2 Important Things to Consider When We Translate English to Chinese Traditional


In one of our previous posts, we shared why Chinese translation is a challenging task. And that’s why working with a professional translator would speed up the process.

Machine translations are also on demand these days. Google Translate and Baidu Fanyi also helps when you want to get the gist of the texts. But the complexity of the grammar structures and contexts of the document, a pro should do the work. Business documents require the brain and hard work of human translators.

It’s the same thing when we translate English to Chinese traditional. As you know, there are two types of language — the Simplified and Traditional versions.

So, whenever clients ask us to translate in Chinese, we ask these two questions. “Who is your target audience?” and “Where are they located?”

READ MORE >>> How to Select the Right Chinese Translator for a Project?

1. Your Target Audience

Whenever we translate business documents into Chinese, we always consider the demographics. If your audience is in Mainland China, it’s likely we will use Simplified Chinese. But if you’re business has more connections and activities in Taiwan or Hong Kong, then we will need to use Traditional characters.

There must be a professional translator knowledgeable in the grammar and characters of Traditional Chinese. Some translators are both proficient in these two systems of writing, but it’s expected it’s a tedious task. It may even take only a single character in Simplified Chinese to convey what’s being communicated in FIVE traditional characters. So, we usually work with translators whose Traditional Chinese is the primary translation skill.

2. Your Industry and Specialization

We also consider the specialization of the translators if they are knowledgeable in your industry. It’s one thing to work on a Mechanical Engineering translation work in Simplified Chinese, and another thing if it’s a Legal Translation in Traditional. We also have a system of handpicking professional translators based on the quality of work they deliver.

It’s also a significant consideration when we work on subtitling and captioning services in Traditional Chinese. We also consider the market of your choice. If the video captures the Taiwanese market, we go for the traditional characters. But with voice-over dubbing in Mandarin, since that’s the spoken language. It’s a different task when we work on video translation suitable for the Hong Kong market where we work on Traditional Chinese for the video captioning, but apply Cantonese voice-over since that’s what they use in the region.

Traditional or Simplified? Cantonese or Mandarin? Let’s Learn from Apple’s Ad Fiasco

Translation matters, especially where your market is located. But translations may have different meaning among the audience like what happened to Apple’s iPhone 7 ad in Hong Kong.

“This is 7” translated to “This is Penis” when it was directly translated. Apple fans in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan had their laugh and snappy to make comments out of it. “這是7” literally doesn’t mean anything in Chinese; it’s not punchy or resonates with the audience. However, the marketing team adjusted the slogan that will suit them.

The character 柒 (qi) in Traditional, which also means “seven” in Cantonese is also a slang for “penis.” It’s not offensive, but it’s used to describe something hilarious. For example, if you’re friend slipped or tripped over in public, you can say something “You are so “seven” as in Cantonese. As a result, netizens made round comments from “This is Penis” to “Penis is here” or “Exactly is Penis” from that ad.

What’s the moral of this translation fail? Your target audience and region matters. Characters in Simplified and Traditional do have different meanings, too.

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