Challenges in Translating Chinese Creative Literary Works

What does a writer want? If a written book is appreciated by the readers, discussed in the book clubs, and that it is translated into multi-languages. You’d be surprised to learn writers from the western side of the world find Chinese text impeccably curious. Especially the Americans, who like to read and learn Chinese are often seen trying to translate Chinese novels. Jeremy Stevenson is one of those Americans who showed a keen interest in Chinese literature. He tried translating Liu Cixin’s work “The Three Body Problem” into English. Since then, the book has sold over 110,000 copies! 

However, was it easy for him to translate the Chinese book? To achieve this milestone, Stevenson had to face certain complications that any translator usually faces during translation from Chinese into any other target language. 

The Chinese language comprises pictograms (strokes), not letters, which makes the translation process harder and time taking. 

What Stevenson felt was that contemporary Chinese fiction is rather fascinating, but these aren’t easily available in the market. If any of them is available, it is sold off at Amazon, or available in poor quality. This is one of the standard issues with the Chinese context. 

Why Do Translators Face Challenges in Chinese Content?

The reason why most of the Chinese work goes unnoticed is because of language origin. Languages that are written with the help of letters follow the basic structure despite the differences like German, Italian, or English. 

The literary translators need a strong understanding of language to translate Mandarin Chinese to English. So as you can expect, literature conveys information in a particular way. Translators with a Mandarin Chinese background tend to produce a good quality translation of Chinese literacy. 

What Makes a Literary Translator Great?

The ability to overcome the challenges of a language.

Remember that Mandarin is divided into two main categories; Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. Besides these two prime categories, there are other regional dialects as well. Keeping these in mind, we have compiled a list of a few primary aspects that make Chinese translation difficult. 

  • Unrelated grammar rules 

What is the major difference between English and Chinese? The grammar rules applicable in English are not applicable to Chinese (either simplified or traditional version) language. Mandarin Chinese is specifically alien to English grammar. The fundamental rules of verb conjugations simply don’t exist in Chinese grammar. 

It adds to the complication of the accuracy of content from Chinese to English. So a message needs to be conveyed differently. 

  • Topic prominence 

A topic-prominent language requires a translator’s focus. You need to listen or read the sentence to understand what is being said in the context. Because the standard grammar does not apply to Mandarin Chinese, it is important to read and reread the content carefully before translating Mandarin. 

This isn’t only time taking, but also puts the translator into a heavy workload. A reader needs to comprehend the literature context even after the translation process ends. Proofreading subtracts major chunks, which is why you need to make sure that subject prominent languages like Chinese or English or even French are thoroughly interpreted. 

  • Characters and meanings

What is the average number of Chinese characters that a reader has to read in a Chinese newspaper?

Usually, an average of 2000 to 3000 Chinese characters are in a Chinese newspaper. If you are reading a book, the numbers can exceed more than 50,000 Chinese characters. Chinese characters are comprised of logograms rather than phonemes. 

Chinese characters indicate unique meanings if combined with different characters. This also affects the pronunciations, making the pronunciations somewhat similar. To differentiate the tones and meanings means to place the characters in the sentence that makes sense around the context. 

  • Writing script 

As mentioned earlier, there are two major houses for the Chinese language–Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. The complexity of strokes is different in both dialects. Simplified Chinese (as the name suggests) has lesser strokes than Traditional Chinese. 

To summarize this, the script complicates the literacy work. The simplified version is easy to translate comparatively to the Traditional Chinese. Usually, the major literary works like Chinese poetry, historical and cultural references are often available in Traditional Chinese, which makes the translation difficult. 

  • Difference in expressions 

To be a creative translator, he/she must have the right understanding of the Chinese characters. The Chinese lexicon comprises unique references from history and culture, which is why a non-native speaker faces a hard time understanding it. 

The use of idioms, metaphors, and sayings is extremely common in Chinese literature. A translator cannot ignore them in translation or simplify it either because each metaphor, idiom, and saying consists of creative expression. This is another reason a translator must have deep knowledge and understanding of the Chinese culture and literature before he can even begin the translation. 

How a Literal Translator Can Improve?

Literary translators specifically have the skillset in literary works. They do know the basics, but with time, they need to update their skills too. What makes a great literary translator is their level of understanding of the Chinese characters and overall content’s essence. 

It’s the job of a translator to interpret the source context and to translate it into the target language in a way that rightfully conveys the meaning. 

Moreover, Shanghai Translation Grants were established in 2015, to overcome the translation problem and to improve the translation quality of the Chinese literature. It drastically improved the readership of native Chinese books that were translated into English, Vietnamese, Serbian, and Japanese. According to the respective policies, the grant was eligible for the published or non-published translated books in the following categories. 

  • Literature 
  • Art
  • History 
  • Children’s books

If such steps are taken by the government, they can promote their native culture and language from a literal point of view. This will improve one’s perception of culture and language. Also, this will encourage foreign translators to dwell deeper into Chinese literature and expand their knowledge. 

Popular Chinese books are breaking the overseas barriers, let’s see how long it further takes to develop a strong foothold in the market.  

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Antonia October 19, 2020 0 Comments

Exploring the Significance of Chinese Translation Services

China – emerging as the business world’s superpower is something to marvel at. With more than 1.5 billion people living in China, millions speak Mandarin Chinese, traditional, or simplified. Millions of Chinese natives are spread around the world too. However, foreign businesses want a layout of the Chinese market, which is not possible without a proper Chinese translation. 

It is an overpopulated country with the highest speakers being of Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin is the official language of China and is used professionally too. Chinese are very particular about their cultural values and language. So, this doesn’t come as a surprise when foreign businesses have to translate and localize their content in the Chinese.

Chinese is good for Communication 

For a foreign business, translating content into Chinese can become one of their greatest assets.   In the business world, doing business transactions in Chinese is fruitful for a lot of reasons. Globalization plays a vital role in translation and localization services. Companies looking to tie a knot with Chinese partners can learn exclusively meanwhile  expanding geographically in China’s market. 

Chinese is usually classified into two major categories; Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. Although it does depend on which region you choose to establish roots. In mainland China, Simplified Mandarin is actively spoken but the farther your move away from the main hub the denser the dialect will become. Learning a local dialect (which will be in Chinese) is a tough nut to crack, you need to understand the vocabulary and most importantly learn about the writing system too. 

Why Chinese is an important language for foreign businesses?

Learning a new language is not an easy feat. For professionals, the best opportunity to communicate is by hiring Chinese translation services that can communicate on behalf of your company. Foreign companies when entering the Chinese market have to;

  • Use mandarin Chinese as the official language for communication and official documents
  • Adapt the business strategies according to the Chinese culture, so that your products, services, and brand looks local. 
  • You will have to deal with legal matters as well. Every piece is written in Chinese. So, being the official language of China, Mandarin is one language you need to work around with. 

So if it’s a “yes” for your interest in the Chinese market, then the following factors point out more than the obvious significance of the Chinese translation services. 

Chinese Etiquette

Growing business in China is not only about translation. Even if you do not have a regional office in China, you could still provide products to Chinese consumers. But the sale at that point will be low. 

It’s about learning Chinese etiquette. The business culture in China is unique and has different practices than the States. It’s easy to offend a Chinese supplier, client, or customer if you lack the cultural understanding. You cannot solely focus the product or service without gaining the trust of consumers and local partners. 

For instance, a solid handshake is a welcomed gesture in Chinese culture, while in the US, a casual handshake (with an easy-grip) is preferred.

Do you feel the difference yet? It’s not only the business practices but also the social practices you need to follow to build trust. 

Largest E-commerce market 

Coming in as the second-largest economy (after the United States), China still is ranked at the largest E-commerce market. An economical giant like China has webbed out in every possible industry to ever exist. It not only hosts the world’s largest internet users but also has the largest e-commerce net worth in billions!

The e-commerce market in China is progressively active. There are more mobile users in China than anywhere else in the world. Being a fast-changing market, it’s a tough job to keep up with the trends. SEO practices become irrelevant because of the Google ban, so you have to localize not only your content but advertising and marketing too. 

It is a popular language 

Do people often ask why to learn Chinese? It’s not only for personal reasons but for professional reasons too. There’s a lot of difference between Mandarin and Chinese language. You need to understand Mandarin is a “variation” of the Chinese language, besides other forms of Chinese dialects, including Cantonese, Hakka, and Fuzhou, and so on. 

Comparatively to other versions, Mandarin is the most popular of all. Did you know currently 840 million people speak Mandarin? Yes, that’s right. This is another reason why Chinese translation services become a necessary step in conducting your business in China. 

In the commercial world of China, Mandarin is the quickest way to reach the consumer. So needless to say you’ll need translation, localize the content according to the region. 

Tough Competition 

Rise and shine? It’s more like you need translation and localization to be at the top for the neck to neck competition. A raging economy indicates the companies should invest in the country in good times with the help of government support. 

To build a strong base in China, hiring professional translation agencies is just one of the many crucial steps you need to take. From document translation to website localization, it’s like bringing in the big guns for the local consumer. But do ensure that the translation is error-free, unbiased, and engages the audience the desired way. Otherwise, it could;

  • Damage the brand’s goodwill
  • Limit the sales 
  • Create financial problems (backing up the investors)
  • Legal complications, etc.

The website is the public portfolio

The internet knows no boundary. Chinese advertising tactics are mostly commenced on WeChat, QR codes, etc. However, handling the website is another matter. International brands translate their websites in multiple languages including Chinese to indicate that they do care for the Chinese consumer too. 

Concaving with the local Chinese festivals (or any other native festival) proposes the idea of brand intimacy for the local audience. It removes the language barrier, which is why hiring Chinese translation services is as crucial as ever. 

Conclusion 

The significance doesn’t just end there, but within our limited time, we do keep sharing the knowledge that helps you to have a better understanding of why your Chinese translation is important. Choosing the right linguistic is important, it doesn’t matter which industry you cover, a Chinese language partner will follow you till the end. 

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Antonia October 8, 2020 0 Comments