The market comprised of Chinese-speaking people is obviously massive; over 980 million can be found in mainland China alone, Hong Kong and Taiwan add another 19 million potential customers, and substantial numbers of Chinese-speaking communities can be found in Southeast Asia as well. So if you have a product or service targeting this market, translating and localizing into Chinese is a no-brainer. But that’s where the confusion often starts.

Should you translate into Simplified or Traditional Chinese? And how do Mandarin and Cantonese relate to these two options?

Firstly it is important to understand what these terms refer to. Mandarin and Cantonese are the two most common verbal Chinese dialects. But when it comes to writing, you need to distinguish between Simplified and Traditional Chinese instead. The interesting thing is that not everybody who speaks Mandarin writes in Simplified Chinese and not everybody who speaks Cantonese writes in Traditional Chinese. The table below solves the riddle: In mainland China and Singapore, Mandarin is the spoken language and and people resort to Simplified Chinese when they write. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is the predominant dialect while people write in Traditional Chinese. The exception is Taiwan where people speak Mandarin and write in Traditional Chinese.

Market Written Spoken
China Simplified Mandarin
Hong Kong Traditional Cantonese
Taiwan Traditional Mandarin
Singapore Simplified Mandarin

When it comes to your next translation and localization project, it might be helpful to understand that Simplified Chinese was established in 1949 when communist regime in China took power. The new government started a big push to increase literacy. The complex traditional writing was simplified, using fewer strokes for complex characters. Some characters were replaced altogether in order to motivate more people to learn how to write.

While Simplified Chinese took over mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong stayed with Traditional Chinese, which people have been using for thousands of years. Simplified Chinese itself has evolved over time, too. As recently as 2013, the Chinese government released an official List of Commonly Used Standardized Characters. This list contained 45 newly recognized standard characters (previously considered variant forms) and 226 characters simplified by analogy, most of which already were widely used.

At the beginning, the differences between the two writing methods only had to do with stroke types. But over time, new words and concepts were added to SImplified Chinese, widening the gap to the traditional way or writing. And because the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan added political distance to them being geographically apart, variations in style and vocabulary have formed as well, similar to those between British and US English.

That explains why in most cases, translating form SImplified Chinese into Traditional Chinese or vice versa is not as easy a task as it might seem. A simple machine translation won’t cut it because it needs a well versed translator to pick up on certain unique terms and ways of saying things and correct all the potential mistakes a character-for-character translation will cause. Even if you have a document with Traditional characters perfectly converted from Simplified ones, a native speaker from Taiwan or Hong Kong will likely be able to tell the document was just converted and not properly localized.

So in the end it comes down to the geographic location of your target audience. If you find it in mainland China, Simplified Chinese is the way to go. If your potential customers are mainly based in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Traditional Chinese is what you want to translate your documents and services to. And interesting quirk in this equation is that most Chinese living in the Hong Kong and Taiwan can read Simplified Chinese, but the majority of residents from the People’s Republic have trouble deciphering Traditional characters.

We hope you now have a better understanding of what to look for when starting you next translation and localization project that involves a Chinese audience. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions here and receive a quote for your next project here.

A frequently asked question I get: Do we use Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese and what’s the difference? How do I know which to choose for my Chinese project?

See answer in this excellent article below by Janet Yang!

The Differences Between Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese: Which Should You Use?

Your business knows it needs to translate and localize content into Chinese, but at this point you have a lot of questions. Should it be Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese? What’s the difference? How do these character differences relate to regional Chinese forms? Does the content type (text, video, etc) matter when choosing which to use? Here we’ll give a brief overview of what the differences are between these two character sets and what to consider when translating your own content.

Simplified Chinese (SC)
Today this set of Chinese characters is used in mainland China and by people of Chinese origin in Singapore. A relatively modern form of text, Simplified Chinese (SC) was created as a way to encourage literacy and was made official with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The characters have fewer strokes than Traditional Chinese (TC).

Although SC is simple, it continues to evolve. Even as recently as 2013, the Chinese government released an official List of Commonly Used Standardized Characters. This list contained 45 newly recognized standard characters (previously considered variant forms) and 226 characters simplified by analogy (most of which already were widely used).

Traditional Chinese (TC)
This character set is used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. As its name implies, this is a more traditional version of Chinese that has been written by people for thousands of years. The characters often have more strokes than in Simplified Chinese.

The Differences

At the beginning, the differences between these two writing methods only had to do with stroke types. However, new words and concepts that have developed since the 1950s (including words like internet and software) have different forms in SC and TC. Distance (both political and physical) between the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan has also caused variations in style and vocabulary, similar to those between British and US English.

For example:

The translation of lunch box in Simplified Chinese uses two characters, 盒饭, which literally mean “boxed food”. The Traditional Chinese, on the other hand, is influenced by Japanese and uses transliteration to create this word as 便當, which sounds the same as the Japanese word, “Bento”.

Which Chinese For Your Translation?

You first need to know your audience: are they from Mainland China (SC) or Taiwan and Hong Kong (TC)? Trying to simply switch a translation from one into the other won’t work because of changes in terms and even grammar.

When people request Chinese translations, it’s very common to confuse the terms “Mandarin” and “Cantonese”. Mistakenly, Mandarin is used as a way to refer to SC and Cantonese for TC. But Mandarin and Cantonese refer to different spoken dialects within Chinese, not the kinds of characters used. Taiwanese and Mainlanders are both native speakers of Mandarin while Cantonese native speakers can often read both Simplified and Traditional Chinese without any problems, depending on where they are from.

One important exception is when someone is actually requesting “Cantonese” or “Hong Kong nese” instead of Traditional Chinese from Taiwan. This is possible because Hong Kong does have its own written style, widely used on TV, movie captions and even in some newspapers. In this written style, some special characters are created for Cantonese only. It is not a formal written style which would be used in important documents or serious magazines or newspapers. But if you request a subtitling service for a less formal video, carefully consider if your target audience is Hong Kong and if it will be worth it to make the subtitles “Cantonese” specific.

Want to start your own journey to “translate your business” to the booming Chinese marketplace? Contact us today.

Dragon head

“Dancing in chains” from the Rock

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

On view through April 26, 2015


Where would you go to find freedom? Chances are, Alcatraz would be one of the last places you’d look.

Alcatraz, also known as “The Rock,” has quite a storied history. Over the years, it has been a 19th-century military fortress; a maximum-security federal penitentiary; site of a Native American heritage protest; and today, one of America’s most-visited national parks.

No stranger to controversy, Ai Weiwei has transformed Alcatraz into an unusual exhibition that plays on his own status as a prisoner in his own country. Through a collection of four works – Tuning In, Blossom, Illumination, and Wind – @Large is a multimedia exhibit that invites viewers to ask uncomfortable questions about freedom, liberty, and human rights.

MLK sign


About Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist and activist based in Beijing, China. One of his most prominent artistic achievements was his collaboration with architects Herzog & de Meuron on the “Bird’s Nest” stadium, used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. As a political activist, Ai has spoken out openly and critically about the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human liberty. In 2011, Ai was suddenly secretly detained by the Chinese authorities for 81 days; since then, he has not been permitted to travel outside China.

Ai Weiwei was not able to visit Alcatraz for the planning of @Large. With the help of FOR-SITE Foundation, Ai developed all the artwork remotely from his studio in Beijing. The irony of this situation makes @Large all the more interesting. Ai has embraced the ironies of creating site-specific art for a place he could not see and celebrates the act of free expression while working under severe constraints.

Ai Weiwei’s goal is for people to understand the true “purpose of art, which is the fight for freedom.”

Mark your calendars now. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to literally step into someone else’s shoes – come sit inside a prisoner’s cell – and listen to the universal voice of freedom from “The Rock”.



The origin of Chinese New Year traces back to a centuries-old tradition that some believe to have started as early as the reign of Emperors Yao and Sun in 2300 BC. Others say this celebration originated from the year-end religious ceremony during the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC – 1122 BC). According to one legend, it all began with a terrible mythical monster that preyed on villagers. This lion-like monster’s name was “Nian” (年) which is also the Chinese word for “year.”

As the story goes, there was a wise old man who counseled the villagers to ward off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums, setting off firecrackers, lighting red lanterns, and hanging red paper cut outs on their doors. The villagers took the old man’s advice and the Nian monster was scared off. On the anniversary of the date, the Chinese recognize the “passing of the Nian” known in Chinese as “guo nian” (过年), which is also synonymous with celebrating the new year.


Traditionally, the annual festival lasted for 15 days starting in late January, though the date changes year-to-year according to the lunar calendar. This is a special time for family and friends – and is considered by Chinese to be the most important holiday of the year. Family members travel long distances for large family reunions to celebrate the new year with firecrackers and street parades with loud drumming (along with lion and dragon dances). Red lanterns are hung, together with red paper cutouts and scrolls of calligraphy. Every child looks forward to receiving “hongbao” (red envelopes) filled with crisp new money.

Red is the color of the season – as it is in general for Chinese birthdays, weddings, and other auspicious events. It’s important to note that during Chinese New Year, black- and white-colored clothing should especially be avoided. For the Chinese, these are often colors associated with mourning or death.

Modern Times

Today, while many of these ancient customs are still vigorously practiced, some things have changed. One change was that Chinese New Year was renamed and became synonymous with “Spring Festival.” Another is that the festival has shortened into a week-long holiday. The highlight is the sumptuous New Year’s Eve feast with family and friends – which has always been the most important day of the season. Traditional foods are important to have on the table, as each have symbolic meaning. This includes fish (abundance), a communal hotpot (prosperity), noodles (longevity) , and savory dumplings (wealth). Some now choose modern substitutes – sushi, seaweed salad, and ramen – that give a nod to tradition, but may be easier to find in cities like New York or Los Angeles.

lanternsThe 15th day traditionally marks the end of Chinese New Year festivities and is known as either the Lantern Festival or “Yuanxiao” Festival. On this day, Chinese eat sweet rice dumplings and families walk in the evening with candle-lit lanterns. In Hong Kong, this day is also celebrated like Valentine’s Day – a time for singles seeking romance.

Business Impact?

Everyone’s Out: The Chinese New Year festival is the longest public holiday in China. During this period, many companies shut down completely. The more traditional the business (such as manufacturing), the more likely everyone will be out on holiday. In some businesses (such as ecommerce), baseline operations may be maintained at very limited capacity.

This year, most Chinese will be completely off from work starting Feb 18 (New Year’s Eve) and return to work on either Tuesday, Feb 24 (the 6th day of the festival) or Thursday, Feb 26 (the 8th day of the festival). Officially only the first three days of Chinese New Year (February 19–21, 2015) are statutory holidays.

Travel is Crazy: Due to the custom of getting together for large family reunions, this is by far the busiest travel season in China. Trains and buses are fully packed. Flight tickets are hard to get. Imagine hundreds of millions of people migrating (east) from coastal cities to their home villages inland. It’s a remarkable spectacle best viewed on television or online, not in person.

Good for Business: It’s considered auspicious to kick off the next year with new business, as it heralds more good luck to come. Position your company to get a head start on the Year of the Ram.

It is believed that in this zodiac year, “Diligence applied to hard work ensures prosperity.” Whether your Asia partners re-open on the 6th or 8th lunar day of the new year, make it good day for business!

Planning Ahead

Aim to wrap up contracts and business deals before Chinese New Year, which will fall next year on Monday, February 8, 2016. Pay back any old debts, to clear the way for good luck ahead.

In the meantime, have a blessed and prosperous Year of the Ram!

Happy Chinese New Year of the Ram

Happy Chinese New Year of the Ram




A new report, “Translate or Pay the Price: Overlooked Marketing Opportunities for Global Businesses,” found that close to 63 percent of respondents had between six and 50 percent of their customer base located outside the U.S. The survey results also revealed that  65 percent of respondents admit that less than five percent of their budget is dedicated to reaching non-English-speaking customers in and outside the U.S.
Companies are also marketing with only English-language content. Nearly 70 percent of respondents reveal that their companies market to other countries using only English-language content. VP of Smartling Kelly believes marketers who do not prioritize the translation of their valuable content are at a great disadvantage when trying to do business globally. For rest of article see below:

70 Percent of U.S. Content Marketers Engage Global Consumers in English Only/ | App Developer Magazine.

Dear all,

Happy brand NEW YEAR & my first Post of the NY! Here’s some NEWS to lift up all of us in the Translation&Interpretation BIZ as we look forward to what this NY 2014 brings us! Are you in one of these top paying 12 jobs/ industries?

Interpreters and Translators Ranked 10th Among Most In-Demand & High-Paying Jobs of 2014

According to an article posted on AOL Jobs in partnership with CareerBuilders (, interpreters and translators ranked 10th among the 12 most in-demand and high-paying jobs of 2014. To paraphrase the article, this was determined by identifying the occupations that grew by 7 percent or more between 2010 and 2013 and are projected to continue growing in 2014, and that also fall within a wage category of $22 or more per hour. See full article below.

12 Best Jobs For 2014 That Pay Up to $60 Per Hour

High-paying jobs that offer financial and career security

By Susan Ricker

2014 is just around the corner, and so is the opportunity to score an in-demand, high-paying job in the New Year. CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International compiled a dozen hot jobs that are not only growing, but pay well too. The list was based on occupations that grew 7 percent or more from 2010 to 2013, are projected to increase in 2014, and fall within a higher-wage category of $22 per hour or more. (woohoo!)

Not only do these jobs offer financial and career security, but they also contribute to the economic growth of other occupations. But be ready to prove your skills if you want one of these roles.

More high-wage jobs will be created in 2014 which will, in turn, fuel the creation of jobs at lower pay levels,” says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. “The challenge is many of these in-demand, skilled positions are in areas where companies are already experiencing a shortage of qualified labor. As a nation, we need to focus on reskilling workers of all ages and providing them with affordable education to catch up to labor demands in technology, health care and other key sectors.”

Whether you’ve already got the talent it’ll take to get one of these jobs, are considering a career switch or are looking ahead, consider these high-wage jobs that are the best for 2014:

1. Software developer, applications and systems software
Total employment in 2013: 1,042,402 jobs
Added 104,348 jobs from 2010-2013, up 11 percent
Median hourly earnings: $45.06

2. Market research analyst and marketing specialist
Total employment in 2013: 438,095 jobs
Added 54,979 jobs from 2010-2013, up 14 percent
Median hourly earnings: $29.10

3. Training and development specialist
Total employment in 2013: 231,898 jobs
Added 18,042 jobs from 2010-2013, up 8 percent
Median hourly earnings: $27.14

4. Financial analyst
Total employment in 2013: 257,159 jobs
Added 17,060 jobs from 2010-2013, up 7 percent
Median hourly earnings: $37.34

5. Physical therapist
Total employment in 2013: 207,132 jobs
Added 14,011 jobs from 2010-2013, up 7 percent
Median hourly earnings: $37.93

6. Web developer
Total employment in 2013: 136,921 jobs
Added 13,364 jobs from 2010-2013, up 11 percent
Median hourly earnings: $27.84

7. Logistician
Total employment in 2013: 127,892 jobs
Added 11,897 jobs from 2010-2013, up 10 percent
Median hourly earnings: $35.08

8. Database administrator
Total employment in 2013: 119,676 jobs
Added 11,241 jobs from 2010-2013, up 10 percent
Median hourly earnings: $37.39

9. Meeting, convention and event planner
Total employment in 2013: 87,082 jobs
Added 10,867 jobs from 2010-2013, up 14 percent
Median hourly earnings: $22.56

10. Interpreter and translator
Total employment in 2013: 69,887
Added 8,377 jobs from 2010-2013, up 14 percent
Median hourly earnings: $22.39

11. Petroleum engineer
Total employment in 2013: 40,733
Added 7,158 jobs from 2010-2013, up 21 percent
Median hourly earnings: $63.67

12. Information security analyst
Total employment in 2013: 75,995
Added 5,671 jobs from 2010-2013, up 8 percent
Median hourly earnings: $41.62

Sorry, haven’t posted for a while….my first BLOG of 2013…Enjoy

Here’s an article by Rosa from NBC News that tells you that the BAD grammar/awful English may be intentional! There’s method to their madness…don’t be one of the gullible!

Rosa Golijan , NBC News

Scammers intentionally write lousy emails — here’s why

How often have you gotten an email from a troubled prince, a long-lost relative or a distressed damsel, and instantly sent it to the trash? You know the type of message I’m talking about — a typo-filled pile of run-on sentences which offers you riches in exchange for your help. You probably immediately recognize such notes to be some sort of scam … and as do most people.

So why don’t scammers try to write better, more convincing emails?

Because the lousy ones help them pick out the best targets.

Computerworld’s Rothan Pearce calls attention to a research paper by Cormac Herley, principal researcher at Microsoft Research’s Machine Learning Department, which explains how it all works. The paper’s pretty full of math and will likely give you a headache — or require you to re-read it several times for comprehension — but it boils down to this: “By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select.”

Emails which are poorly written or identify the sender as a resident of Nigeria — a country often associated with certain scams — weed out the skeptics, the people who wouldn’t easily believe that a stranger would send them millions in exchange for a small fee.

This means that the scammers can focus on the folks who are most likely to suspend disbelief and proceed to lure them into their schemes (which is an effort intensive process). Using transparent emails for the initial contact keeps the scammers from wasting time communicating with potential victims who’d see through their lies before it’s too late.

So what lesson can we take from this? That we shouldn’t underestimate the folks who are looking to scam us. There’s definitely reason to their apparent madness.

Dear All,

Sounds like great class for how to transition from working with cheap agencies to the BIG boys with the bucks: yes, the lucrative world of direct clients! Both teachers Corinne & Chris are accomplished translators and writers. I own both their famous books on translation:  How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator & The Prosperous Translator. Both books are totally different! You will see….

I have also personally taken a NCTA class from Corinne on thsi very topic too….she’s excellent, very down to earth, and knowledgeable…don’t miss it!


ATA Webinar: Working with Direct Clients ______________________________________________________

Presenters:  Chris Durban, Corinne McKay

Date:  September 20

Time:  12 Noon US Eastern Time

Duration:  60 minutes

CE Point(s):  1

So you’ve been translating for a few years and you’ve decided to make this the year you up your game — move into the direct-client market, reputed to be more satisfying than the agency scene, but requiring more marketing and client relations efforts to win and retain business.

Take time to plan your strategy! Join presenters Chris Durban and Corinne McKay to examine what it takes to be successful without the middleman.

Attendees will learn:

*  Issues to consider before you begin working with direct clients

*  How to find your first direct clients

*  How to set priorities for a successful direct client relationship

*  Advantages and disadvantages of different types of direct clients


ATA Member $35 | Non-Member $50


Previous ATA webinars have sold out in advance. Register now to avoid missing this event!


Click to REGISTER:


Dear Newbies,

Avoid this vicious price cycle from day 1:

Start with Low prices > Get lots of business
> Afraid to raise prices > Stuck with low prices
> Unhappy : (

Cycle starts over again…..sound familiar?

Here’s another great and practical article by Leslie Shreve to cut to the chase in your emails so you & everyone else you write to get LESS emails! We are all guilty of this sometime…great reminders! Enjoy!


What’s the Bottom Line?


How to Send E-mails That Cut to the Chase & Cut Down on Your E-mail Load


Chances are good that you’re receiving tons of e-mail like everyone else, but have you stopped to consider if you’re contributing to e-mail overload because you’re sending too many e-mails or if what you’re sending are worded efficiently and effectively?

Are you sending the kind that get to the bottom line quickly or are you adding to the endless amounts of back and forth e-mail strings out there?

I see many types of e-mail overload contributions when I work with clients. My client or their colleagues, bosses and staff are often…

  1. Copying people to death when they don’t need to know
  2. Abusing the company distribution list with too many jokes or announcements
  3. Sending e-mails that are too long
  4. Sending e-mail when the information could wait for the next meeting or weekly report
  5. Sending e-mail when they should really be using the phone

I see all of these situations and more as I work with my clients, who are on both sides of the fence as overloaded and also overloading others.

But one of the things I see far too often is my clients, who are in leadership positions, asking questions of others in an e-mail when they should be more proactive and more directive.

They type up e-mails that aren’t as efficient and effective as they could be, because they’re not thinking ahead about all the possible scenarios or outcomes from their first question and they’re not phrasing their e-mail in such a way that it encourages fast progress or gets to a conclusion more quickly.

It causes far more e-mails to be sent back and forth than necessary.

Here’s an example from an experience with one of my clients…

My client wanted to get a document loaded to the company Intranet. He wasn’t sure if it was there, but was certain he wanted it loaded if it wasn’t already there. He phrased his original e-mail to the other person by saying:

“Have you seen this document on the Intranet? Do you know if it’s there?”

I stopped him and reminded him that he said he really wanted this document on the company Intranet – and we’re assuming we want the most recent, up-to-date version – so why ask a yes or no question?

Are you really sending an e-mail that will get the most efficient, effective results?

If you’re 80% or more sure that it’s already there, then go ahead and ask your yes or no question. Otherwise, if it could be 50/50, getting a “no” will leave you having to send additional e-mails to get it loaded and verified. And even a “yes” could raise new questions like “Is it the right version?”

So why not cut to the chase?

Just send a direct, proactive e-mail and ask that it be loaded and checked for being the right version. I recommended this message instead, after a proper salutation:

“Please load this document to the company Intranet if you don’t see it there. Make sure it’s the most up to date version and let me know when our team can access it.”

…and be done with it.

This new message covers all possible scenarios and doesn’t leave you with delayed progress in case it was a “no” or “yes, but I don’t know if it’s the right one.”

In the end, the more proactive your e-mails are worded and the fewer you send, the fewer you’re likely to receive in return and have to manage, which I know you’d appreciate. So cut to the chase… bottom-line it… keep it short and sweet and others will appreciate receiving and managing less, too!

Productivity expert and founder of Productive Day, Leslie Shreve, publishes Work Day Wonders to help highly motivated experts like you put their work day on cruise control at peak productivity to enjoy less stress, more progress and greater success. If you’re ready to be in the driver’s seat of your work day and leave your frustrations behind, subscribe now to get your FREE subscription. And as a BONUS, you’ll also get the 7 Power Steps to Peak Productivity, a 7-day e-mail mini-series of tips you can start using today!