If someone said to you that they spoke Chinese, what would go through your mind?
Probably not, in all likelihood, the myriad of different languages and dialects that come under the umbrella term of what we tend to call Chinese, which is spoken by a huge number of people.
Expert advice is essential in these situations, as a specialist business translation services provider will have all the knowledge and experience to ensure that you get your text in the appropriate language variant.
This is also the case for European and Canadian French for example, as there are significant differences, which may alienate your target audience, or sound strange to them at the very least.
The official language of the People’s Republic of China is called Putonghua, literally ‘common speech’, but it is better known to us in English as Mandarin. Mandarin, Min, Wu and Cantonese make up the four primary Chinese dialects, which are not mutually intelligible. In fact, Min in particular is made of up several further dialects! In addition, there is a strong distinction between written and spoken Chinese, which are called 文, Pinyin wén and 语/語 yǔ respectively, compared to English and other languages.
All of this means that it is not unusual to see two Chinese people struggling to communicate, although this is hardly surprising given the size of the country. I think it is often the case closer to home that a West Country farmer may have trouble understanding a Glaswegian shopkeeper for example. It is these subtleties that make business translation services so complex and fascinating.
However, compared to the regional dialects and accents which may complicate communication in the UK, Chinese is a different kettle of fish. There are over 80 languages and 30 written scripts in China, including the languages of 55 minority groups.
The vast majority of the population speak Mandarin and other dialects, whereas nearly 10% are minority groups who speak mainly their own languages and only a small number of them speak Chinese.
This is interesting, as although there are many regional differences and dialects in (British) English, there is still an underlying structure of ‘standard’ English, which is understood by everyone.
Nevertheless, there are cases, especially in advertising and other commercial translation, where word play can require localisation into specific variants of English. This is of course also possible for the different languages of China, which is where expert business translation services come in.
Can anyone give us a further insight into the many different variations of what we call Chinese?