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What Makes Chinese Translations Difficult?

Posted by Chloe G. on March 10, 2022.

Chinese is long considered the most spoken language in the world with more than 1.4 billion native speakers. Surprisingly, it is also seen as one of the most difficult languages for learners. There are many reasons for that, such as 80,000 characters in Mandarin only, or its tonal nature making Chinese translations especially burdensome.

Below are some challenges that translators can face when working on Chinese translations.

Mind several dialects are part of the language

Chinese translations

Though Mandarin is the official language of China, it is just one of the four primary languages which include Mandarin, Wu, Yue (Cantonese), and Min. In Mandarin, depending on the pronunciation, one word can have four meanings with four different tones. For example, the word “ma” can be “mother”, “rough”, “horse”, or “scold”.

Therefore, translators need to have a deep understanding of all dialects in the Chinese language in order to have an accurate choice of words.


Know the use of characters

One of the most important parts Chinese language to understand is its symbols-based writing system or so-called ideograph characters. Each character can have more than one meaning and represents a thought. Moreover, about 3,000 characters are used most frequently and 6,000 characters are used in technical writings and literature.

Symbols in Chinese writing can be written right to left, left to right, or up and down depending on what is being expressed. Besides that, translating Chinese with a language that has a linear writing style can make the work harder. Therefore, the translator for your project should be a native speaker in order to translate the exact meaning of the character and the context.


Work with Idioms

chinese translations

Chinese is abundant in its use of idioms since the language is normally embedded in tradition and culture. Chinese idiomatic expressions, or so-called “chengyu”, consist of four characters. The Chengyu mostly comes from ancient literature, where people use efficient and brief ways to explain stories or historical facts. So it is crucial that translators grasp and deliver the cultural context of the idioms as there is more than 5,000 official chengyu implanted in the language.


Understand how to structure sentences

There are two types of sentence structures in Chinese which are simple and complex sentences. Even though the simple sentence also has a subject, predicate, and object, there are some specific differences between this structure and the English structure.

For instance, the predicate is always a verb in English, but not always in this. In addition, the Chinese complex sentence consists of many simple sentences. So, in order to be able to transfer the meaning precisely, translators need to have a complete understanding of Chinese sentence patterns.


Master the complex grammar system

chinese translations

It is said that the differences in the grammar system between Chinese and other languages are the main reasons that make the translations so challenging. Words do not have singular or plural forms, or Chinese sentences are focused on the topic, meaning the topic of the sentence is stated first, to name a few reasons.

Moreover, the meanings of words have to be understood by considering the text that they are stated as verbs are being used the same no matter tenses.

With all the challenges of Chinese translations, the best option to make sure your translation is accurate and expresses the cultural aspects of the language is choosing a Language Services Partner that specializes in Chinese.


Choose your professional Chinese translations

GTE Localize is a high-quality translation and localization company that specializes in Chinese translation services.

Chinese translations

Our customers are multinational companies with operations in numerous nations. To deliver the greatest solutions for our customers, we are ready to go the extra mile for Chines translation services. GTE Localize has been a professional language service partner for hundreds of B2B customers globally and has a customer retention rate of 80%.

To give you accurate and high-quality Chinese translations, we have a team of experts of experienced and native Chinese translators with a thorough grasp of Chinese culture and customs.

You can contact and book a meeting with us anytime for your Chinese translation services. For more detail or a free quote, contact us now!