Chinese is the most used language in the world. It is spoken in numerous Asian regions, in addition to several more regions containing Chinese communities. The Chinese dialect is broad in variety, and complex in term and vocabulary formulation. In addition to its dialect, Chinese writing is just as complex stylistically. Being so complex, the Chinese language lends itself to several unique difficulties for Chinese translators and interpreters. Contributing factors that complicate the translating and interpreting process are geographic and demographic.
First, let us take a look at the basics of written and spoken Chinese.
- Writing: The Chinese language does not have a set alphabet. If you pick up a Chinese newspaper, what you would see are pages full of Chinese “characters” in print. Each character is a syllable, a single concept. Several Chinese characters are put together to form a single phrase or word. Characters vary in the number of strokes- the number of lines that make up each character- from just one to over thirty.
There are two versions of written Chinese: Simplified & Traditional.
- Traditional Chinese is the older, original form of the written language.
- Simplified Chinese is derived from reducing the number of strokes per character from Traditional Chinese to make reading and writing simpler.
Most Chinese people are able to understand the majority of both traditional & simplified Chinese. They are, however, likely to be more comfortable with one version over the other.
- Spoken: The Chinese language is made up of hundreds of different dialects, including:
- Mandarin (Guanhua)
- Cantonese (Yue)
- Wu (Shanghaiese)
- Xiang (Hunanese)
Mandarin is the most widely used dialect, and is considered the “common language”. Many Chinese speak Mandarin, in addition to their local dialect. During vacation in Taipei, I noticed several citizens were fluent in Hokkien (Taiwanese language) and very familiar with- if not absolutely fluent in speaking Mandarin.
There are a few elements that a translator must be aware of while working with the Chinese Language:
- Having the same Chinese dialect does not indicate same type of character usage. As aforementioned, there are two versions of written Chinese. Regions or groups that use the same dialect may not necessarily use the same version of Chinese writing. For example: The primary dialect of Hong Kong and Guangdong (of Mainland China) is Cantonese. However, each region uses different characters- Traditional for Hong Kong, Simplified for Guangdong.
Chinese dialects do share the same written characters. However, these characters do not always carry the same meaning for all dialects. For example, the Chinese character for “house” in Mandarin is 房. In Cantonese, 房 means “room”. In addition, the use of Chinese characters differs across dialects. The common form of saying “thank you” in Mandarin is “xie xie”, written as 謝謝. The common way of saying “thank you” in Cantonese for a gift, is “do jeh”, written as 多謝. Concluding a thank you note to someone fluent only in Mandarin with “多謝” will read as “duo xie”- which will seem oddly amusing to the receiver’s ear, and inaccurate.
- Forms of expression differ by region, even though two regions speak the same dialect. In other words, it is inaccurate to assume that all speakers of a single dialect say everything the same exact way. For instance, the translation for “You’re welcome” from English to Mandarin will differ for the Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese- both primary speakers of Mandarin. Saying “you’re welcome” in Taiwanese Mandarin, is “bu ke qi”. In Beijing of Mainland China, “you’re welcome” is “mei sher”. Saying “mei sher” in response to a “thank you” in Taiwan, will more than likely earn you a puzzled look.
By recognizing the issues discussed above, translators using Chinese language will not be overwhelmed when beginning their work. There are helpful, important steps a translator can take to ensure the final document/service appropriate for the client. The first crucial step for a translator is to work closely with his/her client to determine the target market or audience he/she is translating for. Afterwards, the translator is to accurately identify the proper written form to use in a written/printed document. For interpreters, they will need to determine the proper dialect to use.
The recent growth of the Chinese population in the U.S. on one hand, and the potential of the Chinese economy on the other hand, have propelled the need for Chinese translation and localization. The same has happened in the U.S. in relation to Chinese interpretation services. We often see training material that needs to be translated in Chinese and afterwards voiced over into Mandarin. The same is true for the marketing of products in Chinese. Due to these developments, it is beneficial to take a look at the Chinese population in the U.S. to understand their needs.
Within the Asian population, Chinese is the leading group
The Asian population saw dramatic growth in the U.S. during the decade beginning from 2000 to 2010. During this time period, a giant 43 percent increase in the Asian population- from 10.2 million to 14.7 million- was observed with much of the population residing in the Western region of the country. If we break down the Asian population into its separate racial groups, we will find that nearly a quarter of the total population is Chinese: 23 percent- which accounts for 3,381,000 of the 14.7 million Asian individuals residing in the U.S.
It is no wonder, then, that there has been a growing demand for Chinese language translation and interpretation services in the U.S. These services are needed for a wide range of purposes to serve this population, from Human Resources, education, business to health care.
The Chinese population in the different U.S. regions
Nearly half of the Chinese population in the U.S. lives in the Western region (49%). Furthermore, the Northeastern region of the U.S. is populated by over a quarter of the total Chinese population (26%).
The NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area has the highest Chinese population count of all metro areas (Chinese pop. 695,000). After the NY metropolitan area, the following areas in Los Angeles round out the top 4 metropolitan cities with the highest Chinese population: LA-Long Beach-Santa Ana (Chinese pop. 544,000), San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont (Chinese pop. 477,000) and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (Chinese pop. 173,000).
Metro areas tend to draw in individuals of not only varying cultures but also ages. We can conclude that there is great demand for Chinese language services in NY and LA. We also know that particular attention and research will need to be done on the demographics of the Chinese individuals living in the metro areas to determine the spoken and written form of Chinese to use. The U.S. population is morphing continuously. A few decades ago, NYC’s Chinatown was largely comprised of Cantonese speakers emigrating from Hong Kong. In 1979, the People’s Republic of China came to being, and under its jurisdiction, Mandarin Chinese was taught in schools throughout Mainland China. Since then, NYC has seen more immigration of Chinese people from Mainland China and thus resulted in Mandarin becoming the “lingua franca”- or common language-of spoken Chinese.
Language services wanted
As the Chinese population grows, we will continue to see demand for Chinese language interpretation and translation services for several important needs. There will be more Chinese families who need quality health care, their elderly well taken care of, and their children to be provided with a good education. I can attest to this – my family was fortunate to have a professional Mandarin interpreter on hand, when my mother was raced to the ER several years ago. Having the interpreter’s service, helped make meeting my mother’s needs a comforting process that might’ve otherwise been chaotic.
In regards to education, progress has been made to facilitate clear communication between parents and teachers; for example, the IEP (Individualized Education Program) forms are now available in multiple languages, including Chinese. And, in the business world, language services are also requested for business purposes to tap into the Chinese and Asian markets, as more U.S. corporates conduct businesses abroad.
Throughout the years, JR Language has successfully delivered Simplified and Traditional Chinese translation services as well as Korean translation services, among other Asian languages, for many academic and health care institutions, as well as companies from different sectors in the U.S. to assist in their efforts of communicating with the Chinese and Asian world.
Every year on April 20th, the UN celebrates Chinese Language day. The event was established by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2010 to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the organization. As mentioned in this translation blog before, the other five official UN languages are: Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian and English.
This date was chosen as the date for the Chinese language to pay tribute to Cangjie, which corresponds to Guyu in the Chinese calendar. According to a legend when Cangjie invented Chinese characters, the deities and ghosts cried and it rained millet; the word Guyu literally means “rain of millet”.
JR Language joins the celebration and takes this week of April to acknowledge the amazing job that our Chinese translatorsand interpreters carry out for us every day. Thank you for your loyalty and work ethic. Without your effort and knowledge we will not be able to provide high quality Chinese translation for our clients.
To Celebrate Chinese day we offer 15% discount for Chinese Translation this week.
Happy Chinese Day!
Pan American Day and Pan American Week in the United States is observed by Presidential proclamation on April 14 and the week thereof. This observance commemorates the First International Conference of American States in 1889-90, which created the International Union of American Republics. Pan American Day and Week also commemorates the diplomatic ties and relations of the United States with the other countries of the Western Hemisphere, including Latin America.
Each year Pan American Day and Pan American Week set the moment when Americans of all ages and nationalities can strengthen the bonds of friendship. Americans from one end of the continent to the other, come to know each other better through special observances, classroom projects, club programs, plays and pageants, parades and social events.
As part of both, Latin America and the United States, JR Language Translations joins the Pan American Day and Week celebrations. We proudly and diligently provide, day after day, high-quality translation, localization and interpretation services to hundreds of clients along the Americas in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and many other languages, allowing effective communication that enables business, social, and diplomatic relations.
Let’s celebrate the cultural richness of the Americas and sing together the Pan American hymn!
Back in August, we wrote a post about Legal and Medical interpretation. Regarding medical interpretation, specifically, we presented an article about a program at the University of Rochester Medical Center were interpreters are hired to help lower admissions and readmission rates due to language barriers non-native English speakers may have. This practice was a success but, what happens if those non-native English speakers don’t have the language resources to even access medical care in the first place?
This is the problem the health insurance industry is facing now. As if choosing a health insurance wasn’t difficult enough, for those whose English or Spanish is not their native language, this process becomes exponentially more dreadful. Starting October 1, the Affordable Care Act will come into effect allowing people to compare multiple health care plans in one place. Until know the applications have been traditionally translated into Spanish, due to the ever-increasing amount of Spanish speakers in the United States but, it completely leaves out the 4 million Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. who speak other language than English.
The solution? Translating the application forms into the main foreign languages spoken in the United States among them Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, French, Russian, Korean, and Farsi. Translation is the only way in which people who speak different languages can accurately communicate and get the right message across. We all know how important health care is so, the translation of these forms is not something insurance companies can “think about” or “do later on”, it is a vital necessity that should be addressed and solved immediately for the benefit of their potential insured people.
Let’s work together so everyone can have access to the same information, and therefore, access to the same benefits. We must push for better legislation and more comprehensive and affordable health care option that are accessible for everyone alike. Health care should not be an option, a luxury only those who can pay for it have, it is a right and we need to do whatever it is in our hands to make sure everyone enjoys it.
JR Language will attend GALA’s 5th annual conference at the end of March 2013. GALA’s acronym stands for Globalization and Localization Association.
We are looking forward to this conference after the fantastic experience we had last year. From Monaco 2012 we got new partners and providers, as well as a myriad of new ideas for the growth and development of JR Language in 2012. Overall we came back energized, and with new technologies to improve quality and the specialization of our translation services.
After checking the conference schedule, we are looking forward to get more insight on the maturity and new developments in Machine Translation; we have big plans for this technology in 2013. We are especially interested in post-editing techniques and measurements for TM.
GALA brings together a diverse and interesting group of people from all areas of the translation industry, among them: language technology developers, translation agencies, localization providers, consultants, and clients. Presentations will continue to focus on the tag line of the organization: “The language of business and the business of language”. This year the keynote speaker is stressing the importance of embracing technology, in general but, particularly in localization and translation services.
We are also interest in the updates on localization standards and connectivity between applications and translation tools.
Stay tuned for JRL’s summary of this important conference, which gathers representatives and players from all industries and countries of the world.
There is always text expansion or contraction when you translate content from one language to another. It is important to take into consideration this expansion or contraction, especially when translating any marketing material, for example: brochures, presentations, or websites since you will need to revise, and adapt your layout and design for proper presentation. Text expansion in translation is inspected by graphic designers in the multilingual desktop publishing department of translation agencies or by the person responsible for testing/proofreading in the website localization process.
When a document is translated from English into another language, it usually takes more words to convey the same idea. It is always possible to handle text expansion when translating technical or marketing documents by tweaking it a little, although the presence of graphics, diagrams and images in any type of document makes the adjustment a bit more complex, if it wasn’t considered at the document creation stage. It is safe to design your layout assuming that English text will expand by 20 to 30% once translated. Every language has a different expansion percentage but, when it comes to adequate space, the expression “better to be safe than sorry” holds true. Remember that white space is not necessarily wasted space; it allows for a more versatile layout and can greatly increase the readability of a document.
A few elements to keep in mind for document translation:
- Pagination (the arrangement and number of pages): Does this need to remain the same as the original? Will references within the text be affected if the page numbering differs?
- Table of contents: Is consistency between languages important?
- Any areas (tables, diagrams, etc.) where your English document completely fills all available space can be problematic upon translation without layout adjustments.
When dealing with online material:
- Navigation elements and links can change in length and might cause problems in display.
- Online forms and page elements in your website, like graphics and buttons, may also need to be re-sized after translation.
Although easily overlooked, text expansion can affect much more than the visual consistency of your document and websites. It can bring higher cost to your project by adding hours of multilingual desktop publishing. By addressing the relevant elements that can change at the beginning of the process, during the design stages, and by designing with Internationalization practices in mind, layout sacrifices and rework can be avoided and reduced; saving you time and money.
To find related information about text expansion and localization, please read this post from our series of articles about website translation and localization.
On our last article we talked about dubbing and subtitling. Coincidentally, we found a very interesting article in La Nación, an Argentine newspaper, addressing the topic. At JR Language, we deem important that the translation community is aware of what is happening in the industry around the world. Here we will highlight the facts of the issue and the opinion of the writer, Marcelo Stiletano:
One of I.Sat channels’, namely Cinecanal, announced a year ago in Argentina that they will no longer offer subtitling and that all of its programming will be dubbed. It is a controversy that is been around since and it doesn’t seem to mitigate. Up until that moment, Argentina had an almost unanimous preference for subtitling. Premium channels were subtitled constituting the main difference between paid and free TV programming. According to Stiletano: more knowledgeable viewers, eager for new things always prefer subtitles[…]it provide a wider view of the world, the opportunity to learn other languages and a greater consideration for the artist’s original work. He also point out that Spain’s Minister of Education, under Zapatero’s government, Angel Gabilondo, argued that dubbing is one of the reasons Spaniards have such a hard time learning other languages.
But, was are the channel’s grounds for implementing this drastic measure? Socioeconomic changes! They claim there is an emerging social groups that, although can now access cable TV, still prefer TV programming dubbed in Spanish and that, in order to maintain high ratings, they have to meet this requirement. It seems like subtitling “will remain in a more exclusive and expensive end of TV.”
On our previous post about dubbing and subtitling, I gave my opinion about it (I prefer subtitles); however, I was certain that my dissatisfaction was the result of coming from a country where both Spanish and English are the official languages and from a generation used to subtitling. Much to my surprise, the Argentinians commenting on this article, who come from an entirely monolingual country with a large and rich cinematographic history, shared my opinion about the cultural and linguistic benefits of subtitling and actually preferred them.
Do you prefer dubbing or subtitling better? We will love to hear your opinion.
Reading the latest issue of Multilingual magazine (Oct.2012), we stumbled upon an article about dubbing, written by Jacques Barreau, vice president of dubbing and subtitling at Warner Bros. We decided to write a post about the subject because we have received several dubbing/subtitling projects lately and we find that it is sometimes difficult for clients to grasp the importance of having the appropriate voice talent not just someone who can “speak” the language. Jacques knows this all too well having traveled the world to guide new markets in their dubbing efforts. Here are some key elements we wanted to highlight from the article that will ensure the best dubbing outcome:
1. Voice Talents- While actors with a background in theater can perform several voices, they may not be familiarized or even comfortable working with dubbing techniques. They should be the first choice especially in markets that are new to dubbing and where voice talents are scarce. Training these actors in dubbing techniques will ensure a fast dubbing process, lowering studio time and cost.
2. Technical Elements- Music and film sound mixing are not the same techniques. This could represent a problem in countries with little dubbing experience. Fortunately, music is universal and the equipment is already there but, with music you only have to take into account the music itself whereas in films element such as character movements and special effects come into play.
3. Cultural Elements- In an English into Spanish translation there is approximately 20% text expansion. If that represents a problem in paper, imagine the consequences in lip synchronization for a dialogue. If an English speaker says “Let’s eat”, an option could be: “Vamos a comer”. Try saying that out loud with a partner or even recording yourself and you’ll notice that the Spanish takes a little longer. The translator will have to come up with something like “Comamos”, to make it work.
There is still one aspect I don’t agree with the author: the complete localization of the cultural elements (for example, the localization of jokes: taking the elements of a joke and adapting them to the reality of another culture). I still remember as a kid watching the dubbed versions of Punky Brewster, Alf, Baywatch, Knight Rider, Bewitched, etc. But it wasn’t until I was older and had the opportunity to rewatch them subtitled that I really understood and appreciated their cultural value. I was able to learn and understand a second language by making connections between the written and the spoken words and, two, I was able to learn their cultural references and enjoy them as if there where my own. A complete localization of the cultural references will let you enjoy a program in your native language but it will limit your knowledge of the original culture. For this reason, I will prefer to localize only elements that might be offensive to the target audience.
Dubbing and localization are processes that allow people to have access and understand information that would be otherwise missed. Knowing what the goals of the project are and implementing the right resources for the job will ensure a successful outcome and an appropriate preparation of your content.
Individuals often seek ways to reinvent themselves with a new job or business venture during times of financial constraints. These conditions also pressure companies to explore new markets to sell their products and services. This expansion does not necessarily require developing new products, but rather customizing existing products/services to target a new market. We have helped many of our clients expand their markets by translating and localizing their products.
To communicate with potential clients; you must speak their language in every sense of the word. One approach to target a new audience is by localizing your website. With the right plan and the right team, you’ll successfully enter new markets in no time.
What do you need to localize?
Images and colors: First impressions last forever. Select images and color schemes your target audience can identify with.
Language: Use common expressions and terminology and be aware of different locales of the same language.
The message: Adapting ideas and transcreating messages will ensure clear communication as if it was written originally for the reader.
While reading Multilingual Magazine (June and July 2012 issues), we found three articles covering brand/website localization.
Positive Example 1: Pantene’s localized campaign for the Latin American/Spanish market. On a portion of their website localized for Peru, they display a female who appears to be of Japanese heritage (due to historic Japanese immigration, Peru has the second largest Japanese population in Latin America).
Positive Example 2: Eva Mendez is the face of Pantene’s Spanish site in the United States, another cultural connection.
Positive Example 3: When referring to hair, Pantene uses “pelo” for Argentina and ”cabello” for Peru; the most commonly used variations of the term in each country.
Positive Examples 4 & 5: To adapt to the Chinese market, Coca-Cola changed the characters to say something along the lines of: to allow the mouth to rejoice (a very positive feeling/image) Google adapts to the Chinese market by changing their name to “GuGe,” eliminating pronunciation difficulties with the letter “L” in Mandarin.
These are great examples of cultural localization through the use of appealing and familiar images targeting a particular market. At the same time, if you are not mindful you can make a negative impact:
Negative Example 1: The term “voseo” (a form of the pronoun you) is used within the Argentina localized website. At first it appears to be used correctly but after further analysis, inconsistencies are revealed. This is a concern because your audience may feel that the brand is careless and does not relate to them.
Language localization is an extensive process requiring time and research. To ensure a positive and fruitful reception of your products, it is essential to:
- understand your market
- maintain a clear strategy
- be respectful and consistent in your delivery
- set realistic goals
These guidelines will ensure a positive reception and fruitful future for your products. Please feel free to contact us today for assistance with your website localization project.