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Challenges of English to Chinese Translation and How to Handle Them

Posted by Anne Q. on March 10, 2022.

Chinese is one of the world’s oldest and most complex languages, posing hundreds of Chinese translation difficulties. A professional English to Chinese translation agency can help with this. In today’s post, we will discuss the challenges of English to Chinese translation and how a language service provider may assist you with these issues.

#1. Chinese Has Different Versions

Instead of having only one “Chinese” language, there are Mandarin, Wu, Gan, Xiang, Min, Cantonese, Hakka, Jin, Hui, and Pinghua as referring to its few different variants. They are based on regions, and in fact, several of the seven Chinese dialects are so dissimilar that even native speakers cannot communicate with one another. The official language of mainland China is Mandarin Chinese, although Cantonese is more commonly spoken in Hong Kong. 

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Furthermore, there are simplified and traditional Chinese, both of which were established after the 1950s, making Chinese translation much more complex. In order to make a translation that is as accurate as possible, the translator involved in your translation project should know the region of the country the source document originates from and be familiar with their style and language usage.


#2. Formality is Critical

In Chinese, surnames, which come before first names, are believed to be more important than personal names since they are passed down from ancestors. So, the formality in grammatical constructions and addresses is highly considered.

When greeting a person in Chinese-speaking societies around the world, an honorific title is added after their family name. It’s more typical to address people by their full names in casual circumstances or when they’re well acquainted. However, in the workplace, people prefer to be addressed by their job titles or ranks to demonstrate respect.


#3. Chinese Uses Characters Instead Of Letters

In the sense that English speakers think of an alphabet, Chinese does not have one. While Latin words are made up of combinations of 26 different letters, Chinese words and phrases are made up of thousands of characters, when each character is one syllable long. 

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Around 3,000 Chinese characters are regularly used, with 6,000 employed in literary and technical texts. Each character represents a single word or notion, or many words or concepts in some circumstances. To make Chinese translation even more confusing, Chinese characters can be joined to generate a completely new character, the meaning of which is heavily reliant on context and placement. 

China has established a phonetic system based on Latin letters that can assist children in learning to write and talk. It is, however, not commonly utilized.

The literal meaning of each printed character, as well as its context, determines the accuracy of the Chinese translation. It necessitates an understanding of the number of syllables in each word, as well as the matching written character for each syllable.


#4. The Construction of a Sentence is Different

There are two types of sentences in Chinese: simple and complex. Subject, predicate, and object make up the first one. In contrast to English, the predicate isn’t usually a verb; it can also be an adjective. And this is just one variation among many.

In general, a complicated sentence is made up of multiple simple sentences. In terms of linguistics, a Chinese translator must have a strong command of sentence patterns, as this speaks to the translator’s language ability.

Moreover, if you consider the sophistication of tenses in English, where there are tens of tenses to describe events in the past, present, and future, it would be a surprise with Chinese translation that this language has no tenses. Once again, understanding the larger context is critical in determining which era of time is being discussed or written about.


#5. Chinese is A Toner Language

One of the most important characteristics of spoken Chinese is pronunciation. There are four major tones, but there is also a “neutral tone,” thus it’s sometimes considered to have five tones. 

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While speaking Chinese may appear to be an easy task at first, it quickly becomes difficult. This is due to the fact that a single short word can have four different pronunciations depending on how the word is said and how the tone is communicated. Furthermore, using a dictionary to find the desired terms for the Chinese translation project also takes quite a bit of time.


#6. Idioms and Metaphors

Idioms are an important element of the Chinese language’s vocabulary and are utilized in everyday conversation. People enjoy using indirect expressions through idioms because of their expressive force, rhetorical skill, and particular effect, which are mostly formed by metaphors in most idioms. 

After all, the Chinese are inextricably linked to tradition and culture, which has a direct bearing on localization. Traditional Chinese idioms are referred to as Chengyu. A proper reading is often required because the meaning can appear incomprehensible at first. 

These Chinese idioms would be nearly impossible to comprehend if they were used in isolation by someone unaware of their historical context. However, once you have a basic understanding of their historical context, their meanings become clear.


#7. Font Conflicts Can Happen in Chinese Translation

In English to Chinese translation, Chinese strokes can be confusing. Aside from that, the translator will need to be conversant with a few common fonts. There are some minor discrepancies in the way Chinese characters are shown on various devices. Our readers can realize that some characters in print books aren’t the same as those on the computer. It becomes even more complicated when we add multiple ways of showing simplified and traditional characters!

The problem lies in the fact that there is no clear standard for how Chinese letters should appear, especially when standards vary over time. For a variety of reasons, what was formerly the correct stroke order or style of writing a character can become obsolete or altered. This means that the majority of fonts do not stick to the norm 100% of the time.

The variations are usually minor, but still, it can pose a dilemma for a Chinese translation provider who has been taught to translate traditional versus simplified language. 


To Wrap Up

Considering the inherent difficulties, it’s evident that accurately converting language from English to Chinese or Chinese to English will require a great amount of effort to convey the precise intended meaning. But with GTE’s high-quality Chinese translation services, you can be able to thread all these needles. So direct our supporters immediately to get a quote and receive many attractive offers.

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