It’s one thing to master a foreign language, but it’s another to translate between them. You can conduct a quick experiment: If you ask a native Chinese speaker who has a good mastery of English but no translation experience to translate an English passage, you’ll often find that the readability of the translation is poor. Translation is a skill that needs to be acquired.
1. Word-for-word translation sometimes doesn’t make sense.
Since different languages have different grammatical structures (for example, English has far more tenses than Chinese and Chinese doesn’t have attributive clauses), you can’t retain the grammatical structures of the source language, as word-for-word translations attempt to do.
Translation requires good writing skills. What you need to do is translate the meaning of the words, not the words themselves. You can’t be confined by the grammatical structures of English; instead, you need to think outside the box, considering what a native Chinese speaker would say. Then you’ll be able to write standard and fluent sentences.
2. Chinese and English are from different language families.
From the perspective of linguistic origins, Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan languages, while English belongs to the Indo-European languages. This makes translating English into Chinese pretty tricky. There are numerous specific challenges that translators must overcome to convert an English text into a natural, flowing professional Chinese translation. For example, in English, we use different words to refer to the same entity to avoid repetition, but in Chinese, it’s okay to use the same words or phrases multiple times.
3. There are different kinds of dialects in China.
China boasts 55 minority ethnic groups, which means many dialects are spoken in different parts of the country. In some southern provinces, such as Zhejiang and Fujian, citizens from the same city may have difficulty understanding each other. Citizens from Guangdong and Hong Kong speak Cantonese, which sounds different from Mandarin.
You need to consider these factors when you want a Chinese translator to perform transcription and subtitling tasks. Good Chinese translation services have mastered all three dialects and can translate them all, putting the appropriate nuances into the English sentences.
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