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Chinese contract translation is no walk in the park. However, Chinese companies are highly influential in the business world and many companies will find themselves having dealings with Chinese companies.
The Chinese family of languages is the most widespread and has the greatest number of native speakers of any language on the planet. Approximately 1.3 billion people speak Chinese as their mother tongue. The vast majority of them — 917 million — speak the Mandarin dialect. The next most spoken language — Spanish — doesn’t even come close with its 460 million native speakers.
There is no doubt that this is an important language for businesses looking to move into an Eastern market, and for businesses in general as Chinese companies continue to grow in prominence.
In an effort to cover every eventuality, contracts in the US tend to be long and detailed. They also often use archaic language and terms that may be hard to define (and even harder to translate). Some contracts even begin by defining a list of terms to make sure everyone is on the same page.
The Chinese despise this level of detail and much prefer a simple, easy-to-read-and-understand contract. In fact, if a contract is overly complicated and it goes to court, it is very possible that it will be thrown out.
When businesses need to translate contracts into Chinese, it is important that their translator understand this and be able to write an easily-understandable contract without losing any of the original English meaning.
When businesses move into a new market, they must adapt and present their product or service in their audience’s language. In our technological world, a website is an absolute must. To appeal to a Chinese audience, the website must offer Chinese content.
This includes legal pages such as Privacy Policies and Terms of Service pages. While it may be tempting to overlook these pages because “no one reads them anyway” no business can afford to. This information must be available for Chinese users in their own language.
Translating English into Chinese without losing meaning is incredibly difficult. Don’t expect that machine types of translations will come even remotely close. Instead, you need a highly-skilled translator with an intimate understanding of both Chinese and English to accurately convey this sensitive information in the target language.
Doing business in a Chinese market means businesses will receive paperwork such as software agreements and other contracts written in Chinese. Unless they have a Chinese-speaking lawyer on staff, they won’t have someone who can review the documents and ensure they are OK to sign.
It is absolutely crucial that the correct meaning is conveyed when translating these legal documents. If not, a company’s lawyers may give the go-ahead on a contract thinking it is saying one thing, but it is actually saying something different. This could lead to serious issues if a dispute arises.
Thus, it is imperative that businesses have a 100% accurate and error-free copy of the contract in English. It’s impossible to get that from a machine.
Traditionally, written Chinese is very complicated. Around the middle of the 20th century, a distinct and simplified version of written Chinese was created in an effort to improve the literacy rate. This led to two versions of written Chinese.
When translating documents into Chinese, the translator must know whether to use Traditional or Simplified Chinese. This is largely determined by the target market’s area. Mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia tend to use Simplified Chinese while Taiwan and Hong Kong still stick to Traditional Chinese.
There are also regional differences in how the language is used that translators must be aware of. Each translation needs to be tailored specifically to the target audience.
Finally, though machine translations are less accurate in all languages, they are barely a step above useless when translating between Chinese and English. The two languages and cultures are so different that there are very few shared idioms or expressions that are simple to translate literally.
As in all languages, there are various types of Chinese contracts and legal documents. Some of the most common types our translators work with include
In Chinese culture, the idea of 关系 guānxì (gwan-shee) is very powerful. The direct translation is “relationships” but it also carries the idea of networking and forming connections. While the concept of guānxì is paramount in Chinese culture, foreigners need to understand that it does not replace a written contract as some might think. Since the late 90s Chinese law has required virtually all contracts to be written and include the necessary elements.
Contract disputes to be settled in Chinese courts will require a Chinese version of the contract or an accurate translation. In the case of a discrepancy between the two versions, the Chinese one will be considered the prevailing language in court.
In China, most work contracts are written for one year of work. After the first year working in China, employees are entitled to 5 days of guaranteed leave in addition to holidays.
Always pay close attention to termination terms in a contract. A good practice is to ensure that the employer must offer 30 days’ notice of termination after the probationary period.
Though Chinese characters are larger and more complex than English letters, written Chinese tends to take up a lot less space than its English equivalent. One character can stand for a word that might require several letters in English. For example, take a look at a few common contract terms here
There are two overarching legal systems that most of the world’s legal systems are based on to some extent. These are common law and civil law systems.
When looking at common law v civil law, there isn’t one that is necessarily better than the other. However, different countries use one or the other mostly because of which system first influenced their law system as it was being developed.
The US and China use different systems. US law is largely based on the common law system, whereas China was heavily influenced by a mix of Germanic civil law and socialist law from Russia.
Translators should have a basic understanding of these differences and how they will affect the way a target audience reads and understands a contract.
Don’t ever leave your legal translation to machines, especially when working with such difficult language pairs such as English and Chinese. Global contracts are far too important to allow room for errors.
Instead, seek out the best contract translation services you can find to ensure accurate and error-free translations of your legal documents.
Reach out to us for reliable legal translation services today.
When it’s time for businesses to work indifferent countries, proper legal contract translation is essential to their business. Reach out to us today for legal contract translation services you can count on.