China has a huge tech industry. While its growth rate is down recently, it’s still a key player when it comes to tech. The BBC recently wrote about the Chinese tech sector and said that China’s growth is slowing, and one in five tech companies plans to cut recruitment. However, the Chinese economy is still likely to grow 6.3 percent in 2019. The fact is, if you need technical translation, it may well involve Chinese.
Sadly, Chinese tech translation is often not the best quality. There are lots of examples online of Chinese menu translation fails. When you add in technology, translation is even harder. Below, we look at why Chinese tech translation is so bad and what you can do about it.
Chinese Tech Translation
Technology moves fast, which affects tech translation. This timeline on technological progress, shows how technology has advanced. Enter the year you were born, and it tells you where technology was then and when you were 12-years-old. For example, if you were born in 1986, no US households had internet; 12 years later, 61% of them still didn’t.
“The Law of Accelerating Returns” by Ray Kurzweil said that we would see 20,000 years’ worth of progress in the 21st century, thanks to new tech like AI and 3D printing, leading to huge, fast changes. For tech translation, this means that change is constant.
As new technology emerges, translators must learn new concepts and jargon, so that they can translate it properly. This includes many new words, making translation even harder.
How Cantonese and Mandarin Affect Tech Translation
A hard part of Chinese translation is that the language has two main dialects: Cantonese and Mandarin. The dialects can affect the tech translation.
Mandarin is China’s official language. It’s the main spoken language in much of China, Taiwan and Singapore. Cantonese is spoken in the southeastern region, in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong. Cantonese is also spoken abroad in most Chinese communities in the West. Many local areas in China also have their own dialects.
Mandarin and Cantonese use the same alphabet but sound different. Mandarin and Cantonese are tonal languages, so different words have different meanings based on how you say them. Mandarin has five tones and Cantonese has nine.
Also, some regions write using complicated traditional Chinese characters, but China as a nation has been moving towards fewer, simpler characters. This can also affect tech translation work.
Mandarin is used in schools and business settings, so you will probably need a Mandarin speaker for tech translation.
How to Find a Good Tech Translator for Chinese Translation
You can avoid poor Chinese tech translation. Don’t use cheap, generalized translators to try and save money. Find a translator who is a specialist in technical translation and in the dialect of Chinese you need.
Check the translator’s business experience. A translator who is good at both marketing and tech translation will deliver the best quality work.
Interested in learning a bit more a about the Chinese tech industry? Check out our article on China’s Tech Giants. Or maybe you’d be interested in learning more about the city of Hangzhou, the Silicon Valley of China.
About the Author:
Ofer Tirosh is the CEO of Tomedes, a multinational language service provider that has been helping business professionals around the globe with their marketing and technical translation needs