?
With Simplified Chinese, the theory of translation is the same as with other languages. A translator will use the same sorts of tools, and implement the same practices to deliver the work. Aside from the issue of the complexity of the language and the amount of characters not used commonly in China, there is one major difference between Chinese and Western languages: it isn’t written left to right.
The correct way to read and write Chinese characters is in columns, reading from top to bottom and then right to left. While translations of text are relatively straightforward when a Chinese translator does not need to be wary of the space being used, some types of translation are hindered by the shift in reading order, notably technical documents and marketing materials, where space is limited.
What do you need to know when ordering Chinese translation services?
There are a few key details you need to make clear to your Chinese translator when ordering a translation. These will impact the type of Chinese used, and the final product. Make the following points of information clear from the beginning:
- The geographical location of your target audience
- The age demographic of your target audience
- What sort of document or text you need translated
- Why you need a translation
The above information can help a Chinese translator determine whether they are using Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese, whether they are writing in Mandarin or in another regional language of China, the audience’s knowledge of Chinese characters, the sort of industry experience that may be necessary, and the amount of space that they may work with.
With Chinese spoken by so many people, and with it being central to international business, it should surprise no one that we pride ourselves on our capacity to handle Chinese translation services. Take a look at the range of services we can provide, and when you’re ready to reach your audience in China, get in touch for a quote.