How can I translate a website to Chinese?

Chinese translation servicesHow can I translate a website to Chinese? This is a question that was asked on Quora, and I think many also want to know the answer.

The person who posed this question was seeking a solution to get the main idea of a website quickly, a solution that can be achieved by most machine translation engines. Among the many alternatives, Google Translate was probably the best candidate. Google Translate is capable of translate contents of websites into multiple languages, including Chinese.

However, if you have a website that want to be translated into Chinese, the best solution is to use professional Chinese translation services by human translators. This will ensure that the translation is accurate, reliable and appropriate to the target culture.


English to Chinese translator: 3 Criteria

Among the many criteria for judging translation criteria, “faithfulness, “expressiveness” and “elegance”, proposed by Chinese scholar, and well-known English to Chinese translator, YAN Fu, is probably best known.

The first criterion “faithfulness” requires translators to translate the meaning of source text as accurate as possible into target language. This is the most basic and fundamental rule. Without faithfulness, there is simply no point of discussing its expressiveness and elegance.

The second criterion states that the translation needs to be “expressive”. That is to say, the translated text needs to read naturally in the target language. This requires the translator to pay special attention to the linguistic, and especially sentential differences between two languages. Trying to stick to the English sentential structure in translation usually made translated text not easy to read. This is probably the most common mistakes that beginner to intermediate English to Chinese translators make.

The third and last criterion that YAN Fu proposed is “elegance”. This means that the translation not only needs to be accurate and readable in the target language, but also has to be read elegantly, or beautifully. This this very hard to achieve, and general business translation, it is most often not honored, because it is very hard to do, and even harder to do it under a deadline. With that said, the English to Chinese translation of many brand names, does requires this level of excellence.

Thoughts on TM Discounts

Corinnie shared insightful observations on TM discounts. I’d like to follow up a bit on the same issue as well. Computer assisted translation tools (CAT) usually takes quite a while to learn. Trados, the most popular CAT software, for example, really has a deep learning curve. I can still remember printing out book length manuals, just to get started. Corinnie pointed out that since us translators spend and invest a lot on computers, CAT software, and the time spent learning, upgrading and maintaining them, but when it comes to the benefits of all these hard work, it’s a bit unfair to provide discounts on them. Otherwise, what’s the incentive for translators to use such tools in the first place. I know there are very good English to Chinese translators who are very anti-CAT.

I have two reason not to provide discounts on TM. First of all, if the quality of TM is not very high, even 100% matches still needs to be read carefully, and often times 80% matches requires not 20% of time, but could be as difficult, if not more difficult, to translate as no match. In addition, if translation agencies do not offer TM discounts to their end clients, why should they ask for discounts from translators?

English to Chinese Translator: How to translate “Four Freedoms”?

English to Chinese translator: how to translate "four freedoms"The well-known phrase “four freedoms”, first coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his famous State of the Union speech, has probably been translated to most languages to most nations (especially if democracy is valued). Here is the famous quote:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor anywhere in the world.

The English to Chinese translation of the “four freedoms”, however, are recently problematized by HUANG Fenbao, in an journal article appeared Chinese Science and Technology Translators Journal (2010, vol 23, issue 4). He pointed out that although many English to Chinese translators translate the “four freedoms” as “四项(个)自由”, a closer examination of President Roosevelt’s inspirational quote reveals that the meaning of the word “freedom” is actually polysemous, that is, it has more than one meaning.

Freedom, according to the New Oxford English-Chinese Dictionary, refers to “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restrain”. This layer of meaning aligns well with the first two “freedoms” mentioned by the president, and can be translated into Chinese as “自由”.  The last two “freedom”, however, means something quite different. Relying on American Heritage Dictionary, HUANG argues that these two “freedoms” in fact mean “exemption from unpleasant or onerous conditions”, and should NOT be translated as “自由”, but as “脱离,摆脱,免除”, or “豁免”. So translating the phrase “four freedoms” as “四项(个)自由” can be considered as inaccurate or unfaithful, if not misleading. A much better translation of the last two “freedom”, as put forward by HUANG, and we agree, is: 第三项是摆脱贫困。第四项是远离恐惧

This shows that, as English to Chinese translator, we should be aware that in English to Chinese translation or interpreting, there is more to it than simple conversion of words. We also need to put the context into perspective and really understand the subtle differences and shades of meaning in English, and try to put it in Chinese as authentic, reliable and appropriate as possible. This might also be true to translations in general. On the other hand, it also shows that machine translation, at least in this respect, still can’t compete with human English to Chinese translator, as discussed in an earlier post.

Interested readers are referred to HUANG’s full article for detailed discussion.

Simplifed to Traditional Converter | Traditional to Simplified Converter

(June 11, 2011) State College, PA – is pleased to announce the availability of web-based application for automatic conversion between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Both Simplified to Traditional Converter and Traditional to Simplified Converter are made immediate available to the general public. To use these applicatons, user just need to enter or paste a text in Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese in the left window, and then hit the convert button, he or she will be presented with the results in the right window, as illustrated in the screenshot below. Such conversions are carried out automatically and the processing speed is very fast. There is almost no waiting time for even a large amount of text.

Simplified Chinese to Traditional Chinese conversion




Although the application is capable of converting Chinese words or character from one writing system to another, it currently does not support conversion at a higher semantic level. For example, project is usually translated as “项目” in Simplified Chinese. If you want to convert this into Traditional Chinese, you can do that, and will get “項目”. But this English word is usually translated as “專案”, a very different word in orthography, but similar in meaning. If you have a list such words and would like us to improve this system by adding this feature, please kindly let us know.

Simplified Chinese characters are used throughout mainland China, as well as in such countries as Singapore, and Malaysia, while Traditional Chinese characters are generally used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and Chinese diaspora overseas. While some Chinese characters remains the same or looks fairly similar between the two writing systems, others could look drastically different. Most Chinese people generally reads and writes in one such system. Often times, one needs to convert one into another, just to get some general idea of what is being talked bout. This online tool is specifically designed for the general need to convert between these two Chinese writing systems. This tool could also be potentially useful to learners of Chinese as a second or foreign language. It provides them the necessary tools and resources they need when they encounter difficulties in differentiating and recognizing certain Chinese words or characters.

This system was implemented in Python, using the Django web framework. We intend to provide this useful tool to the general public free of charge. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know and we will be interested in improving the software over time.

Chinese to English Translation of a Sign Post: A Linguistic Analysis

Continuing last post on dramatic Chinese to English translation on sign posts, I will do a little bit linguistic analysis on the inappropriateness and bad quality of machine translation on yet another sign.

As can be seen in the figure on the left, this sign post deals with dumpsters.  The Simplified Chinese direction “垃圾在此投放” was translated as “[t]he garbage throws in here”, which is not that terrible, as compared to the Chinese to English translation of  “烟头切勿投入” as “[t]he cigarette butt throws in absolutely not to”.

Although these two translations do make a little sense, especially considering its adjacent position to a very illustrative picture, but the quality of the Simplified Chinese to English translation is undoubtedly far from satisfactory. Put such sign in a public space is humiliating to anyone who has involved in producing this.

Now, let’s conduct a little bit of linguistic analysis on why the quality of the machine translation is less than satisfactory. Looking at the two translations, the first thing that jumps out at me is the verb phrase “throw in”, which was used in both places. The verb “throw” project an action which requires physical effort, and also denotes a path through which an object traverse through space. It usually goes with things like baseball, or basketball. We use throw because we want to highlight the path, to emphasize how beautiful or elegant someone throw a ball. So, it’s probably clear by now that the verb “throw” is not a good choice to describe the action for things like garbage or cigarette butt, no matter whom performed the Chinese to English translation, be it machine translator, such as Google Translate, or Microsoft Translator, or a human translator.

Secondly, the use of definite article “the” is no good. We don’t really know what specific garbage or cigarette butt the sign post is talking about, and those two things are not complex thing such as “the computer” or unique thing as “the sun”.  For “garbage”, since it’s mass noun, it will be okay to just use “garbage”. For “cigarette butt”, plural form will be appropriate.

Finally, the use of “absolutely” with negation sounds a little bit awkward. Probably we need to consult a large corpus for detailed pattern for the use of the word, but my general impression is that “absolutely”, more often than not, collocate with positive meaning, or to have a positive semantic prosody, in corpus linguistics parlance.

English or Chinese Translation Services by Machine Translation

English or Chinese translation services, if rendered by machine translation, many times produce very dramatic effect. Such translation usually does not make any sense at all, a point we discussed earlier.

The following picture shows a sign post for a Guiyang Police Department. Guiyang, capital city of Guizhou province, in southwestern China, has been literally translated as “the expensive sun”. This dramatic translation of such prominent city simply shows the low quality of the machine translation software it was employed. Even Google Translate or Microsoft Bing Translator could identify that Guiyang is a place. If, however, this was done by a human translator, I wonder what was the translator thinking when he or she did this. How on earth could the sun be expensive? Where was he or she exposed to such collocation?

The complete translation of goes like this: “The expensive sun multiplies by a day a police to pay a bridge”. Does this make sense to you? When it comes to quality English or Chinese translation services, machine translator can’t be trusted or even considered in the first place.



Quality English to Chinese translation affects Political Campaign

English to Chinese translation of voting postState College, PA. (June 6th, 2011). High quality English to Chinese translation really goes a long way, even in political campaign, as recently reported by this NPR news article.

The case NPR illustrated is about the English to Chinese translation of two prominent politicians running for Superior Court in in San Francisco. In this case, Chinese translation of their name on city election ballots is necessary, because one fifth San Francisco residents is Chinese-American, among them many do not read English. Michael Nava, one candidate for running for Superior Court Judge has his Chinese name read/translated as “Li Zheng Ping” (most likely as 李正平 in Simplified Chinese characters), which roughly translates as “correct and fair”, a huge advantage for an official running for such government post. His opponent, Richard Ulmer, however, is reported to have translated his last name into Chinese phonetically, as “Ao Ma” (most likely as 澳马 in Simplified Chinese characters). This literal translation back to English would be “Australia horse”. Now, if you’re the voters who can only read Chinese, who would you vote for as judge in Superior Court, the “correct and fair”, or “Australian horse”?

High quality English to Chinese translation, in this case, as NPR has pointed out, could affect success of a political campaign.

This article is available at:

Chinese Translation Industry: Need some regulation?

Does the Chinese translation industry need some regulation? Mr. Huang Youyi thinks so. As a CPPCC representative, Mr. Haung said he is considering proposing a bill this year aiming at regulating the Chinese translation industry. His words is certainly carries quite some weight, as he is a member or representative of the Chinese legislature.

According to Mr. Huang, a long time Chinese translator himself,  China’s translation market is now in a turmoil. For example, he said that the translation rate or price varies greatly, there is no entry or access rules, anyone can register a translation company, but the quality of translation is not guaranteed. Mr. Huang recognize that translation is playing an increasingly important role in cross-cultural communication, and these aforementioned current status quo of Chinese translation industries worries him. Thus regulation or legislation appears (to him) a good way out.

However, I think those reasons are groundless. Translation rate or price, or for anything for that matter, is determined largely supply and command. Why should a high quality English to Chinese translation, for example, be the same price as mediore translations? Secondly, just because a translation project is handled by a translation company doesn’t mean that it is necesarily of high quality. It is human translators who produce good quality translations, not agencies .

English to Chinese Translator replaceable by Microsoft Translator API?

As professional and human English to Chinese translator, I’m a little bit worried about the perpetual advancement in machine translation. For example, the software giant Microsoft has recently announced the availability of its Microsoft Translator API for business use, claiming to providing developers “a wide spectrum of translation and language APIs for integration into their applications and services”. Commercial licensing information is also made available. Here are some examples showcasing Microsoft Translator API in action. It seems that consumer electronic devices, such as mobile phones, could capitalize on this new piece of technology, and make their apps multilingual, with out any need, for example, from professional human English to Chinese translator.

Although the quality of machine translation is still no where near professional human English to Chinese translation, I’m a little bit worried to see that machine translation is gradually progressing and making more and more impact in the translation industry, thus taking more and more translation work away from human translators, at least in theory. Although machine translation still can’t replace human translator any time soon, it is surely for here to stay. Fellow translators, in this more and more machine translation enabled world, as human translators, what’s your attitude toward this issue? How should we position ourselves in the new translation industry?  Please share your thoughts…