Which Chinese should I translate into?
If you need to translate a document or content into Chinese be aware that this requires extensive experience and the capacity to solve the important
challenges that translators face when translating Chinese documents. One of the most significant ones is that the Chinese language encompasses many different dialects, which obviously influence word choices and meanings, and should be taken into consideration during translation work.
Before we continue, it is necessary to be aware of the distinction in Chinese between the written language (文, Pinyin: wén) and spoken language (语/語 yǔ).
There are many spoken dialects which are not mutually intelligible, so a person who speaks one Chinese dialect may not be able to communicate verbally with someone speaking a different Chinese dialect. Written Chinese, however, is standardised and therefore universally understood, regardless of the dialect spoken. There is an important distinction to be made however, when it comes to writing Chinese too. We will look at this later.
This difference between the spoken and written words in a language, by the way, is referred to as diglossia, and happens in Chinese and Arabic languages.
Among the most widely spoken Chinese variants, Mandarin is the largest spoken language in China, spoken by about 836 million people in mainland China. Cantonese is spoken by approximately 71 million people, Wu is spoken by around 77 million people, and Min (including Taiwanese) is spoken by about 60 million people. And these are just some of the many dialects spoken in the world today.
This is such a complex language that we will need a second blog to complete the topic, in which we will take a look at the different writing systems in Chinese. If you are interested, please don’t miss it!
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