Translating documents, web pages, or even audio or video content to Chinese is no simple task. It requires dedication, experience, and an understanding of the nuances of the Chinese language. While ITC translators possess all these qualities, it is important for businesses and individuals in need of Chinese translation services to understand the fundamental characteristics of the Chinese language. This way, ITC can provide services that are catered to your individual needs and requirements. Here are a few important facts to know about Chinese document translation services:
There are different kinds of spoken and written Chinese
When referring to spoken Chinese, there are technically many different dialects, but the two most common are Mandarin and Cantonese, with Mandarin making up about 70% of all spoken Chinese. However, these two languages function separately from written Chinese. When referring to written Chinese, there are also two distinct types: Traditional and Simplified. As the name implies, Traditional Chinese refers to characters that have remained mostly unchanged for the past five centuries. Simplified Chinese, on the other hand, is a more modern version developed in mainland China to cut down on the number of strokes required for each character, thus making the language simpler and easier to write.
A written character can be spoken in multiple ways
Understanding the relationship between different forms of Chinese can help determine the kind of translation that is required. For example, someone who speaks Cantonese can use Simplified Chinese, as can someone who speaks Mandarin. Both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers will write the character in the exact same way. However, when reading the character aloud, the two might be pronounced two different ways. The same is true for Traditional Chinese; the characters can look the same, but sound completely different, depending on the form of spoken Chinese that is used.
It is impossible to translate written content into Mandarin or Cantonese
Mandarin and Cantonese, along with the less commonly spoken dialects, cannot be written down; they are only spoken languages. So, when translating a document to Chinese, it is impossible to translate it into Mandarin or Cantonese. It can only be translated to Simplified or Traditional Chinese. Knowing about this common misconception can save a lot of time and confusion when shopping for quality translation services.
Simplified and Traditional Chinese have their own advantages and disadvantages
Simplified and Traditional Chinese are vastly different, and there is an ongoing debate over which written language is better overall. Generally speaking, proponents of Simplified Chinese point to the following advantages:
- The Chinese language has been changing for centuries, and Simplified Chinese is merely the latest iteration.
- It is faster to write, thereby allowing for more efficient communication.
- It is easier to memorize the characters, easing the burden on students learning the language for the first time.
- Modern linguists have used Simplified characters to resolve contradictions and minimize confusion within the language.
However, detractors point to the following disadvantages of Simplified Chinese:
- Some characters were chosen arbitrarily from preexisting abbreviations, without accounting for or acknowledging other variations of the original character.
- Most of the changes to the written language throughout history have been minor alterations, whereas Simplified Chinese drastically rewrites most of the characters from Traditional Chinese.
- There are certain complications related to tone when switching between Simplified and Traditional, which can occasionally alter the meaning of certain characters, particularly with texts that utilize an older form of Chinese.
- Some of the changes made to the language are believed to be politically motivated, insofar as the PRC wished to eliminate certain elements of Chinese culture from the lexicon.
Similarly, proponents of Traditional Chinese believe it is superior for the following reasons:
- Using Traditional Chinese eliminates the need to transcribe or translate the language to a new set of characters.
- When dealing with Classical Chinese texts, there is no risk of misinterpretation, as the characters can remain in their original form.
- Those who have been accustomed to Traditional Chinese do not need to learn an entirely new written language.
Nonetheless, Traditional Chinese comes with its own disadvantages:
- Traditional Chinese involves far more strokes to write each character and is therefore much less efficient than Simplified Chinese.
- Traditional Chinese is inherently more complex than Simplified Chinese and extremely difficult to learn as a written language.
- Many terms and characters in Traditional Chinese are antiquated and ill-suited for the modern era.
No matter which form of Chinese you wish to use, the quality of your translation matters. Many businesses and individuals seek out native speakers without translation experience or credentials, non-native linguists, or even machine translation; however, the results will almost always be a disappointment. Machine translation may save a little time and money in the short-term, but the results are low-quality, and often require retranslation later down the road. Generally speaking, machine translation is intended for those seeking an approximate translation, where precise accuracy is of little consequence. In most cases, it is best to steer clear of Google Translate and similar automated services. While non-native linguists may be able to provide a higher degree of quality and accuracy than machine translators, the results are still dubious at best. Someone who speaks Chinese as a second language simply cannot be relied upon to produce accurate translations. Finally, native linguists generally provide much better results than the aforementioned options, however, if they have not been formally trained, the resulting work could still be riddled with translation errors and grammatical inaccuracies.
Translation with ITC
With the complexities inherent in Chinese translation, it is vital to ensure that documents, websites, or other materials are translated by dual-native speakers who are experts in the field. At the International Translating Company, this is not simply a guarantee made to clients, but a foundation of ITC’s business practice and philosophy. ITC ensures that all our translators are certified dual-native linguists who have been vetted in-house and meet a high standard of quality. This way, you can have the peace of mind that your content will be translated with the highest degree of accuracy.
Are you interested in learning more about ITC’s Chinese translation services? Check out our homepage for more information.