The sheer size of China’s population makes it a market that cannot be overlooked, but China has much more to offer than just its vast scale. China’s population of 1.3 billion people (and growing) will see its disposable income double between 2010 and 2020, according to McKinsey, and more than one million of these people will have assets of over US$1.5 million.
In addition to its consumers, China sets the global standard for affordable high-volume manufacturing, currently producing 10 times as many cell phones per capita, and 40 times as many personal computers per capita, as the rest of the world.
Homegrown giants such as Alibaba, Tencent, Lenovo and Huawei are thriving despite competition from long-entrenched and aggressive Western brands. Experts often attribute market penetration difficulties to a lack of understanding of China’s varied regions, cultures, and consumers – in short, a failure to invest the necessary resources in high-quality translation and localization.
China is home to 56 recognized ethnic groups and 397 separate languages, including Mandarin (recognized as the official language). However, since the Chinese writing system is more dependent upon meaning than sound (using ideograms instead of an alphabet) the people are able to use the same writing system across all of dialects, including Mandarin and Cantonese.
On top of that, in the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered that their beautiful but complex writing system be simplified, reducing the number of strokes in each character and rendering the system more accessible to the masses. Simplified characters are used today throughout mainland China and Singapore, while Taiwan, Hong Kong and many members of the global Chinese diaspora still use traditional, complex characters. While the two systems still share many similarities, mainland Chinese residents have trouble understanding traditional characters, while Taiwan and Hong Kong natives strongly prefer not having to read simplified Chinese text. When ordering a translation, it is critical that you understand your audience and ensure that you are using the suitable writing system. We are happy to discuss your translation project and point you towards the right solution.
As the main language of business and education in China is Mandarin, you are most likely going to be working with Mandarin more than any of the other dialects, at least in the beginning. Mandarin is an elegantly-structured language full of history, and what it lacks in grammatical complexity it makes up for with a wealth of highly-nuanced proverbs used in colloquial speech as well as in formal documents. A well-translated Chinese document will make appropriate use of these proverbs and will take into account the cultural and political overtones of each phrase.
As difficult as it is for English speakers to learn Chinese, Chinese natives have a similarly difficult time mastering other languages such as English and Spanish (although the sheer numbers of Chinese abroad and the economic importance of English means that they learn English with relatively more success than their English-speaking counterparts succeed in mastering Chinese).
Despite these difficulties, many businesses simply choose to hand their translation work over to bilingual colleagues with no translation expertise — colleagues that often have lopsided cultural experiences. Tens of thousands of Chinese study and live abroad, and while their colloquial fluency may be impressive, their education and professional expertise is usually disproportionately allocated to one language or the other. Meridian Linguistics highly recommends seeking professional translation services for your Chinese translation needs.
Meridian Linguistics is very lucky to work with a team of individuals that are more than bilingual. These linguists have targeted translation training and experience, along with a range of expertise that includes law, technology, advertising, and more. Meridian Linguistics has a proven track record with millions of words of Chinese legal, medical, technical, and literary translations completed to and from English, Spanish, Korean, and more.
Contact us to order your Chinese translation here.