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Essential Tips for Chinese Localization Projects

Posted by Anne Q. on May 11, 2022.

Chinese people attach great importance to their mother tongue; thus, to make a splash in this 1.4 billion people market, your company should speak their native language. As the Chinese language and culture are highly complex and rich, you should consider some key things mentioned below to achieve a successful Chinese localization project.

#1. Know the Differences between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese

Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese are two variations of the Chinese language that are spoken in various parts of China as well as in some Chinese communities across the world. Using the proper variety can help you create a good impression on your target audience since it demonstrates your comprehension and effort in studying the Chinese language and culture.


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Traditional Chinese was formerly the de facto language of all Chinese-speaking regions. It is today, however, exclusively used in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Guangdong province.

Mandarin and Cantonese are the two most popular spoken Chinese dialects. The former is commonly spoken in Mainland China, and Taiwan(quite some people in Hongkong and Macao can also speak Mandarin) whilst the latter is the prevalent language in Hong Kong, Macao, and Guandong Province (Many people in Guangdong can speak both Cantonese and Mandarin).

Simplified Chinese is written by approximately 1.4 billion people in Mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia’s Chinese population. And Traditional Chinese is written by people in Hongkong, Macao, and Taiwan.

Writing Systems

Simplified Chinese is a simplified version of Traditional Chinese that reduces the number of brush strokes and merges letters together to make it simpler to read and write. As an example, consider the Traditional Chinese character 興 ‘prosperous.’ In Simplified Chinese, 10 strokes were drastically cut, creating the character 兴.

How do you select the best Chinese variant for your Chinese localization project?

You should consider geography when deciding whether to localize your company content into Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese. Traditional Chinese should be utilized if your target viewers are in Hong Kong or Taiwan. Otherwise, Simplified Chinese will suffice. Whatever option you choose, don’t forget to consider cultural sensitivity.

We strongly recommend you seek help from professional Chinese localization experts before deciding which variant to go with for your project.


#2. Understand the Informal and Formal Addressing Forms in Chinese

Chinese people use two levels of addressing – Informal and Formal to address the second person. 您 (nín) is the formal addressing form for you, sir, madam, while 你 (nǐ) is the informal one. The differences between these two addressing levels affect your way of approaching target audiences in this market.

In general, for technical documents or UI Chinese localization projects, it is highly recommended that you use formal addressing. Meanwhile, for some marketing content such as mobile app campaigns, using a more personal and simple tone brings better results. In such cases, the use of an informal addressing level is enough and will work well.

But let’s not assume anything. To find the right approach for your Chinese localization project, you need to pay attention to the demographic of your target audience and send the information to your native linguists who will help you find suitable addressing forms.


#3. Pay Attention to The Great Firewall of China

Your current website might be running fast and stable in different countries around the world, but the risk is users inside China are unable to access your website at all. This is because of the Great Firewall of China. It blocks access to selected websites and slows down cross-border internet traffic. The list of foreign internet tools blocked by the Great Firewall includes Google search, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and many more.

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The great firewall of China can be a big challenge for your Chinese localization project. But don’t worry too much, there is always a solution. Your company can host websites in China, but you are required to have a license. In case you cannot get a server in mainland China, you can have one in Hong Kong which is a bit slower during evenings and weekends. But it is still a good solution.

Many companies, to overcome this difficulty, establish a partnership with local brands. Take Costco Wholesale as an example. The brand partnered with Tmall (an equivalent platform for Amazon) to distribute its wide range of products to Chinese consumers.


#4. Acknowledge the Popular Search Engines in China

One important factor that helps your company increase its online presence and sales in the Chinese market is investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While Google and Bing are in the top 2 most used search engines in the world, they only rank at numbers 6 and 9 respectively in the Chinese market.

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The top 4 search engines in China include Baidu, 360, Sougou, and Bing, all of which are tailor-made for Chinese internet users. That means most search activities in China are conducted in Chinese.

Each search engine uses a unique search algorithm and ranking system. If you have a well-ranked website on Google, it does not necessarily mean your website will achieve a good ranking on Baidu or Sogou. Therefore, learning about the prominent search engines in China and how they work will help you gain better results in the SERPs for your websites, contributing to the success of your Chinese localization project.


#5. Other Considerations for Chinese Localization Projects

Below is the checklist of localization details for the Chinese market you should consider for the best quality Chinese localization projects:

    • Texts in Chinese are usually 40-50% shorter than in English.
    • QR codes are extremely popular in China.
    • Colors have clear meanings in China. For example, red is the symbol of wealth, luck, and joy while white is death, funeral, and black is destruction, evil, cruelty, and sadness.
    • Bright colors help increase your sales in China.
    • Chinese people use the metric system of measurement: kilogram, meter, etc. Chinese people also have their own measurement system. For example, in the market, instead of using kilograms, they use Jin (1斤 Jin = ½ kg).
    • The date format is year-month-day.
    • The time format is either a 24-hour clock or a 12-hour clock with 凌晨/上午 (AM) or 下午/晚上(PM).
    • The full name format is the family name followed by the given name.
    • The address format follows the template country – province – city – street name.


Wrap Up

Because of the difficulty of the Chinese language and its rich culture, international organizations must conduct a thorough study in order to have a greater chance of completing a successful Chinese localization project. We hope that by following our advice and ideas, you will be able to develop a clever Chinese localization plan that will help you build a name for yourself in this promising market.

To get more helpful tips like this for other languages, download our free whitepaper now!

If you are looking for an experienced Chinese localization partner to assist you in conquering the Chinese market, look no further than GTE Localize. With a big team of talented native Chinese and our long experience in localizing various types of content into the Chinese language, we have the right resources to help you succeed in China.

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Book a 1:1 free consultancy with us and/or get a free quotation. Let’s get your Chinese localization project kicked off today!