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Travel, Teach, Live in China

The Nuances Of Chinese Translation
By:Charlene Lacandazo

What is known as “standard Mandarin,” which is based on the Beijing dialect, is the official standard language used by the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Needless to say, Mandarin Chinese tops all the other six main language groups, namely Wu, Xiang, Hakka, Gan, Cantonese and Min.

Chinese translation is usually performed by native Chinese speakers who are professionally educated and understand the culture of the source language, which is usually English. Quite recently, there has been intense international focus on capturing the huge Chinese market, and various businesses are scrambling to gain a significant share of it. American companies, or English-speaking businesses from the West, are some of the most aggressive parties in this “Asian gold rush.” And the first obstacle, of course, is the ability to properly communicate to the target local market.

Chinese translation offers a distinct kind of challenge because of the diversity of Chinese dialects. Linguists have divided the Chinese language into several dialects and subdialects. To make matters worse, these subdialects are mutually unintelligible—speakers of a certain dialect may totally not understand those speaking another dialect, even if their geographical locations are merely adjacent to each other. These differences continue to exist despite the Chinese government’s efforts in establishing a standard official language. Fortunately, though, as far as businesses’ intentions are concerned, it is often enough to “speak” the standard language, or to know either simplified or traditional Chinese, to tap into the Chinese market, without having to go into the convoluted ways of entering the market.

Chinese translation services, therefore, are currently enjoying a kind of boom in their business. Services vary, but one will notice that most of the offered services target businesses, such as website translation to translate English websites into Chinese, patent translation (for technology companies, and multimedia and desktop publishing translation (for presentations), Chinese subtitling services (for the movie industry).

And as with any “boom,” many translation agencies trying to cash in on the current “gold rush” present a bewildering array of choices for any client: the rates for the offered services vary wildly, and quite often one is “seduced” to get the translation agency with the lowest price. However, as with any other field of language translation, Chinese translation should be taken on with certain considerations for quality. There are ways a client can ascertain in advance if the services offered or an agency boasting of this and that capability can actually deliver. Check first their portfolio of past and current jobs, and try to read between the lines of clients’ feedback. If it is possible, email one or two of their former clients and get the scoop straight from the horses’ mouth. Of course, the quickest would be through a referral by a colleague or anyone from your industry—if this is someone you trust, then maybe you can take their word for it.

Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta Translation, one of the best known translation agencies in London http://www.rosettatranslation.com/london. Rosetta has particular strengths in Chinese translation http://www.rosettatranslation.com/language/chinese_translation and Chinese interpreting services services:

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