Chinese Translation is an Important Part of Many Businesses
Know Where Your Market is
This is crucial for Chinese translation. Whereas, certainly, English has many varieties including British, American, Canadian, Caribbean and Australian, these forms of English are more or less understandable by other English speakers. Chinese, however, is a bit different. China is not a homogeneous area: Many different ethnicities exist within China, and many speak a dialect that is actually a completely different language. Combining all these diverse ethnicities and cultures together under one “Chinese” language has been an important part of the success of China. It also means that, if you plan to translate into Chinese, you really need to know your market. Who you need to communicate with and where they are.
Two Forms of Written Chinese
There are different ways of writing Chinese depending on where you are geographically. Basically, this is traditional and simplified. You may think that traditional Chinese is written on Mainland China, but it’s actually the opposite. Traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and simplified Chinese is used on Mainland China and in Singapore. The reason for this is historical and due to the different types of government incentives and practices that have been put in place in the different areas. You should also know that in Singapore and Taiwan people speak Mandarin Chinese. Mainland China has speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, and 5 other dialect groups. These can be mutually unintelligible and are sometimes placed on a continuum to show how well they are understood by speakers of other dialects. Some say they are as different as the different Romance languages.
On Mainland China, then, to help keep things simple, there is a form of written Chinese called simplified. In this way, people from diverse areas can communicate with each other. And, similarly, everyone can read the written language. Spoken language is very different, however.
Many Languages in China
In fact, not only are the different forms of Chinese mutually unintelligible, in China, there are actually many different languages spoken across the country. There are 56 different ethnicities in China, speaking languages from Tibetan to Mongolian to Portuguese. In fact, there are 8 official languages in China. Spoken languages (which include a huge long list of indigenous and minority languages) represent at least 9 different language families.
So, Bottom Line: Know Who You are Translating for
Major markets for Chinese translation include Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Beijing. Before you begin, just know who you are translating for. That way, you will be able to communicate important basic information to your translators. They’ll know the details, but it’s a good thing for you to know who your audience is and where they live.