China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan
A success story linguistically, modern Mandarin Chinese has over a billion native speakers. More people use Chinese on a daily basis, for business, work, play, than any other language in the world.
The fate of Chinese is tied with that of China itself – as the country’s influence has grown, so has interest in the language of its people. There are now half a million students of Chinese on just one online hub, and the profusion of Confucian Institutes around the world only add to the ‘soft power’ approach taken in recent decades.
An official language of the United Nations since 1946, and a working language of the General Assembly since 1973, it is also an increasingly important language of diplomacy.
An official language of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore, the huge Chinese diaspora also means that the Chinese language will be encountered virtually anywhere. There are now, for example, some 300,000 Chinese in South Africa, and Chinese is the third most spoken language in the United States, where there are over two million speakers, only surpassed by English and Spanish.
The Chinese Character
No one can deny the inherent mystery and attractiveness, for both Chinese and foreigner alike, of the Chinese character. Here we’re talking not about a trait of personality, but the Chinese character as used every day in the living language.
Chinese characters, developed thousands of years ago, have survived mostly unchanged to the present day. Some of the earliest characters, called guwen, were carved onto tortoise shells and other items for divination. These characters, even today, are recognizable, although their meanings have been updated for modern usage.
漢字 ⇒ 汉字
Despite various drives for simplification in the 20th century, the Chinese character has mostly remained unchanged from the original form which appeared thousands of years ago. This durability is one of the enduring aspects of the Chinese culture – what makes a person, or an idea, or a thing, Chinese, is not so much its birthplace or origin, but its ability to join the greater Chinese concept and way of life, which is, first and foremost, transmitted through the Chinese language, and specifically, its characters. The average Chinese person has so many associations to do with language, and the shapes and meanings of characters, that the language is one of the prime indicators of whether an individual, or an area, is sufficiently ‘Chinese’.
(As a comparison, one can look at the fate of Vietnamese, part of the so-called Sinosphere of Chinese cultural influence, which soon after the arrival of the Europeans ceased using Chinese characters for its writing.)
Spectrum Translation has specialized in the Chinese language (including Cantonese, for Hong Kong and Guangdong) since 2005. We have translated and localized for China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and the USA, using both Simplified and Traditional characters.
We welcome your queries regarding successful translation, proofreading, and editing in this important language of culture and commerce.