The People’s Republic of China is viewed through different lenses even today. Exotic. Mysterious. Aggressive. Fascinating. These are just some of the monikers that are pasted onto this 9.597 million square kilometres that make up the Land of the Dragon.
What is China today? How did “Made in China” become the most sighted marking on manufactured goods? Why has speaking and writing Chinese gained such significance? If the Chinese don’t master English, isn’t the obvious solution for English users to master Chinese and translate, translate, translate??!
What is China today?
China is a land surrounded by the Gobi desert in the North, thick, impenetrable forests in the South, the Himalayas on the West and the Pacific Ocean in the East. This is why early civilisation had limited interactions with this country. The politics of this country also added to its economic and cultural isolation. It was only in the 1970s that the winds of radical economic reforms swept through China’s vast landscape and ushered in a global trade economy. The Communist government in China has opened up not just the market but the free flow of trade and technology across its borders.
China is the second largest economy in the world next to the USA
a global hub of manufacturing
the largest exporter and the second largest importer of goods and
the largest trading nation.
Add to these facts that China happens to weigh in with a population of 1,382,323,332 and growing every millisecond (yes, count it live by clicking on the link and you will see how fast the number changes!), and you will know the mind-boggling economy and market that is being considered.
Tongue tied in English
The emphasis on English education in China took off only in 1979 when the dragon established strong diplomatic ties with the American eagle. With estimates of English “speakers” as low as 10 million and English “learners” at 300 million, China has still a long way to go in free and easy communication considering that a sizeable chunk of the West uses English. So, is this mammoth, well connected market to remain incommunicado? Hardly!
“If the mountaine will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will goe to the mountaine”
So said Sir Francis Bacon in his Essays, 1625.
Translation: If the Chinese don’t learn English, then English users will have to learn Chinese.
The official language of China and Taiwan is Mandarin or Standard Chinese. It is also one of the four official languages of Singapore.
Cantonese (a variety of Yue Chinese) is the official language of Hong Kong and Macau, the two mostly self governing special administrative regions of China.
The script uses characters called hanzi: there are more than 100,000 individual characters. Roughly speaking, each character represents a syllable and can be used individually or in combinations to form words. A recent development has divided this script to simplified Chinese which uses reduced and simpler characters; this is used mostly in Mainland China. The traditional version still continues in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.
Pinyin, the official transliteration system using the Latin alphabet, has also been developed to ease pronunciation.
In addition, it should be noted that Mandarin Chinese is spoken by the well heeled Chinese communities of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and Mongolia where the Dragon makes its presence pretty prominent and breathes a scorching breath.
Language translates to business
With China encouraging the free flow of business and becoming the golden land of opportunity, communicating in Chinese takes on varied shapes and colours if this high potential market has to be tapped deeper and deeper.
Professional Chinese translation has to be specific to the targeted area and the purpose which demands this service. For example, if the target market is Mainland China and /or Singapore, the type of written Chinese would be Simplified Chinese. Yet, Traditional Chinese would be the lingua franca for businesses operating within the Hi-tech industry and simplified Chinese preferred for companies in manufacturing sectors.
Translators from English to Chinese need to know much more than just the languages: a good translation company will offer translators who are cognizant with the kind of profession that the translation is required for.
There are many needs for professional translation that arise in the course of business.
Language and tone of translation has to suit each need. There is no such thing as a broad brush that you can paint Chinese with! Documents dealing with, patents, resumes, medical cases, educational certificates, brochures, insurance, visas… the list is endless when a country opens its doors to the rest of the world.
Add to this the nuances of the Chinese script where a stroke or a syllable can change the entire context or meaning. Work in the dominance of English as the language of business and trade. Take in the fact of the Chinese ethos being a little known and tentatively understood denominator and the care to be taken to keep niceties of language uppermost. The formula for success dictates that English be skilfully translated into Chinese minding text, script, language, tone and suitability.
This is why expert translation is needed. No automated or translation software can actually fit the bill in a language like Chinese. It’s good enough to order a plate of schezwan noodles and kung pao chicken, but not when your needs are professional and your aim is the sky.
China still burns exotic in many minds. But as the People’s Republic increasingly demolishes the “Great Wall” that had once surrounded its isolationist mindset, the layers of mystery are being peeled away. China is a prosperous and booming economy today. Make your presence felt in the Big Bang.
Translate your business strategies to success. Literally.