5 Common Misconceptions about English to Chinese Translators

As the Chinese swiftly take over the world economy, any business interested in doing business with China will benefit significantly from the services of Chinese translators. Chinese is now the most widely spoken mother tongue in the world with more than a billion speakers and numerous dialects.

Unfortunately, many people, including clients, have made decisions based on common misconceptions regarding what translators do and as a result, ended up damaging their credibility and often needing to re-translate.

We have ranked these misconceptions from the most common and also most likely to cause damage to your business.

But first, what is a translator and what does their job entail?

A translator works with written documents, unlike interpreters, who are intermediaries between two parties communicating verbally. In this context, an English to Chinese translator will convert English documents to Chinese without losing the original meaning, context and idea.

1. Chinese Students Studying English Make Good Translators

Chinese students studying international English provide cheap translation services and save you plenty of money. That doesn’t mean they offer quality services, though. Unlike interpreting, Chinese translators have to be as close as possible to professional Chinese writers. Unfortunately, foreign language colleges don’t specialize in training literature and writing to their students.

This misconception is similar to thinking that anybody who speaks Chinese and English fluently can make a good translator. While they can interpret both languages well, they may not have the writing prowess to translate documents professionally.

2. Any Chinese Translator Can Translate Text on Any Subject

More often than not, translators are needed to convert professional documents to Chinese. The papers could be medical, legal, music, contractual or even work of art such as poems and novels. For the translator to do a great job, they need to have a deeper understanding of the subject at hand, so they can transfer the same gist to the translated document.

The same way it takes skill and understanding to produce technical documents, legal paperwork or marketing copy, translators need the same skill to convert them into another language.

3. Google will do the Translation, No Need to Hire a Professional Translator

Google and other machine translators have come a long way over the years. Today, not only can you have a document translated for free but also get over 75% accuracy. Unfortunately, 75% is nowhere near good when it comes to professional documents.

Among the issues that come with using a machine translator include;

  • Machines translate word to word instead of understanding the intended meaning of the sentence or the paragraph.
  • Machines do not know when something is inappropriate in one language or culture or even when an expression/metaphor is only used in one language and not the other. For example, some translations will contain grammar and syntax errors, incomprehensible expressions, inappropriate vocabulary and broken sentences that make it almost illegible.

4. The Translation Should be Fast and Cheap

After all, it’s just substituting words from one language to another. This misconception is the reason why many clients shy away from hiring professional translators because they don’t understand why they charge a lot of money.

As we have noted severally, the job of a translator is not to substitute words to another language. Their job is to convert an English document to Chinese without losing the original meaning at all. This means they have first to understand the document and any underlying implications and then translate those thoughts to Chinese. The job is by no means fast or easy, so it can take a full day to translate a 2,000-word document. On top of that, they also need to proof-read and edit the work, a job that should be done by somebody else ideally.

5. Chinese is Only One Language

Perhaps the biggest misconception is that the Chinese language is the same everywhere. While Mandarin is the most spoken Chinese variant with over 850 million people, China has 13 other dialects that include Wu, with 90 million speakers, Min, Cantonese, Hakka, Xiang and Gan.

When it comes to translating, it’s essential to know that Taiwan and Hongkong mostly use traditional Chinese as their written language. In contrast, China and Singapore use a simplified version of Chinese. This means that not every Tom who speaks Chinese can translate documents correctly if they don’t understand these versions.

English to Chinese translators have a long list of skills they must possess to be effective. For one, they must have a talent in written Chinese as well as training in literature and writing. It’s also essential for the translator to specialize in one field, so they have a good understanding of the subject. More importantly, they must be well-versed with the Chinese culture, spoken language and written language and dialects in that particular country, as China is not the only country that speaks Chinese.