Approximately 1.2 billion people, almost 16% of the world’s population, speak Chinese as their first language. While Chinese is spoken across Asia, when referencing the “Chinese” language, we are generally referring to the Mandarin language, the standard language of China. The majority of China uses variations of Mandarin as its mother tongue. Mandarin consists of more than 40,000 characters, all of which can hold multiple meanings, so it is not very surprising that translating and localizing Mandarin can be incredibly difficult. Here at CSOFT we have gathered some golden tips to help you out when translating to and from this unique language!
1) Know the culture and customs.
When translating Chinese text, knowledge of the culture, customs, tone, and context are crucial. It is not enough to simply translate words, but cultural ideas must be translated along with the words. Understanding the background of the culture is essential to good translation.
2) Never translate literally.
Translation is more than converting text from one language into another to convey a literal meaning, especially when translating Chinese where context is critical to meaning. It is nearly impossible to translate a text literally in Chinese, as the language consists of so many characters with multiple meanings. . A good translation is one that transfers the message of the original work in the right way, achieves its purpose, and triggers the audience where needed.
3) Convey the correct form.
It is important to know the grammar and syntax rules of both the source and target language when translating. Particularly in Chinese, where sentence structure is very different from other languages, grammar rules must be understood in order to translate material correctly.
4) Know the original content.
Pay attention to the original text and focus on the clarity and structure before translating material. Adjustments and corrections can be costly when it comes to translation, so it’s important to build a strong foundation to build your translation upon.
5) Pay attention to visuals.
Visuals, especially color, play a key role in localizing materials. It’s important to understand the meaning conveyed behind the hue that you are choosing. For example, the color white, which in Western culture symbolizes purity, symbolizes death in Chinese culture. Understanding the meaning behind visuals is key to sending a cohesive message to your audience.
It takes a lot of effort and skill to become a kickass Chinese linguist… However, taking time to understand the culture is key to improving your skills as a translator. Take the time to form a foundation, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Written by: Fleur Steenbergen Corporate Services and Marketing Intern at CSOFT International