Chinese language translation: Challenges

in Chinese

Business Chinese translation is in great demand nowadays.

China is recognized as the new economic power. China is now the second biggest economy in the world and as a market it represents one fifth of the world population. 
Since China has opened its doors to international business by becoming a full member of the World Trade Organization back in 2001, it is effectively now considered the largest market in the world which translates into huge economic and cultural exchange that requires clear communication.

China possessing one of the largest industrial bases in the world and at the same time is the fastest growing consumer market.  But unlike other nations with global markets who communicate predominantly in English, China is relatively unfamiliar with the English language.

To effectively compete on and profit from the Chinese market, business recognizes the need of professional Chinese language services.

No wonder that amongst all the translation requirements in businesses world, the requirement for Chinese translation service is growing at the fastest rate. 

With thousands of distinctive characters called ideographs, a complicated alphabetic form and language patterns and dialects, Chinese is considered as one of the hardest languages to translate.

In the translation business Chinese translation is always a big challenge to translation services providers.

Chinese writing system uses characters but not letters

The Chinese writing system is one of the oldest known written languages. The Chinese writing system uses Chinese symbols known as ideographic characters. Today, Chinese is the only modern language that is entirely based on characters.

Each character represents a word or often a concept and in many cases serves multiple purposes; each Chinese character has one, or more than one, independent meanings.

A Chinese translator has to face this linguistic challenge.  Accuracy of Chinese translations depends on context as well as the literal meaning of each written character.

A Chinese translator must know the number of syllables each Chinese word has and the corresponding Chinese 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 characters.

Furthermore, a Chinese translator must have an in-depth knowledge of the 3000 most commonly used Chinese characters and a good knowledge of the 6000 Chinese characters that are common for literature and technical writings.

Two character systems: Traditional and Simplified Chinese

Chinese is a complicated language to translate, for Chinese speakers use different types of character systems. Mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore use the Simplified Chinese characters, while Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan prefer Traditional Chinese characters.

When performing a Chinese language translation, translation services vendor must take into account the targeted Chinese speaking audience and define precisely which letter system to use when translating.

Moreover, there are many of differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese regarding the fonts, manners of expression and terminologies.


Many Dialects

Chinese is a complex and varied language that includes seven main and numerous other recognized dialects.

The various dialects contain unique vocabulary and/or distinct pronunciation and are generally quite different from each other.

Only a small number of Chinese translators are capable of translating all dialects; in fact, most concentrate on only two or in the best case three dialects.

Even when a translator has knowledge in all the Chinese dialects, there are still a number of important grammatical characteristics to be kept in mind when translating from or to Chinese.

For example Chinese language lacks tonal inflections and doesn't stress different syllables within each word.  In Chinese language tenses are indicated by adverbs and the context itself, but not by verbs.

Since the Chinese market is one of the largest and the most lucrative markets in the world and since  Chinese is one of the hardest languages to understand and translate, for business  it is imperative to use language services provided by a translations vendor that is experienced and well-versed in Chinese language translations.

For example, translation company EVS Translations: a full-service translation company with global presence and with over 20 years’ experience. Chinese translation projects are assigned to a team of 200 native Chinese speakers, who reside in China and are familiar with the Chinese language specifics and socio-cultural nuances. Chinese translators at EVS are experts in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese. Furthermore, EVS team of Chinese translators comprises of linguist professionals specialized in any of the 12 most common Chinese dialects. Visit



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Desislava Nikolova has 16 articles online

Translation agency EVS Translations has the resources and experience to complete even the most challenging Chinese translation projects. Desktop publishing services. Visit

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Chinese language translation: Challenges

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This article was published on 2011/08/19