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Chinese Translation and Localization: How to Choose the Right Chinese Dialect

Language translation is accelerating the globalization process of China, one of the largest markets in the world. In addition to being a country that hosts almost 1.5 billion people, China’s language(s) ​​are spoken all over the world. Advancements in travel, shipping speeds, communication, and the internet are bridging the distance between countries. With such exponential advancements, translation services are trying to match the acceleration of globalization while still maintaining quality.

With the mass migration of the Chinese diaspora, and the exponential expansion of the Chinese economy, the need for Chinese language translators has increased. The hundreds of dialects within China is one of the greatest challenges to modern translation. In this article, we will discuss the importance of Chinese translation and localization, what dialects to choose, and how to choose and access Chinese translation services. We will also touch on the differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese localization.

Importance of Chinese Translation & Localization

The only way to effectively expand your business into China is to localize your products and online presence for a Chinese market. Each city and district in China have their own set of values, language, and consumer behaviors and it is important to consider this when localizing a product. Shanghai alone has the population of Australia and throughout China, there are 112 cities with more people than San Francisco.

Chinese people value the unique culture and language specific to their region. It is not a homogeneous nation and therefore any localization efforts should not be homogeneous. Translating a website, app or any business document to Chinese significantly increases your chances of interacting with Chinese consumers, but it is important your translation considers the nuances of the population you wish to target.

Google, the world's biggest search engine, is blocked in China. Baidu, the Chinese equivalent, accounts for 74.6 or search queries in China. The best way to create an online presence in China is to have your products localized so that they rank on Baidu. Social media is another avenue to consider as 80 percent of Chinese people have more than one social media account. Any business wanting to expand globally must consider China as a first stop due to the market size. Remember, understanding consumer habits and the differences between regions are key to successful Chinese Localization. Cultures shift and so do does localization trends. Any translation service should ensure that their translation services consider these shifts.

How Many Chinese Dialects Are There?

If you have decided to localize your content into Chinese, you’ve taken the first step. However, it does not end there. Do you know how many Chinese dialects are there? Or the most common Chinese dialects at least? There are hundreds. One dialect is often unintelligible to speakers of another. You have most likely heard of Mandarin, the main dialect used in Mainland China. It’s also referred to as Simplified Chinese. It is the most common and widely understood dialect within China and overseas. However, there are also Min, Hakka, Wu, Gan, Yue, Jin, Huizhou and Pinghua dialect groups that cover rather smaller regions. Cantonese is a widely used spoken dialect originating from Guangzhou and the majority of people in Southern China speak Cantonese.

The Chinese language is not limited to Mainland China. Other Chinese-speaking countries opt for different Chinese language dialects. Hong Kong and Macau people use Cantonese, while the Singapore and Taiwan population speak Mandarin. One commonality between the countries, however, is that they all use Traditional Chinese in writing, unlike Mainland China who uses simplified Chinese.

Which Chinese Dialect Should You Choose for Translation?

Now that you know what the most common Chinese dialects are, it’s time to choose one. Or two, you name it. First, think about who you want to address. Which country or region are you targeting? If you are planning to enter the mainland Chinese market for the first time, Simplified Chinese is your best bet. To have the right approach for your target region, make sure to use a professional Mandarin translation service.

If you plan to target a more specific region like Hong Kong or Taiwan, it’s best to use Traditional Chinese. In this case, work with a good Chinese translation agency. While Singapore has Chinese as one of the official languages, English is more commonly used for business and you should take it into consideration before localizing your content.

If you have learned enough about Chinese language dialects and are planning to enter the Chinese market but don’t know where to start, check out this comprehensive guide.

Specific Local Issues When Localizing and Translating Into Chinese

The Chinese localization process can be riddled with challenges. To start with, it should be noted that Simplified Chinese is not merely a simplified version of the Traditional Chinese characters. They are two different cultures with different sets of values and languages, and a Chinese translation service should handle any translation. It is essential you are aware of some specific local differences when translating to Chinese.

Dates: In China, dates start with the year, followed by the month and the day, respectively. The date system is based on the Gregorian calendar, and the relevant Chinese characters that symbol the Year/Month/Day will be used while writing down a date. Also, it’s important to state whether the time is in AM or PM when a 12-hour clock is used, as it will be translated as well.

Addresses: The Chinese address format is almost in the exact opposite order of the US format. It starts with the country, then comes the province and the city, followed by the street address and the person’s name. Finally, the honorifics come after the name.

Names: In China, the surname comes first. Most people have a single character as their last name and one or two characters as their first name. And each character is one syllable. So if you hear two syllables, you’re going to see two characters.

Currency: China puts the currency indicator at the beginning of a number and uses a comma as a thousand separator like the US. However, there is also a commonly used character that symbolizes 10,000. So, it’s not unlikely for Chinese people to count how many ten thousands there are in a number. For example, to say one million in Chinese, you need to say a hundred ten thousand.

Politics: There are also political issues to avoid while localizing your content into Chinese. China thinks of Taiwan as a part of China, whereas Taiwan thinks of itself as a separate country. Hong Kong and Macau are particular administrative regions of China under the rule of “One country, two systems” which lets these regions retain their own economic and administrative systems. The same system was offered for Taiwan but was refused by the Taiwanese government. Some of the terminology to avoid include: Communist Bandit, Taiwan independence, Republic of China, and Regain possession of the lost mainland. There is a high chance of using inappropriate language without even knowing, so if you’re planning to localize your website for the Chinese market, make sure to talk to an experienced and trusted translation agency that offers Chinese website localization services.

Why You Should Use a Professional Translation Service for Your Chinese Translation & Localization?

Before choosing a translation service, it is important to know your options. There are three main avenues, and each has a different set of considerations.

1.Using machine translation engines like Google translate
2.Working with freelance translators
3.A professional translation service

If you want to reach your target audience effectively, use professional translators. Chinese internet users can translate your original content via machine translation with a click whenever they want, so there is no point paying for machine translation. The nuances of Chinese languages and culture make it necessary to use translators who are native in the target language and fluent in the source language. They will understand the market and the audience before you enter it. A professional translation service specializing in Chinese translation is the right choice for any business wanting to break into new markets.

At Motaword, we work with 240 professional Chinese translators to ensure that your translation work is perfect. Don’t risk any unwanted surprises that may damage your reputation in the target market. MotaWord’s translators are vetted professionals who are native Chinese speakers and have a strong awareness of the major dialects and cultural differences between regions.

You'll get much better results when your content is translated by translators specialized in that field. MotaWord offers you more than you expect from Chinese translation services.

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Published on May 24, 2021 by KUBRA CAMIR

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