Rescribe: Chinese Translation Notes

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Chinese is a principal language group of eastern Asia, belonging to the Sino-Tibetan language family. It is spoken by over one-third of the world’s population. Beyond Mainland China, whose inhabitants account for approximately 1.3 billion of all Chinese speakers, it is the first spoken language in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan. There are also substantial Chinese-speaking communities in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolia, South Africa, Thailand, the USA, and Vietnam.

The script

The Chinese writing system has no alphabet. Instead, it is based on a sequence of strokes. A common misconception about Chinese characters is that they are based on pictures and ideas. Only a few hundred characters can be loosely labeled “pictographic” or “ideographic” and their meanings are not always interpretable.

How can I represent my English product/company’s name in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean?

We strongly discourage the translation of your company’s name directly into Chinese, Korean or Japanese. A name that may resonate with meaning and capture the notion of your product or company in English might sound wrong, or even offensive, when translated. A better solution is to transliterate the English word so that it can be more easily pronounced by the non English speaker—i.e. spell out the sound of the English word in non English characters. Even in this scenario, it is still necessary to make sure that the transliteration does not evoke inappropriate responses. In Japanese, the Katakana system is used for transliteration of English words.

Writing system

Chinese can only be written in two forms: traditional and simplified characters.

Traditional characters—archaeological evidence suggests that Chinese characters evolved from notations on turtle shells and human bones created as early as 6,000 BC and that there was a complete system of writing by 1,500 BC. Traditional characters are still used today in Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

Simplified characters were devised in 1956 in an attempt to promote literacy in Mainland China. After gaining power in 1949, the new government decided to simplify many of the complicated characters, to reduce the number of strokes, and to create new characters that were easier to write. Simplified characters are used in Mainland China and in Singapore.

Is my document in Simplified or in Traditional characters?

The difference is not easily discerned. Consider the source country according to the specifications listed above. The easier way is to consult our language experts at Rescribe, who will swiftly determine whether your document is written in Traditional or in Simplified characters.

Your document is not in Mandarin or Cantonese.

Your document may have been written by a Mandarin or Cantonese speaker. These are spoken dialects of the Chinese language. Here is a list of several Chinese dialects and where they are spoken:

Dialect    Where spoken
Cantonese (Yüeh) Southern China, mainly Guangdong, southern Guangxi, Macau, Hong Kong
Hakka  Widespread in China, especially between the Fujian and Guangxi provinces
Hsiang (Hunan) South central China, especially in Hunan
Kan Shanxi and southwest Hebei
Mandarin A wide range of dialects in the northern, central, and western regions of China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, and Taiwan.
North Mandarin Beijing. This is the basis of the modern standard language.
Wu  Parts of Anhui, Zhejians, and Jiangsu
Min Chinese spoken in Fukien Sheng (province) and in parts of Kwangtung and Taiwan. The Min languages are divided into Northern Min, with its center at Foochow, and Southern Min, with its center at Amoy.

Viewing Chinese characters on an English system

We will translate your document on a localized Chinese Word system and will send you a “PDF” (Portable Document Format) file, which can be viewed and printed with Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you have Microsoft Office 97 or 2000, please click here for more information. For a collection of useful tools, including a way to enter Chinese into Word 97 please look here.


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