Quality Chinese translation goes beyond simple translation of words and sentences. Effective Chinese localisation also requires good copywriting to convey the intent of your original message to the Chinese marketplace. Chinese translation for mainland China should take into consideration Chinese cultural, legal and other factors specific to the Chinese language and Chinese marketplace. This blog covers critical issues to consider when considering Chinese translation (also known as Chinese localisation).
Critical Issues for Chinese Copywriting
(1) Avoid long sentences
Chinese people like shorter sentences. A good Chinese translator must know how to break longer sentences from western language source content into several short sentences and sub-sentences. This step is essential for Chinese copywriting to make the translation more reader-friendly for Chinese consumers. Sometimes, it is even necessary to change the structure of an entire paragraph to make it read smoothly in Chinese.
Example: [COMPANY NAME]’s reputation as a customer oriented problem solver has been long recognized.
(2) Communicate your message’s implied meaning
Find ways to convey the implied meaning of the original source content into Chinese. This is especially true when translating persuasive, marketing materials into Chinese.
(3) Passive verbs may be perceived as negative
Try to use active Chinese verbs instead of Chinese passive verbs. Chinese consumers consider active verbs to be more powerful and consider them to be easier to understand. Passive verbs in the Chinese language are usually used to express unfavorable meanings.
(4) Use idioms and Chinese proverbs for effective results
“Add a pupil to the eye of the dragon” – This Chinese idiom means “Bring the painted dragon to life by adding the pupils of its eyes” – Chinese idioms and proverbs have profound meanings and are greatly admired by Chinese people, due to their implied cultural and historical elements. In Chinese copywriting, the addition of appropriate Chinese proverbs and idioms improves content readability and receptivity by Chinese consumers.
(5) Be aware of legal issues
Chinese Advertising Law expressly prohibits any advertising that uses words like “the highest-level” or “the best” etc. If you want to run advertisements in China, you must pay special attention to ensure that your Chinese copywriting does not produce illegal text. Carlsberg beer could not use their famous tagline “Probably the best beer in the world” in China.
(6) Effective Chinese branding and trade names
Effective Chinese brand names come from a deep understanding of the Chinese market and imaginative use of product connotations in selection of Chinese characters. Well localized Chinese brand or product names play a key role in Chinese market expansion. Most Chinese consumers find it hard to remember brand/product names in western languages. GPI (Globalization Partners International) strongly recommends that major brand/product names should be carefully localized in the Chinese language before a product launch takes place in the Chinese market.
The ideal Chinese brand name should “sound like” its western counterpart, while the Chinese characters used to express the brand name should imply positive meanings for product quality to the target Chinese market. Strong Chinese brand names helped the following western companies achieve great success in China:
Coca Cola 可口可乐 (Tasty & Pleasant)
Mercedes-Benz 奔驰 (Gallop)
Ikea 宜家 (Good for Home)
McDonalds 麦当劳 (Work for your food)
(7) Follow current trends in the Chinese language
The Chinese language changes over time, just like other languages. This process is speeding up due to the tremendous growth of the Chinese market and the frequent introduction of new products. A good Chinese translator should read current Chinese media extensively and maintain an up-to-date understanding of current Chinese language trends. It may be necessary to periodically update some Chinese phrases used to describe your product or services in China, to keep your branding and message fresh as popular Chinese words take on new meaning.