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There are several languages spoken in China - which one should we use?

4:56 pm on Jan 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Our website is currently in 18 languages. We would like to create a Chinese version of it but I am getting confused about which Chinese language we should use.

According to Wikipedia, Mandarin is the most popular language in China but other "minor" languages are spoken by many people as well, e.g. Wu (90 million), Cantonese (70 million) and Min (50 million). Then there is traditional and simplified Chinese... I'm confused.

So, the question is - to which language should we have the site translated? Would it make sense to translate it to more than one language? Thanks.
5:51 pm on Jan 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I believe written Chinese is the traditional v simplified (which I believe is more like a font that actual understanding difference).

A friend of mine (Who was born in China) swears up and down that although someone who speaks only Mandarin can not converse orally with someone who only understands Cantonese - both understand the same written language.

Despite the fact she should obviously know -- I am still suspicious :)

I am curious about this myself...
10:02 pm on Jan 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The above post is correct - all you need are chinese characters.

Although China has a huge variation in languages, they all use the same writing system (this is because characters are based on meaning - not sound. Unlike english, it is impossible to look at a character and get an idea of how to pronouce it unless you already know).

Therefore, if someone spoke Mandarin and another spoke Cantonese, they would not be able to understand each other, however, if they wrote down what they wanted to say in Chinese characters, they would both read it exactly the same way.

I believe the standard for webpages is 'simplified chinese', however some websites use both. Looking at what you want to do here would be your next step :)
10:23 pm on Jan 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Correct- the various dialects are of no real concern for the web. (There may be some subtle differences, like between American English and British English.) For the written language, there is simplified and traditional.

Which market(s) do you want to target? Simplified Chinese characters are used in Mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao (although with the reversion back to control by Mainland China, there is probably a push to get Hong Kong and Macao on board with the rest of the mainland). Among mainland Chinese emigrants, most who left before the 1960s probably use traditional, while recent emigrants probably use simplified.

If you've already translated into 18 languages, it probably makes sense to have both traditional and simplified versions.
11:19 pm on Jan 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Great replies, thank you very much. Will probably go for simplified Chinese first.

Will we get away with copying and pasting text from translated text document? It worked well for all other languages including Russian and Hebrew (obviously we set the text direction and alignment for Hebrew).

I'm reading that modern Chinese is written left to right, top to bottom, so default text alignment and direction can be used - is that correct? Thanks.

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