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6 Necessary Questions for A Successful Chinese Document Translation

Posted by Ariel Duong on May 30, 2022.

Everything starts with a question or two, and it remains true when it comes to a successful Chinese document translation, no matter whether you are doing it in-house or planning to outsource. Chinese translation necessitates extensive planning, which is why it’s crucial to have a detailed dialogue before beginning.

In this article, we would go through six things that should be discussed before proceeding with a Chinese document translation.

1. Which Is The Required Form of Chinese Language?

Ranking first in population and third in the area compared to the rest of the world (as per Worldometers, 2022), China is unsurprisingly home to a wide range of cultures and languages. Below are some worth-noticing facts about the Chinese language(s):

  • The total number of dialects in China is over 200 (estimated). Since 1913, China’s main language is Mandarin, which is also taught in schools and employed in legislation or other national papers.
  • Apart from Mandarin, there are a lot more common languages, such as Cantonese (the second most popular), Min, Xiang, Wu, Hakka, etc. However, several other dialects are only understood by a few local people.
  • In the 1950s, the Chinese government implemented a project to simplify Traditional Chinese (with complicated forms of writing characters). Since then, there are two forms of writing Chinese: Traditional and Simplified.

Since Chinese is quite complex, both in terms of spoken and written languages, you must determine which dialect and set of characters of the Chinese language will be required.

Make sure to check for common written and spoken Chinese languages and be very clear with your Chinese document translation providers about any related requirements. If you can answer this first question clearly, it will lay a foundation for your document translation project, saving a great deal of time and effort later on.


2. Which Fonts Should You Apply?

If you have ever read any document in Chinese, you can see that this language has a great variety of characters. Even the smallest font in Chinese has over 6,500 characters and is 5MB in size, and some fonts can reach even more than 20MB.

01 Chinese document translation fonts

So, if you want to improve the readability of your documents, fonts are another factor to pay heed to. You can choose to use some common fonts as below:

  • Songti fonts (which are like serif fonts in Chinese): Simsun.
  • Heiti fonts (sans serif): Hiragino Sans GB, and Microsoft Yahei.
  • Kaiti fonts (brush script).

If you want to go for free Chinese fonts, you can choose from FZHei-B01S, FZFangSong-Z02S or FZKai-Z03S. For multi-language documents (Chinese and other languages), Source Han Sans can be an ideal choice.


3. What Tone of Voice Should You Use?

As mentioned above, China’s culture is diverse and complex. And here are some very basic things to learn about this 4,000-year-old culture before jumping into Chinese document translation:

  • Confucianism and Taoism hold an important place in China, shaping people’s behaviors in public and at home.
  • It is a must for the young to show respect to the old. They also have certain obligations towards the elderly in their family, for example taking care of their grandparents.
  • In business settings, politeness is preferred. Actually, it can be easier to close the deal when both parties are polite to each other.

Given that, using an appropriate tone of voice is of great importance when you want to do business in general and translate documents in particular in China.

You might need to determine whether your Chinese translated version should be informal or casual tones, taking target audiences and settings into thorough consideration.


4. Who Are The Target Audiences?

We already talk about the target audience in the first two questions. But here is a deeper analysis to conduct, and you are recommended to answer exactly who is your target audience: Where do they live? What Chinese dialect do they speak? What is their age range?

02 Chinese document translation audience

Sometimes the answers are not obvious enough, and you will need to do further research.

If your Chinese document translation aims for a specific region, you might need to check which dialect the locals are speaking.

Or you might also need to estimate their age based on the settings. For example, when it comes to government translation of documentation, chances are that you are working with someone middle-aged and high level, thus needing to use formal language.


5. How to Present Names and Addresses?

This is something many companies take for granted when they handle Chinese document translations.

However, let’s imagine how confused or even worse, disappointed your target audiences can get if you mistranslate their names or use the wrong titles.

In order to deal with names and addresses properly, you will need to acknowledge cultural norms first. For example, writing people’s last names, or adding the title “Mr.” or “Ms.”, is believed to be some way of showing respect to business partners.

It seems challenging to learn about these all at once. Thereby, we do recommend you hire a professional and experienced agency in Chinese document translation, which can help save time and ensure high-quality translation!


6. How to Deal With Glossaries or References?

Glossaries or references are considered not so important and not necessary for translating. But that’s not always the case, especially in terms of academic Chinese document translation when author and source information is required.

It will always be a better idea to go through your documents’ glossaries or references to decide whether they need translating, and do not forget to communicate these requirements to your translators or agencies.


Choosing a Reliable Partner for A Successful Chinese Document Translation

Chinese document translation requires not only linguistic skills but also cultural knowledge. We hope that the above information will be useful for your project.

For more insights and tips for Chinese localization, you could download our free white paper here.

If you are looking for high-quality Chinese document translation at a reasonable price, do not hesitate to contact us.

With ISO 9001:2015 certificate, GTE Localize comprises a wide network of experienced local translators experienced in document translation across Asia. Just drop us a message for 1-1 consultancy right away!

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