We have already looked into the many variants of spoken Chinese in previous blogs, this being one of the reasons why language translation and interpreting into Chinese is so complicated. We also pointed out the differences between written and spoken Chinese, and how this is called diglossia. Do you remember?

Well, this time we’re going to talk about written Chinese. We often run into clients that need to have something translated into Chinese, but are unaware of the different dialects and writing systems that Chinese consists of, or which variety is the most appropriate for their target audience.

Written Chinese uses characters, rather than letters, known as “hanzi”, each of which represents a word or concept, and normally corresponds to multiple meanings. The sentence structure of Chinese is radically different from English. While in English, the verb tense indicates the temporal placement of the events described, in Chinese it’s adverbs and context that serve that purpose. As a result, an accurate language translation will depend on the translator’s knowledge of the context and connotations of the word choices contained in the document to be translated.

Also, there are two distinct written systems in common use in China. Simplified Chinese, which is used throughout almost all of China, Singapore and Malaysia, and Traditional Chinese, employed mainly in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

This differentiation comes from the end of the nineteenth century, when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) wanted to encourage literacy by simplifying the written Chinese language and so making it easier for the general public to understand.

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The importance of this distinction can be significant in language translation, since one or the other will need to be used depending on the location of your target audience, that is, the specific regions you want to target. For instance, if the translation is addressed to Taipei, then the documents must be translated into Traditional Chinese. Conversely, if the language translation is addressed to Beijing, it must be done in Simplified Chinese. That’s why when customers ask us for Chinese translation, our answer is always “do you need Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese”? If our client is not sure about that, then we’re always happy to advise them on which variety of Chinese is most appropriate.

Our translators are experts in the various dialects and written systems of the Chinese language, so they can provide completely accurate Chinese translations.

For more information about language translation services into Chinese, please visit our website.