Part 2 – How will your translated document be used?
In part one of this post How will your translated document be used?, we outlined how important it is to determine upfront how your translated document will be used in order to customise the translated text accordingly. Our certified translators specialise in not only various regional dialects of Spanish and French but also Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese. This post will explore the cultural and social differences within these languages and demonstrate the significance of hiring a translator that is both professional and certified.
If your translated document is to be translated into Portuguese, we’ll need to know whether it’s intended audience are native Brazilian or European Portuguese speakers. The differences between the two regional languages are quite considerable. It is vital that your certified translator is aware before beginning the translation process.
The European version of Portuguese is the original form which has its origins as a Latin-based romance language with certain similarities to Italian, Spanish and French. European Portuguese has also inspired some Japanese words due to the extension of their empire in Asia many centuries ago. In Portugal itself, the business culture is one that is both traditional and conservative, so it is important to be mindful of this when translating from another language. It is also essential to be somewhat formal and very polite in the translated document as that is culturally appropriate in Portugal. In Portuguese business, hierarchy plays a significant part, so it is important that your certified translator writes with a specific person in mind, not the company. The person at the top makes decisions without any influence from staff members below them.
In Brazil, their business culture is very much the same in terms of the hierarchical structure, however, there are also significant differences between the two regional languages. Brazilian culture tends to be much more conversational and casual than Portuguese culture and this is reflected in the language they use face-to-face and in documents. Although they are casual, they are also very detailed in nature. When translating a document, your certified translator will be sure to include every little detail so that the document is fully understood by the person reading it. Another big difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese is vocabulary as both regional languages borrow certain words from other cultures. In Brazil, they tend to use these borrowed words as they occur naturally, whilst in Portugal, they make their own unique inflections. For instance, a computer mouse in Brazil is referred to as a ‘mouse’, whereas in Portugal, it is known as ‘rato’ (rat).
The most widely spoken language in the world, spoken by around 20% of the world’s population is commonly known as Chinese. However, Chinese is broken down into two main languages of Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin is most widely spoken with two-thirds of the Chinese population speaking this language. Mandarin is widely used in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia, whilst Cantonese is used mainly in Hong Kong and Macau. In addition to Mandarin and Cantonese, there are over fifty diverse languages spoken within China and surrounding countries. These languages are still referred to collectively as the Chinese language as Chinese people are part of the same culture.
Whilst they are commonly referred to as different dialects, they are in fact, different languages as those who speak one language, often cannot understand speakers of another. They are connected as they have a shared style of writing. Some of the major ‘dialects’, apart from Mandarin and Cantonese, include Min, Hakka, Gan, Wu and Jin.
There is also a difference between traditional and simplified Chinese. Traditional Chinese was an art form dating back to 2000BC, in which character inscriptions were treasured in Chinese culture. Between 221 – 201BC, Qin Shihuang, who was the first emperor of China, took it upon himself to standardise the Chinese language by simplifying the shapes used. During this time, there were around 3000 characters which by the middle of the next millennium, increased significantly to 40,000. Since 1949, many efforts have been made to simplify the written language. In 1956, the People’s Republic of China published an official list containing 2238 simplified characters. This is estimated to include approximately one-third of the seven to eight thousand characters one needs to know to be able to write in modern Chinese. Therefore, there became two ways of writing Chinese characters: the old or traditional and the new or simplified. Since this simplification by the mainland government, China’s literacy rate has increased from 20-30% to 80-90%. ‘Pinyin’ is known as the standard way of Romanising Chinese characters and you will find this on street signs throughout China and in the English spelling of people’s names and locations.
In Japan, there are two main sets of characters used called kana and kanji. Kana is most widely used in Japan and the closest thing to a western alphabet. Instead of representing letters as they do in the western alphabet, these characters represent sounds. Another thing to note is that not all western sounds are represented. For example, in kana, there is no ‘L’ sound and this is why Japanese speakers find learning and pronouncing English words quite challenging.
Within the kana character set, there are two styles known as katakana and hiragana. The meanings and pronunciations of both are similar but it is the writing style differs. Think of it like the difference between printed and cursive handwriting in English. In general, katakana is used for western words that are translated into Japanese, whilst hiragana is used for traditionally Japanese words. An example of where you would find katakana would be on the menu of a foreign style restaurant or when a Japanese person is writing your name down. In the character alphabet, there are 46 kanas, most of which have been learnt by Japanese students in the first grade.
In contrast, there are kanji characters which are more complicated than their kana counterparts as these represent distinct words and concepts that were influenced by the Chinese in the period of 600AD. There are approximately 50,000 kanji characters, however, this number is often disputed. Whilst it would take a lifetime to learn all 50,000, it takes Japanese children just 9 years to learn the most common 1945 kanji characters as determined by the Japanese Ministry of Education. As most Japanese publications are written in kanji characters, it is important to learn the most common characters that are required for adult literacy standards.