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Features of working with the Chinese language

Features of working with the Chinese language

The reason, of course, is not the prevalence of Chinese as a studied foreign language. And this happens because a student of the Chinese language, as well as a translator throughout his career, faces a number of problems when translating from the Chinese language. They will be discussed below.

Let's start with the most obvious thing, with the "Chinese literacy". It is dotted with many hieroglyphs. A hieroglyph is a sign for writing a syllable in the Chinese language. It denotes an object or concept. The meaning of an unfamiliar word can be judged by the constituent parts of the hieroglyphs included in it, but it is impossible to read it. Reading the hieroglyphs must be memorized separately. A word can consist of 1-2, less often, usually for transcription of foreign words, of 3 hieroglyphs. It is extremely difficult to name the exact number of Chinese characters, in explanatory dictionaries there are up to 62 thousand characters, a graduate of a Chinese university should know about 6 thousand, this number is also enough to read newspapers.

In modern Chinese, the characters on the page are arranged in lines from left to right, like text in European languages. This has not always been the case. Until the middle of the twentieth century and even in the early 1950s. on the page they were arranged in columns from top to bottom and from right to left. Such books are read "from the end", like the Arabic ones. But the main hieroglyphic difficulty lies in the existence of the so-called traditional and simplified hieroglyphs. The background is this: in the 1960s. in the PRC, a reform of hieroglyphics was carried out, the number of features in almost all signs was significantly reduced. However, the Chinese of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore did not accept the innovation. And now we have to study two hieroglyphic systems. Will Hong Kong and Taiwan accept simplified writing? Perhaps the most likely option is for the PRC to return to the traditional writing system.

How does the process of typing hieroglyphic text on a computer take place? It should be noted here that since the time of the typewriter, the process has been greatly simplified. The Chinese typewriter was an aggregate with many boxes, where, according to certain rules, plates with hieroglyphs were located. A typist with a special paw took out the necessary plate: one, then another ... Now there are two fundamental systems of computer typing of hieroglyphic text. One is based on the fact that the number of traits that make up hieroglyphs is sharply limited, and the order of writing traits and their number in each hieroglyph is strictly fixed. The lines are drawn on the keyboard, and the typist presses the keys in the order of writing the lines for a particular character, and then chooses the required character from those suggested in a special window on the screen. The second system uses a Latin keyboard. The pronunciation of hieroglyphs according to certain rules is written in Latin (phonetic transcription "pinyin"). This pronunciation is typed on the keyboard, then the desired hieroglyph is selected from the window on the screen. The matter is complicated by the fact that several dozen hieroglyphs can correspond to one reading. Nevertheless, the options for typing hieroglyphs according to the second system are the most common. 


When interpreting the Chinese language, we have to face even greater difficulties. Chinese is a tone language. This means that each syllable can be pronounced in four different intonations and the meaning will change, in some cases to the opposite. In total, there are about 400 syllables in the Chinese language, which leads to the presence of a huge number of homonyms, the same sounding words, and as a result, it is almost impossible to understand and translate the Chinese phrase correctly, taking it out of context. Sometimes, by slightly weakening attention, it is also possible to make a mistake within the context. For the same reason, it is almost impossible to understand an artistic or special text written in pinyin. 

The second difficulty is the numerous dialects of the Chinese language. Some of them - Shanghai, Guangdong (Cantonese) - are so radically different from the northern dialects that the Chinese who speak these dialects are unable to understand each other. The way out of this situation was the introduction of a single normative language "Putonghua". It is taught in educational institutions, it is used in the institutions of the PRC, all citizens of the country are obliged to speak it. Recently, the acuteness of this problem has been softened. Still, the older a person is, the stronger dialectal differences from "Mandarin" or accent are noticeable in his speech. Do not forget about the existence in China of national regions and languages ​​of national minorities (Zhuang, Uyghur, Mongolian, etc.), which also impose a specific tone on the pronunciation of the inhabitants of these regions. The translator often has to additionally memorize the pronunciation of the inhabitants of different regions of China, different variants of words in dialects. And the Guangdong and Shanghai dialects are taught in Chinese universities as an option, they are studied separately from the Chinese language.

Difficulty for translation is presented by numerous sayings, phraseological units of the Chinese language, often based on the use of the names of historical and legendary personalities, literary characters. During consecutive and even more so simultaneous interpretation, it is necessary to quickly select a Russian analogue, without using specific names.


A simultaneous interpreter from the Chinese language must have a lot of ingenuity, ingenuity, memory and be well versed in the topic of negotiations, because in relation to the Russian phrase, the Chinese is inverted, and the translation of the Chinese phrase begins from its end. It turns out that in this case it is necessary to guess what the Chinese will say now.


These are the important difficulties of translating from Chinese. The Chinese themselves are for us people no less complicated than their language. You can write a lot about their traditions and habits, but for business practice it is not absolutely necessary to immediately recognize them all. There are some generally accepted rules to follow when dealing with Chinese people.
You cannot put your Chinese interlocutor in an awkward position, make comments to him in front of strangers, especially in the presence of other Chinese, especially subordinates. Losing face is worse for any Chinese than for Europeans.

It is considered good form to quickly respond to letters, requests, suggestions or immediately send notifications that they are accepted for consideration and a response will be given as soon as possible.
It is undesirable to skip protocol and official events: maintaining a close relationship is always important to doing business in China. It is customary to come to such events with a gift; for such an occasion, a fruit basket or a bottle of wine is suitable. Gifts in China are generally a special article. In business practice, they are presented at the end of negotiations, during personal visits, they should not be pretentious, not too expensive: stationery (except for scissors and cutting objects symbolizing the end of a relationship) lighters, calculators, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, souvenirs, traditional for your family. countries will fit. Handing them over, we must try not to bypass anyone. It is not customary to unpack the received gifts until the guests leave. When choosing, you need to try so that the gift does not consist of four items - in Chinese the words "four" and "death" sound the same, if the gift is timed to a holiday, then you should not give a watch - this is a bad omen, but regardless of memorable dates, the watch is good present. If it is decided to give flowers, then it is preferable to give an even number of flowers (but not 4!); Yellow flowers, especially chrysanthemums, are also not suitable - they are brought to funerals or seriously ill people. Green baseball caps will not work either - a green hat means cheating in the family. But it is better to pack souvenirs in red paper - red in China is a symbol of good luck and joy.

During the banquet, several subtleties should not be overlooked: first, the Chinese hold a glass with a drink in their right hand, supporting it with their left; second - clinking glasses, as a sign of respect, the Chinese will lower their glass or glass lower than yours, it will be good form if you try to do the same. By raising your glass above the glass of the Chinese, you show your superiority over him, which can greatly distort him.


Exchange of business cards is obligatory. It is customary to serve them with both hands. The Chinese will be pleased if you do so, but if not, there will be no offense.

It's good that the card has a translation into Chinese, it is important not to forget that in mainland China they use simplified hieroglyphs, and in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore - traditional ones. 

It is best to address a Chinese by his last name or by giving his full name and surname. In Singapore and Hong Kong, at the second meeting, especially among peers, it is customary to call each other by their first names, and in mainland China, names are used in a circle of close people. The surname always comes first, the first name comes second. The title of the person or master / mistress, miss for young women is added to the last name in the circulation. "Comrade" has already fallen out of wide use and is used only in the party environment. Often, Chinese people who work a lot with foreigners take a Western name for themselves, and then it is put in first place, followed by a Chinese last name (Bruce Lee).

We just opened the curtain over the riddles of the Chinese for you, talked about the difficulties of translating from the Chinese language, and now you will communicate with the Chinese with greater confidence, you will be able to rationally choose your main assistants on this path - translators.


Features of working with the Chinese language, Articles