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Make Millions From The Chinese Market, But From Which One?
Multinationals from around the globe are fighting for a piece of the Eastern Dragon's treasure. Many spend millions on translation services and bi-cultural marketers. Those who understand that there are different versions of Chinese for different markets will optimize their return on marketing.
Written Chinese distinguishes itself from other major market languages as there is no single internationalized version that is universally accepted. (This is in contrast to English and Spanish, for example, which are both widely and successfully internationalized in marketing efforts to reduce expense.) Instead, marketers must decide between Simplified and Traditional Chinese depending on the target market. As you will see, there is also a huge difference between Mandarin and Cantonese for spoken campaigns in radio or TV. Making the right choice for your Chinese translation is a crucial first step. To clarify what version of Chinese is right for a given target market, I consulted Zhao Zheng. Zhao is a top-notch Chinese translator who answers this question for high-profile, corporate clients daily. "Generally speaking, the written Chinese language as we know it today can be divided into simplified and traditional versions. The most striking characteristic about Chinese is that, as a hieroglyphic language with a history of more than 3 millennia, most, if not all, Chinese people sharing the same cultural heritage should be able to understand both simplified and traditional versions of the language." But, that is not the case in today's applications. "While people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and older generations of overseas Chinese immigrants elsewhere in the world, cling to the traditional characters, the overwhelming majority of the 1.3 billion Chinese people use simplified characters. Furthermore, it has been reported that the United Nations, which is using both the simplified and traditional languages today, is on course for adopting Simplified Chinese as its sole Chinese version by 2008." It gets even more complicated. Consider Cantonese and Mandarin in terms of written language. Zhao says, "Let me be clear on this point: There is simply no such thing as Cantonese as a language. Cantonese is a local dialect spoken by the native people from the Southern Guangdong province, many older generations of immigrants scattered around the world and those in Hong Kong. It has no independent characters of its own. When it comes to written Chinese, simplified should be used for the target audience of Guangdong province, while traditional is best for Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world. People also mention Mandarin. This could mean two things: Simplified for mainland China and traditional for Taiwan. It all depends on where you are targeting." "In a nutshell, in deciding which version [of Chinese translation] is preferable, your specific target-audience must be clarified, whether they are in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or are Chinese overseas." The point: Get with trusted Chinese translation experts to decide who needs to hear what you have to say. When you know for certain, the Eastern Dragon awaits!