Challenges of Chinese-English Translation—and How to Solve Them

Last Updated April 15, 2021


Familiarize yourself with the process of Chinese-English translation and how a language service provider can help with the challenges that arise.

Chinese is the most spoken native language in the world. Roughly 1 in 6 people on the planet learn it as a first language and it is now considered to be the chief rival of English as a leading language.

The official language in China is known as High Chinese, based on a Beijing dialect of Mandarin, and spoken by about 950 million people.

China’s growth as a global economic and political power has made it necessary for businesses and organizations to become more familiar with Chinese, or at least understand it and communicate effectively.

Chinese also one of the oldest and most complex languages, bringing with it a bevy of translation challenges. That’s where a professional Chinese-English translation agency comes in.

In this article, we’ll discuss the many challenges that come up along the in Chinese translation, and how to find the best translation partner for your business.

Why You Need Chinese-English Translation

Businesses or organizations looking to expand worldwide must invest in a Chinese translation service. Mandarin Chinese is most widely spoken, so we suggest starting there.

Opting for Chinese translation will help your company in the following ways:

1. Expand Your Reach

To be successful in any international market, it is necessary to help your prospective customers become more familiar with your product or services. With the help of a Chinese translator, your company can broaden its customer base in the world’s second-largest economy.

2. Build Customer Familiarity

Your company may find it difficult to understand the language and culture of a Chinese customer base, including their buying habits, tastes, and preferences. A Chinese translator can help with customizing your products or services according to the need of your prospective customers. Help people feel as though what you are offering has been developed with them in mind from the get-go, not as an afterthought.

3. Competitive edge

In China, people are not as concerned about online privacy in the way Western shoppers are. There is an acceptance that sharing personal details and habits with the state and state-sanctioned businesses leads to a better outcome for all.

The result is a fully curated e-commerce shopping experience beyond anything offered by companies in the West.

That’s how data is changing marketing and localization strategies, and the personalized and frequently updating nature of the online shopping experience is one reason Chinese consumers go online to see what’s new, sometimes many times a day.

Translation plays a pivotal role in international business and investing in Chinese to English translation will pay huge dividends down the road.

3 Challenges of Chinese to English Translation

The process of translating from Chinese to English (or vice versa) does not come without challenges.

Navigating the language is not easy for the untrained, and here are three of the bigger challenges presented in Chinese to English translation.

1. Use of Characters Instead of Letters

Chinese is the only modern language that is entirely based on characters.

There are around 3,000 commonly used Chinese characters, and 6,000 that are used in literature and technical writings.

Each character represents a word or a concept—or in some cases, several words or concepts.

Accuracy in translation depends on the literal meaning of each written character, and its context. It requires a knowledge of the number of syllables each Chinese word possesses, and the corresponding written character each syllable must have.

A Chinese translator must also know which character can be used independently or could only be used in a combination with other Chinese characters.

2. Grammar Rules

Context plays a huge role when it comes to understanding Chinese grammar. There is no singular or plural per se, nor is there any verb conjugation to indicate tenses.

A translator must figure it out by getting the context.

Take, for example, something as seemingly simple as saying “I read.” The same phrase in Chinese can be used for all the tenses. The only thing that will change will be the context.

3. Diversity in Dialects

As if the pictorial nature of Chinese challenging enough, layers of complexity are added when you factor in seven main and numerous other recognized dialects.

These dialects contain unique vocabulary and are generally quite different from each other.

Only a small number of Chinese translators can translate all of them. Most concentrate on only one or two dialects.

It would be near impossible an internal marketing team to be able to thread all these needles. That’s why translation agencies exist, and here’s what a good one can do for you.

What to Look for in a Chinese Translator

Choosing the right translation agency is crucial for the success of any company with global aspirations. Good translators will help grow your business around the world, taking your products and services to new audiences.

China is a massive market, and accurate Chinese translation is critical.

  • Experience: Anyone you work with in this area will need considerable experience in translating English to Chinese and vice versa. Ask about the project manager specifically. As the individual in charge of overseeing your work, their personal knowledge and experience is vital to your success. Ask to see a strong sample size to gain a sense of the quality of work.
  • Testimonials: Past customer reviews are a good indicator of a company’s quality of work. Be sure to check online to see what they are saying and ask for specific references that you can check.
  • Quality guarantees: Work with a firm that guarantees translation quality. Look for the means and methodologies that a firm employs to ensure the best in quality. Certification matters as well. Look for agencies that are backed by proper accreditation and certifications and that offer round-the-clock customer support.

By focusing on these three key areas as a starting point, you can secure the right Chinese translation agency and get your company’s messaging delivered in this wide-reaching language.

Choose your agency wisely to reach one of the world’s most spoken languages.

Go Worldwide With Us

Summa Linguae’s translation and localization services will help you convey your message effectively and powerfully among Chinese-speaking areas of the globe.

We take care to provide the highest quality, accurate translation and ensure your translated text expresses your intended message.

Get in touch to deliver your message around the world today.

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