How to Order Chinese Localization

by S. Mitchell Donaldson

Chinese localization: all of the varieties

At many Chinese restaurants, there are choices between different regional cuisines such as Sichuan and Cantonese. Knowing, for example, that Sichuan food tends to be spicier and that Cantonese food tends to be milder can help you pick out the best entrée suited to your tastes. Just like Chinese regional cuisine, there are different varieties in the way Chinese is spoken – and written. 

Having studied Mandarin in college, lived and traveled extensively in Asia, and worked in the translation and localization industry for nearly six years, I have learned a great deal about Chinese speaking markets. In short, when it comes to localization services, there are three key things to know when you want to “order” the right kind of Chinese localization to suit your target audience.

1. Which Chinese localization is best suited for my business?

As many companies are looking to Mainland China (and Singapore) for sources of new business, Simplified Chinese is what most customers request for translation. Simplified Chinese is the character set used in these two countries. If you are targeting Taiwan or Hong Kong, you would use Traditional Chinese.

2. What is the main difference between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese?

Compared with the Traditional Chinese character set, Simplified Chinese characters have a fewer number of “strokes” per character. Strokes are just that – the number of pen strokes needed to write a Chinese character.  Simplified Chinese could almost be compared to “shorthand” and was developed to increase literacy in China as it is quicker to write and easier to memorize.

The chart below shows a few examples of differences between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

English Term

Traditional Chinese

Stroke Count

Simplified Chinese

Stroke Count

Telephone

電話

(13 + 13 = 26 strokes)

电话

(5 + 8 = 13 strokes)

USA

美國

(9 + 11 = 20 strokes)

美国

(9 + 8 = 17 strokes)

Simplified

簡體

(18 + 23 = 41 strokes)

简体

(13 + 7 = 20 strokes)

Traditional

繁體

(17 + 23 = 40 strokes)

繁体

(17 + 7 = 24 strokes)

 

3. Should I choose Mandarin or Cantonese for voice-over projects?

For voice-over projects - when it comes to speaking Chinese, Mandarin is spoken in Mainland China, Singapore, and Taiwan. With so many dialects of Chinese, Mandarin is the “unifier” and is mainly used when people from different regions of China speak to each other, the same way that Indians from different regions of India use English to communicate. Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China’s Guangdong (Canton) province and is the main Chinese dialect spoken in most overseas Chinatowns.

For example, people in Taiwan can read a Hong Kong newspaper and vice versa. However, there are some characters used in each others’ scripts that are different, in which case a Cantonese native speaker (translator) or a Mandarin native speaker (translator) would be necessary to translate content targeted to Hong Kong and Taiwan audiences, respectively.

With over one billion native Chinese speakers worldwide, Chinese localization will give you the competitive edge needed to target some of the world's fastest growing economies.

For more help in deciding which Chinese is best suited for you, contact Interpro and a consultant will provide you with the information you need to take the next steps to assist you in your Chinese translation project.