Important Facts about English to Cantonese Translation Services
Many U.S.-based attorneys have had experience in hiring an English to Cantonese deposition interpreting service for a cross-cultural deposition or arbitration. Yet some law firms often overlook the fact that Cantonese is not just a spoken language. If you want to know when to use English to Cantonese translation services, below are some answers to frequently asked questions about Cantonese document translation services.
Where is Cantonese spoken?
Guangdong Province (the place of origin of Cantonese as a language), Guangxi Province and Hainan Province of mainland China; Hong Kong, Macao; Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia in Southeast Asia; the US and Canada in North America; Australia, New Zealand, Christmas Island of Oceania; the United Kingdom, France and Portugal of Western Europe, etc.
Where did Cantonese originate as a language?
Cantonese, also known as Standard Cantonese, is a variety of the Chinese language spoken in the city of Canton (Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province) and its vicinity in southeastern China.
How would I know whether I need to have my English document translated into Cantonese?
Knowing where your document is to be used is the decisive factor. If the document targets Hong Kong and Macao where Cantonese is one of the official languages, it definitely needs to be translated into written Cantonese (in the form of Traditional Chinese). If your document targets overseas Chinese, then having your document translated from English to Cantonese is a safer choice since many of these people speak Cantonese in their daily life. In all other cases, having your English document translated into Mandarin Chinese would be appropriate.
In which countries is Cantonese an official language?
Cantonese is one of the official languages of Hong Kong and Macao, with their second official languages being English and Portuguese, respectively.
What is the size of Cantonese-speaking population worldwide?
Approximately, 120 million people. Cantonese has been the most-spoken language among the Chinese communities residing outside of the Chinese territory, particularly in the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK.
How different is Cantonese from Mandarin, the official language of China, in its spoken and written form?
Although Cantonese shares some vocabulary with Mandarin, these two varieties of the Chinese language are mutually unintelligible because of their differences in pronunciation, grammar and lexicon. Sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between these two varieties of the Chinese language.
A notable difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is how the spoken word is written; both can be recorded verbatim but very few Cantonese speakers are knowledgeable in the full Cantonese written vocabulary, so a non-verbatim formalized Cantonese written form has been adopted which is more akin to the Mandarin written form. This results in the situation in which a Cantonese text and a Mandarin text may look similar, but is pronounced differently.
Is written Cantonese different from written Mandarin?
Quite different. Cantonese is usually written with traditional Chinese characters, whereas Mandarin is written with simplified Chinese characters. As a matter of fact, written Cantonese often includes extra characters as well as characters with different meanings from written vernacular Chinese due to the presence of words that either do not exist in standard Chinese, or correspond to spoken Cantonese. This system of written Cantonese is usually found in colloquial contexts, such as entertainment magazines, social media, and advertisements.
In fact, the writing system of Cantonese on a computer is totally different from that of Mandarin – a Chinese speaker of Mandarin only will not be able to decipher Cantonese characters. As a result, translating English into Cantonese should only be done by a speaker of Cantonese, who is knowledgeable in the writing system of Cantonese.
I have an English legal document that needs to be translated to Chinese. If I were to have it translated into two Chinese versions, one that uses Simplified Chinese characters and the other that uses Traditional Chinese characters, will these two versions use exactly the same legal terms in Chinese?
Not necessarily. An English legal term may have one counterpart in the Simplified Chinese version (written Mandarin) yet have a partly or wholly different counterpart in the Traditional Chinese version (written Cantonese/Taiwanese). For example, an experienced English to Chinese legal translator will use one set of legal terms when translating the English legal terms, such as “claim”, “charge” and “ombudsman” into written Mandarin, and will use a different set of terms when translating these English terms into written Cantonese. The main reason for these discrepancies is the difference between the legal traditions and systems of mainland China and that of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Just to be on the safe side, when would it be better for my Company to have our English documents translated into both Cantonese and Mandarin?
Translating an English document into both Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese is always a better choice which ensures that your document will be understood by a larger number of Chinese readers.
If you work for a multinational firm and want to release your Company’s Legal Disclaimer, Directions for Use, Warranty Clauses, etc. which target both mainland China and Hong Kong/Macao/Taiwan, we recommend to have your English documents translated into both Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.
If, on the other hand, your legal, technical, or medical documents target ONLY mainland China, including Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan provinces, where Cantonese is dominantly spoken, remember that people there have no problem reading Simplified Chinese, because it is the official written language of mainland China.
Similarly, when your English document targets ONLY the Chinese community residing outside of mainland China, in places such as Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, etc., having your documents translated into Traditional Chinese would be sufficient.
Contact our professional translation service to request a Cantonese deposition interpreter, an English to Cantonese medical interpreter, or to obtain certified English to Cantonese document translations.