Let me begin by telling you that I am not a Chinese translator and I don’t intend to become one in future. The Chinese language is simply not my cup of tea! It is probably for folks residing in the higher rungs of the translation ladder. But one of the advantages of being in the language translation industry is that one gets to know so many interesting aspects of various languages.
The other day I was sitting in the neighborhood café with a friend who specializes in English to Chinese translations. We were exchanging notes about various clients when he told me about a certain client who wanted documents translated into Cantonese and Mandarin. I was like, “did you say Cantonese and Mandarin, I thought they were the same!” “That’s what most people think.” He smiled “but they are a little far from the truth.”
He told me that most non-Chinese speakers think that Chinese is a single language; this is because they are not aware of the local variations. In fact it is not unusual to find confused language translation customers. There are times when customers who are looking for Chinese translations are stumped when asked whether they want it in Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese.
In fact both of them – Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese are considerably different from each other, and translation between them also requires fine skills. This is because Simplified Chinese was developed much after Traditional Chinese in order to encourage people to learn writing. The complex characters of Traditional Chinese were modified to make them simpler; moreover some of the characters used in Traditional Chinese were altogether removed from Simple Chinese as they were deemed to be very complex. In this way, over a period of many years the two systems of writing became significantly different from each other. Thus complicating the life of Chinese language translation experts 😉