Australia-China Council

cover of chinese publishing translating guide

Australian Guide to Chinese Language Publishing & Translating

An Australian Guide to Chinese Language Publishing & Translating has been produced by the Australia-China Council to facilitate quality Chinese publishing by Australian organisations.  Most material published in Chinese by Australian companies and government agencies is translated from English and the Guide discusses a range of translation issues.

China is now Australia’s third-largest trading partner and Chinese the second most widely-spoken language in Australia after English.  The Guide aims to service the increasing need for Australian organisations to provide information to migrants, students and tourists from China, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as to promote growing commercial, cultural and other links with China; on the internet and in printed publications; in Australia and in China.

The Guide covers:

The Guide also includes a Style Guide with sections on Australian, mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan Chinese language styles.

An Australian Guide to Chinese Language Publishing & Translating: ( 1.5 MB)

Hard copies of the Guide are available at no charge by contacting the ACC Secretariat.

An Australian Guide to Chinese Language Publishing & Translating:Executive Summary

The 2001 Census revealed that well over two per cent of the Australian population spoke a Chinese language at home. About 1.3 per cent of the Australian population spoke Cantonese at home and 0.8 per cent spoke Mandarin and this total (2.1 per cent) does not include use of other Chinese dialects recorded in the census, such as Hokkien and Shanghainese. The Census revealed that the use of Chinese had overtaken Italian and Greek to become for the first time, or certainly since the large influx of Chinese migrants in the nineteenth century, the second most widely-spoken language in Australia after English.

The importance of Chinese as a foreign language also continues to grow in tandem with the rapid growth of the Chinese economy and the importance of China as a trading partner for Australia. Merchandise trade with China has grown almost two hundred-fold over the past thirty years, from $113 million in 1973 to $21 billion in 2002. In 2002, China was Australia's third-largest merchandise trading partner and fourth-largest merchandise export market. By itself, Taiwan was Australia's eighth-largest merchandise export market in 2002, taking four per cent of Australian exports, and Australia’s ninth-largest merchandise trading partner overall. Hong Kong took three per cent of Australian merchandise exports in 2002, Australia’s ninth-largest merchandise export market, as well as 4.4 per cent of Australian service exports.

This Guide targets Australian organisations engaging in or planning Chinese language publishing. The Guide aims to assist Australian companies and government agencies with understanding key issues to help facilitate quality Chinese publishing. It is designed to service the increasing need for Australian organisations to provide information for migrants, students and tourists from China, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and to promote growing commercial, cultural and other links with China, both on the internet and in printed publications, in Australia and in China.

Most material published in Chinese by Australian organisations is translated from English and so the guide discusses a range of translation issues. The main focus is on English to Chinese translation, but because some of the subject matter is related there is also some reference to Chinese to English translation.

The issues covered in the guide range from a survey of Chinese language publishing by Australian organisations, the readerships in different Chinese markets, providers of Chinese translating and publishing services to language styles and linguistic considerations in translating and publishing.

The Chinese language, as with all other living languages, is undergoing constant change and development. The momentum of its development is being spurred by rapid economic and social changes taking place in China and by aspects of globalisation, including interaction on the internet of different varieties of Chinese used in different Chinese speaking regions. For this reason, although the guide provides a description of Chinese language usage and recommendations for translating and publishing in 2003, these judgements may soon become out-dated as Chinese language use in Australia and China changes. Future changes may include, for example, a growing preference among mainland Chinese for the use of the two-character (澳洲) instead of the four-character Chinese word (澳大利亞) for “Australia” or a wider acceptance in Australia and Hong Kong of simplified rather than traditional Chinese characters.

Chapter 1: Chinese Language Publishing by Australian Organisations

In the second half of the 19th century Chinese-speaking migrants arrived in Australia creating a demand for Chinese publications. Starting in the late 19th century and continuing through the first half of the 20th century, Chinese newspapers were published in Sydney and Melbourne to meet the needs of the local Chinese community. Following at least a two-decade gap in the second half of the 20th century when few, if any, Chinese newspapers were published, another major influx of Chinese-speaking migrants brought about a second active period in Chinese newspaper publishing starting in the 1980s.

Publishing by the Chinese community in Australia is increasing. In 2003 there were five daily Chinese newspapers and around 20 weekly newspapers. Newspapers are an important vehicle for local companies and government agencies to advertise their products and services targeting the Chinese-reading population in Australia.

Large-scale Chinese publishing by government organisations for the local Chinese community started in the 1980s, providing information for the growing numbers of Chinese-speaking immigrants. From the 1990s, in response to growing links with China, government agencies also increasingly published in Chinese targeting an overseas audience.

The level of Chinese publishing by Australian companies to promote their services and products in China is still relatively low, but this is likely to grow substantially in coming years as the importance of the Chinese market increases.

Chinese language publishing on the internet dates back to the early 1990s, and has experienced a rapid development in recent years. Some Chinese newspapers and community organisations in Australia have Chinese websites. From the late 1990s, Australian government agencies dealing with China and serving the local Chinese community started to provide Chinese pages on their websites, but so far, only a few Australian business organisations have done so.

Chapter 2: Targeting Different Chinese Markets

Until the 19th century, classical Chinese was the common written language of East Asia, including Japan, Korea and Vietnam - in much the same way as Latin was for many centuries the common written language of Europe. The Chinese written language underwent fundamental changes during the 20th century and the written language has developed differently in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

The three Chinese economies use different varieties of Chinese characters and styles of writing. In mainland China, simplified Chinese characters are used in print and in daily life. Traditional Chinese characters are also used on the mainland in some limited situations. In both Hong Kong and Taiwan, traditional Chinese characters are used exclusively.

In terms of writing style, modern written Chinese in mainland China is closer to spoken Chinese, whereas more features from classical Chinese remain in the written Chinese used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In mainland China, modern written Chinese has incorporated more grammatical and lexical features of Mandarin; in Hong Kong, grammatical and lexical features from Cantonese may be found in written Chinese; and in Taiwan, written Chinese has been influenced, to some extent, by the vocabulary of Taiwanese (Hokkien), the major local dialect. The three different social and political systems in China and their respective (and changing) attitudes to the importance of historical continuity and the desirability of government control over language use have also had a major impact on language development in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The differences between the written Chinese languages of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan should not be exaggerated. Most people in all three regions, whichever dialect they speak, accept that standard written Chinese for national and international communication uses Mandarin grammar and vocabulary, even if the characters are pronounced in another dialect. Although there is growing language diversity between the three regions in some forms of publishing, there is at the same time increasing communication due to growing business and people-to-people links and therefore more acquaintance with written Chinese used in other regions and mutual influence between the language styles. A Hong Kong business person, for example, may regularly chat on the internet in written Cantonese, but read letters in standard Chinese from Shenzhen and Taipei business partners, in simplified and traditional characters respectively.

If an organisation is targeting only one Chinese market, the material should be published using the Chinese character, vocabulary and style preferences of that market. For publishing that is not market-specific and is targeting all three Chinese economies it is best to have two versions, one in simplified characters for the mainland and one in traditional characters suitable for Taiwan and Hong Kong. If resources are only available for one version and the mainland market is no more important than the others, then it is best to use traditional Chinese characters and vocabulary that would be acceptable to, if not always the first preference of, markets in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Publishing targeting Chinese readers in Australia should normally use traditional Chinese characters.

Chinese publishing on the internet, either marketing by companies or the provision of information by government agencies, is increasing and has specific problems and potential opportunities. As with printed material, internet publishing should ideally use the character, vocabulary and style preferences of the target market; however, web pages, unlike most printed publishing, are available across regions. Computer software makes it relatively easy to create traditional and simplified versions of the same text and unless an Australian organisation is only targeting one market, there are advantages in having web pages in both simplified and traditional Chinese character versions. Additional resources may still be required for proof-reading and web page design of mirror simplified and traditional character websites and where just one version is published on the internet it is advisable to use traditional characters, unless an organisation is mainly targeting the mainland market.

Organisations should be aware of the difference between publishing original material in Chinese and translating English material into Chinese. The English material may have been written with assumptions that are not easily understood or may not be appropriate for a Chinese audience. Most material is perfectly suitable for translation and any material, even poetry and advertising jingles, can be translated to some degree or other, but original material written for the target market is likely to have a bigger impact and be better understood.

Chapter 3: Translating and Publishing Service Providers

Although there are differences in the cost of sourcing translations in Australia, mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, other factors are also important. In selecting translators, it is most important to consider the competency and level of service provided by the translation agency as well as the translator’s familiarity with the language preferences and cultural assumptions of the target audience.

Publishing, printing and web page design services can be found through a number of ways including directory and internet searches. The cost of publishing and printing does not vary so much between Australia, mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but the cost of web page design varies considerably. As with translating, when selecting publishing, printing and web page design subcontractors, quality control should be a key consideration.

Appendix A: Style Guide for Translators and Publishers

This appendix is written for translators, publishers or project managers who can read Chinese. Organisations may wish to refer translating and publishing subcontractors to this section for guidance on appropriate language styles.

Guidance is provided on appropriate language styles, including some vocabulary items, for Australian organisations to consider when they undertake publishing and translating in-house and when they manage outsourced publishing and translating projects. The chapter also lists some examples of suitable style guides for translating and publishing for the mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan markets.

Appendix B: Chinese Romanisation

Mainland China’s Pinyin system has become the international standard for transcribing Chinese (Mandarin) in roman letters. Appendix B.1 outlines the Pinyin system. Pinyin has replaced the Wade-Giles system formerly used in Australian libraries for cataloguing Chinese materials. Appendices B.2 and B.3 provide conversion tables for the two systems. There is no standard system for romanising Cantonese. Appendix B.4 outlines the five most common systems for transcribing Cantonese in roman letters.

An Australian Guide to Chinese Language Publishing & Translating:Table of Contents

Foreword

Acknowledgments

Australia-China Council

Introduction and Overview

Chapter 1: Chinese Language Publishing by Australian Organisations   

1.1   Early Chinese Language Publishing in Australia

1.2   Contemporary Chinese Publishing

1.3   Publishing by Government Agencies

1.4   Publishing by Australian Companies

1.5   Chinese Language Publishing on the Internet

Chapter 2: Targeting different Chinese Markets

2.1   The Development of Modern Written Chinese

2.2   Target Markets and their Language Preferences

2.3   Targeting Audiences with Appropriate Language Styles

2.4   Publishing and Reading Chinese on the Internet

2.5   Cultural Issues: Publishing Original versus Translated Writing

Chapter 3: Translating and Publishing Service Providers

3.1   Translating, Interpreting and Language Direction

3.2   Selecting Translators for the Targeted Market

3.3   Translation Services

3.4   Publishers and Printers

3.5   Web Page Design Services

Endnotes

Appendix A: Style Guide for Translators and Publishers

A.1  General Considerations

A.2  Australian Chinese

A.3  Mainland Chinese

A.4  Hong Kong Chinese

A.5  Taiwan Chinese

Appendix B: Chinese Romanisation

B.1   Mandarin Romanisation: Pinyin

B.2   Pinyin to Wade-Giles

B.3   Wade-Giles to Pinyin

B.4   Cantonese Romanisation

Appendix C: Suggestions for Further Reading

Appendix D: Government and Business contacts

(Total: 70pp)


National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data: 11 December 2003

An Australian guide to Chinese language publishing &translating = Aozhou Zhongwen chuban he fanyi zhinan.

Bibliography.

ISBN 0 9751734 0 5.

1. Publishers and publishing - Australia.  2. Australian literature - Translations into Chinese.
I. Australia-China Council. II. Title: Aozhou Zhongwen chuban he fanyi zhinan.

070.50994