The history of China is extraordinarily rich. This country has been conquered, occupied, liberated, and even closed. After decades of isolation, a new attitude and a new generation are thriving in China. Along with this is a new industry: tourism.
When Communism took hold in China, it became a “closed” country. Chairman Mao essentially kept the borders locked beginning in 1949. Interaction with foreign countries was minimal and tourism nonexistent.
The memory of China’s “Century of Humiliation” (the period between 1839 and 1949 when China was not a sovereign nation) at the hands of Western powers was simply too fresh in the minds of its people and leaders. The influence of any other country or culture was seen as a direct threat to the preservation and propagation of Chinese culture.
The perceived need for sequestration has been waning in China. Recent shifts in foreign policy have created an environment where tourism can grow. A prime example in recent history was the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This enormous influx of foreign nationals would have been unheard of even two decades ago.
The burgeoning tourism industry in China has created a desperate need for translation. This nation now needs to communicate on a global scale after being cut off from other countries for so long. This is no easy task. Chinese is considered one of, if not the most difficult language to translate. It presents significant challenges for translation. Here are just a few of the biggest challenges.
Most linguists mark the distinctions among seven main Chinese dialects. However, there are dozens if not hundreds of regional adaptations.
The Chinese language doesn’t utilize letters like Western languages. It is comprised of characters representing concepts. These characters may represent multiple concepts depending on the literal meaning, the context, or the connotation of the text.
Time and tense
In English, verb tense tells us if the sentence is conveying an idea of the present, past, or future. In Chinese, adverbs and context tell the time and tense and it isn’t always completely clear.
The thought process behind language in China is radically different than that of the Western world and even much of the Eastern as well. The cultural cues and traditions are simply very different.
For companies wishing to promote tourism both in and out of China, quality translation is critical. There is no easy app or quick fix for translating this unique and challenging language. As China takes its new place in the global market, the need for translation will only increase.