Nuances of Mandarin & Cantonese Translation

The Demand for Professional Chinese to English Translation Services & Vice-Versa

Mandarin & Cantonese TranslationUntil very recently, China (中国) has been one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. Its large geographic size and population, are some of the factors that are attributed to its powerful global presence. Current statistics, estimate that China has a total population of over 1.37 billion people and China’s economy and population have prompted many companies to expand to the region in an effort to take advantage of the opportunities presented. Chinese companies have also responded to the global expansion and many have gone to the extent of setting up operations in foreign countries. However, one challenge that a lot of businesses, both Chinese and foreign, have faced when expanding their operations is the language barrier. In order to continue high growth in any market, it is imperative for companies to ensure that communication is effective.

Difference between Mandarin Translation and Cantonese Translation

The main languages that are spoken in China are Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin is the official language of Mainland China and Taiwan, and is also the most common Chinese dialect. Cantonese, on the other hand, is commonly spoken in Guangdong or Canton Province in Mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong among others. In 2013, The Education Ministry of China said that only 30% of the population cannot speak the national language of the country which is Mandarin. Statistics also indicate, that more than 60 million people in the country can speak Cantonese. One important aspect that should not be overlooked, is that there are many variations within the Chinese language. The variations in some cases are confusing and lead to misunderstanding, which may make Cantonese translation or Mandarin translation, quite a challenge to a translator.

Chinese Dialects vs Chinese Scripts

Non-Chinese speaking people usually confuse Chinese dialects and scripts. Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken dialects, whereas Simplified and Traditional Chinese are written scripts. Written Chinese is a script which is based on thousands of unique symbols. Simplified Chinese, is the written form of Chinese used in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Malaysia and Singapore also use the simplified script. The islands of Taiwan and Hong Kong, on the other hand, use the Traditional Chinese script.

Dialects are important when it comes to doing transcription, interpretation, dubbing, and voice-over. Translators are often concerned with the written form of a language and in turn do not have to grapple with dialects. Written Chinese is based on symbols, as opposed to a phonetic alphabet. As a result, written text will be read the same way in any Chinese dialect, which creates a common thread through the whole country.

Chinese Machine Translation

The translation problem in the case of translating from English to Mandarin or Cantonese, can be presented by many factors including the use of proper nouns, various forms of verbs, and language that is common to one region, among other things. These factors present a problem especially in the case of machine translation. The findings of one study, showed that the accuracy of machine translation varies greatly depending on the languages and content. One should never for instance attempt using a machine to perform marketing translation. Aiken and Balan suggest that “translations involving Asian languages are often relatively poor.” Such an inference, is an indicator that machine translation is not reliable, in the case where a person wants to either translate to Mandarin or translate to Cantonese.

English to Chinese Translation & Localization

There are over 20,000 Chinese characters used and even the Simplified Chinese script contains thousands of characters. Since one computer byte allows only 128 variations, to properly represent the majority of the Chinese script, programmer had to rely on two bytes. This is why Asian languages require double-byte encoding on computers, unlike most other languages that contain under 128 characters in their alphabets, requiring only a single byte. Double-byte encoding adds another layer of complexity to the localization of software and websites into Chinese and other Asian languages.

Chinese to English Translation Services

Chinese to English translation services, like English to Chinese translation services can be so challenging, that often times even a native translator can find it hard to deal with some texts. However, firms that provide professional Mandarin or Cantonese to English translation services, are able to offer impeccable translation, due to their awareness of the importance of context and need for accuracy. The experts take time to understand, interpret and translate the variations present in the Chinese tongue, which helps to avoid misunderstandings and ensure accuracy. In general, when it comes to translating any information from one language to another, it is highly recommended to choose expert translators to take care of the task. Coupled with the right process and technology, you can be assured that quality will meet your needs!


Find out more on how to choose a translation company.

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