Chinese Translation Services
Whether you are looking for an Chinese translation for something technical, legal or medical, or simply a letter, we can help you.
Lingua Translations is known for its quality-driven Chinese translation services.
We will equip you with knowledge and methods, enabling you to communicate in the correct written form of Chinese, whether you need traditional or simplified Chinese we can help. Remember not to pick the wrong one!
We offer a professional Chinese to English and English to Chinese language translation service. Here is some information which you will find useful as the Chinese language is full of interesting facts and essential tips when you are looking to communicate effectively in Chinese speaking countries.
- Dialects of Chinese
The form of Chinese spoken in Beijing (Mandarin) is the official language of China and Taiwan, one of the four official languages of Singapore and one of the six official languages of the United Nation. Mandarin has over 800 million speakers, making it by far the most widely-spoken Chinese dialect.
It is mostly spoken by the Han majority, who make up around 92% of the Chinese population. Two-thirds of Han Chinese speak Mandarin, meaning that a considerable proportion are bilingual.
Even so, it’s not as simple as getting a document translated into “Chinese”. China is vast and there are in fact seven main dialects, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Wu Min, Xiang and Gan, each of which differ considerably from the others and are often unintelligible to speakers of other dialects. When considering your Chinese audience, it is very important to consider what dialect of Chinese you need your document translated into.
- Written Chinese
Chinese is not written using a Westernised alphabet but instead uses characters called hanzi. This writing system is one of the oldest in the world.
There are literally tens of thousands of different characters, although according to studies carried out in China, one would only need to know around three to four thousand characters to be considered fully literate.
There is also a system for transcribing Chinese characters into Latin script, which is called pinyin which is used for helping young children to read and to transliterate words for language learners.
Every Chinese character represents one syllable, but words can be made out of a number of different characters to make them polysyllabic. For example the character for electric, 电 [diàn], and the character for vision, 视 [shì], can be combined to make 电视 [diànshì], “electric vision”, or “television”.
Chinese is one of the world’s most compact languages, meaning that a text translated from English could be up to 70% shorter! This has implications for translations with artwork, formatting and page layout considerations and could require a desktop publishing (DTP) professional to adapt the design, layout or typography of the completed document.
- Traditional and Simplified Chinese
To make matters more complicated, there are two separate Chinese character systems, Simplified and Traditional. Simplified Chinese is more modern (introduced in 1949 when the Chinese Communist Party took power) and is used in mainland China and Singapore, whereas Traditional Chinese is used in areas like Hong Kong and Taiwan.
It is very important that you know which form of written Chinese to have your document translated into as this has implications for the target audience of your documents.
- Potential pitfalls of Chinese translation
It is considered to be more difficult to translate between English and Chinese than it is to translate between English and many European languages, with which it has more in common linguistically.
In Chinese, the modifier comes before, rather than after, the object that it is modifying, whereas in English, the position of the modifier varies.
In Chinese, verbs aren’t conjugated and adjectives don’t agree. No matter who is carrying out the action, they remain fixed. This can lead to mistakes in English such as “My brother learn English”.
Chinese is a topic-prominent language, meaning that whereas in English, the sentence usually begins with the subject (i.e. I have never been to France), in Chinese, you would start with the “topic” of that sentence: 法国我没去过。[Fàguó wǒ méi qùguò.], which would literally translate as “France. I haven’t been to.”
Chinese is a highly idiomatic language, and each idiom (called chengyu, which are four-character classical Chinese idioms) has an ancient historical background which cannot be taken literally. An example of a chengyu is半途而废 [bàn tú ér fèi], which literally translates as ‘to walk half the road and give up’, and more idiomatically as ‘to start doing something and then give up halfway’.
Therefore, if a Chinese translator wants to translate English into natural-sounding Chinese, they will often try to find an idiom to express the English concept. Of course, translating these idioms from Chinese into English also presents problems; it is possible to find an equivalent but there will always be some loss of cultural specificity and understanding of the background behind the idiom.
Chinese makes significant use of loan words from other languages, rather than paraphrasing the foreign concept. For example, the word guitar is 吉他(jí tā), cartoon is 卡通 (kǎ tōng) and bikini is 比基尼 (bǐ jī ní)! It has become fashionable in Chinese translation to render these words phonetically in Chinese so that it is pronounced in the same way as the original word.
A translator who was unaware of this concept may not translate your document in the most natural way possible using modern linguistic conventions.
- Chinese business etiquette and values
Chinese culture and values in business can differ considerably from how we operate in the UK and parts of Western Europe.
Here are some examples of the do’s and don’ts of Chinese business etiquette which might help you on your way to fruitful business partnerships in China and to give you an understanding of some of the potential pitfalls for Chinese translators and interpreters.
Chinese business is centred on traditional Confucian values, such as respect for elders and rankings, modesty, politeness and saving and giving face.
Be on time, as lateness is frowned upon. If you are unavoidably late, make sure you apologise.
You should only use light, brief handshakes. Overly firm handshakes are considered inappropriate in business contexts and could cause offence.
When eating on business, you must follow the lead of your hosts. Wait to be invited before you begin eating. It is also common for the Chinese to offer a large amount of food, and it is considered polite to take and sample a little of everything.
When receiving a business card, you should read it before putting it in your bag or pocket. Not doing this is considered rude.
Do not touch your Chinese colleagues (for example, arms around shoulders or hugging). This will make them uncomfortable.
- The need for Chinese Translation Services
Chinese translation services have never been more important. Due to the Chinese government’s programme of opening up to world markets in the 1980s, the need for translation services has rapidly expanded. China’s economy is the third largest in the world, and its growing industrial power means that business opportunities are flourishing.
UK exports of goods to China have more than doubled since 2010, and were worth £12.4 billion in 2013. The need for skilled Chinese translators or interpreters is ever-increasing and the Chinese translation industry is booming.
- English vs Chinese culture and business etiquette
There are huge differences between Chinese and English culture and business etiquette, meaning that using experienced translators and interpreters with a thorough understanding of the way that Chinese business is conducted is essential.
What is considered polite or impolite in both cultures can diverge considerably. Translators and interpreters with considerable experience and expertise must be used to translate your documents and attend business meetings whilst using a style that is appropriate to and considerate of your Chinese audience. It may be advisable to employ one of our skilled transcreation professionals if you are considering translating your advertisement or marketing campaign for a Chinese audience.