It should come as no surprise to hear that the Chinese language is often among the most difficult to translate. Auerbach International is pleased to offer translation services for English to Chinese and Chinese to English with the expertise of our experienced teams. As with every language, it is important to understand the differences between Chinese and English to ensure the proper meaning of the message is conveyed without losing any intent. We pride ourselves on the teams we have assembled at Auerbach International; the teams are selected according to their knowledge of your industry terminology, with necessary knowledge, skills and experiences to offer quality Chinese language translation services.
Quite different from alphabetic languages, the basic element or unit of Chinese is the character, each of which has its own writing, meaning and pronunciation, and must be memorized individually.
Overall, there are over 60,000 Chinese characters (over 80,000 if including variants), with a large majority rarely used in daily conversations. Approximately 1,000 Chinese characters are enough to make 80% of written Chinese intelligible.
Each character represents a word or concept and serves multiple purposes depending upon the context and the literal meaning. Characters form thousands of words, phrases, including idioms and allusions. Without this knowledge, even if one masters thousands of characters, he or she may not be able to understand your text. This is a characteristic and difficulty of Chinese.
To further complicate the language, two writing systems are commonly used. The first is the Traditional system used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and among many Overseas Chinese in the US and abroad. The second is the Simplified system used in China and Singapore. We must know which country or countries you want to target to know which set of characters to use. It is imperative to work with highly regarded Chinese language translation services like Auerbach International to ensure accurate context and translation.
Unlike alphabetic languages whose letters form distinct sounds, characters can be pronounced in hundreds of ways called dialects.
Most linguists have recognized seven distinct and major Chinese dialects; however, at the local village level, the number explodes. People who speak different dialects often cannot understand each other. However, the written language is similar nationwide.
Mandarin is the official dialect of both China and Taiwan but is pronounced slightly differently in each country. The other most common dialect in the US is Cantonese, spoken in the coastal region of southern China near Hong Kong. Different dialects may influence word choices and meaning.
If we consider linguistic styles, Chinese and English are quite different. In Chinese, there are no articles (“the” and “a/an”) or plural forms, and tense (present, past, future, etc.) is more vague and imprecise. Grammar rules also differ. Tense in Chinese is usually implied by adding a new word (“Yesterday I come”) or character to the sentence. A single Chinese character may take on a different meaning if combined with other characters. In general, whereas English can use complex sentences running to many lines, Chinese uses simpler sentence structures than English does.
Word order of Chinese sentences is different from English. The language can also be written in different directions: right to left, left to right, or up to down. Since characters represent whole concepts or thoughts, one character uses far less space than an English word with multiple letters and syllables such as “determine” or “understand” or “incorporate.” Therefore, Chinese in most cases requires less space than English does to write the same sentence.
Determining the cultural sensitivity of a language can optimize translation quality to a great extent. If a Chinese translation is replicated word-for-word rather than paying attention to the cultural context, the message risks sounding offensive or simply unfaithful to its original intent. These may be the cause of mistakes for non-native Chinese speakers when they are translating a text. All these factors are considered and are a part of our Chinese language translation resources at Auerbach International.