Foreigners with a talent for Chinese are joining China’s growing market for translators

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Frank Zou  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:23
Member (2016)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Bad news for native Chinese translators May 30, 2016

Actually, no worries for Chinese translators. There are still a lot of translation companies hiring native Chinese translator because they are not as expensive as foreign translators.
From the perspective of language, however, foreign translators is disadvantageous in understanding the connotations of Chinese text even though they did express it seemingly idiomatic in English. As a matter of fact, some Chinglish constitutes part of the English language, and are essential for efficient communication.


Bea Geenen  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Member (2008)
Chinese to Dutch
+ ...
Could you elaborate...? Jun 1, 2016

"Some Chinglish constitutes part of the English language, and are [sic] essential for efficient communication"? Could you elaborate on that? I'm interested in hearing your theory and seeing some examples of how Chinglish is essential for efficient communication. Thank you.


ChristopherLord  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
French to English
+ ...
Not sure about this story Jun 1, 2016

I work with an agency in China and translate other languages for them but not Chinese, even though I have studied Chinese for a number of years and communicate with the agency mainly in Chinese. If it is a straightforward technical text then there is no particular problem in translating Chinese, and I can even imagine translating legal texts. But as soon as it is ordinary language I can't see how a foreigner is going to be able to do it (apart from a very few individuals who have been totally immersed in Chinese for years). There are so many double meanings, odd expressions, characters that can be read more than one way and so on - not to mention hundreds of fixed four-character expressions that are used very often and which are impossible to understand if you don't know them in advance - that it is always better to find a bilingual Chinese person (and there are many of these in Hong Kong and Singapore, for instance) than to find a foreigner who has learned Chinese. Very few foreigners achieve a native level of reading comprehension, if only because if you haven't learnt the characters as a child you don't have the mental mechanism to remember perhaps ten thousand of them. An alternative strategy is to get native speakers to edit translations by Chinese translators. If the foreigner can read Chinese then that will help them check mistakes. But it is a difficult problem. Anyone who looks at translations done by Chinese people will see that they are often very bad in the sense of having inaccurate and unnatural use of English. I'd be interested to hear any comments from foreigners who are working as translators in China, though.


ChristopherLord  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
French to English
+ ...
more Jun 1, 2016

I could go on about this at length, but having now read the article (you have to search for it as it is no longer at the link given) I see that the main need is for business, and yes, I can see it can be done. But a good indication of the difficulties is given by the translations of Chinese literature. If you can read the characters you can see that the translations - let's start with Tang poetry and move on to the Dao De Jing and Book of Changes, passing by the extremely popular Art of War - have a rather distant relationship to the source material. This special kind of difficulty is still preserved in anything with a literary element. But negotiations about building a new factory might be exempt from this in practice.


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Foreigners with a talent for Chinese are joining China’s growing market for translators

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