The Importance of the Cultural Differences Between China and the West in Translation

Translation is the process of transforming one language into another. It is not just simply translating a language to another but a translation between two or more cultures. Eugene A. Naida, a leading American translation theorist said: “Translation is an exchange between two cultures. For truly successful translations it is more important to be familiar with both cultures than even master both languages because words only make sense in the cultural context in which they function.”


The Chinese and English languages have given birth to their national idioms due to their unique historical culture. In ancient Chinese agricultural societies for example, “dogs” were seen as a humble animal. Dogs were mainly used to visit nursing homes and serve as a source of meat for ordinary people even in modern China where dog-eating practices still exist.

A range of dog-related languages contain derogatory meaning, such as “wolf’s heart and dog’s lungs”, “dog eyes are low”, “fox friends” and so on. On the other hand, in ancient European culture, people lived by hunting, fishing, grazing and dogs were important tools of production and labour such as shepherds. As European civilization has developed, dogs have become part of people’s everyday lives and are often used as a metaphor for humanity: “lucky dog”, “a top dog”, “as faithful as a dog”, “every dog has his day”, and now dogs are often seen as “man’s best friend”.

Therefore, if one does not understand the differences between the customs of the two cultures, but simply uses literal translation, the translated content will be impractical and may even send erroneous messages. For example, fishing occupies an important position on the British Isles, so Britons often use “fish” to denote a wide range of people, such as “big fish”, “poor fish”, “strange fish”. If translated into big fish, poor fish and strange fish, it would be incomprehensible and even a joke.

It is well known that dragons have different cultural visions in China and the West where they represent supreme power and unrivalled power. However, in the West they are incarnations of evil and greed. So, the familiar “Asian Four Dragons” is translated into “Asian Four Tigers”. Because of the difference between the cultural images of the source language and the destination language, the translation needs to transform the cultural images to convey the same information.

Due to the differences in thinking modes, Chinese people are used to express things from the cause to the effect, from big to small, and then to elaborate in an orderly manner while British and American people express their thinking in the opposite direction to the Chinese people: from small to big, first to result, then to cause. For example, the address in English is: “No.1, East 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China”  which should be translated into Chinese as “Beijing, Chaoyang District, No.1, East 3rd Ring Road”. Therefore, only by understanding the differences between the Chinese and Western ways of thinking can we accurately translate.

The Four Benefits of Having a Multilingual Website

Your website is often the first thing your customers see when they only know your business through the internet. It sets the tone for all users of your site to determine professionalism and standardization. If users can’t easily browse your website or find what they need, they will immediately step back and browse your competitor’s website. For global markets, multilingual websites play an important role in providing a good user experience. Here are the four key benefits of having multilingual websites:


  1. Extend to international markets

Having your website available in multiple languages will give a positive impression to all visitors to the site. Multilingual websites enable a better user experience that will automatically attract the attention of first-time visitors and a wider customer segment to your site. Language barriers can often be a challenge for many companies doing business in global markets. If you have sales or export operations internationally, this is a major challenge for many business owners who struggle to build the necessary trust their customers need to search or shop online. Ensuring that your buyers and resellers fully understand your products, services and technologies is an important step in leading your business to international success.


  1. Building trust among non-native speakers

Even though there are local businesses not expanding into global markets their customer base might not be local and/or speak the same language. However, if customers would be able to easily access and browse your website in their own language, they would more likely to be interested in learning about your services or purchasing your products.

Common Sense Consulting surveyed more than 3,000 consumers in 10 different countries and found that many users avoided using and spent less time browsing English-only websites. The survey demonstrates the importance of language to your global customers’ rich experience on your website. 70% of web users are not native English speakers indicating that multilingual websites are critical to your web success.


  1. Higher web traffic

When users have a positive experience browsing your multilingual website, they are more likely to be interested in your products and services. Many users question the reliability of businesses when making online shopping decisions. Multilingual sites create a high level of reliability, professionalism and demonstrate that you are actively looking after your customers. Your website caters to many different users making them feel secure and confident about the services you deliver. To increase overall trust, satisfaction and willingness to buy from your web shop, think about your customers and create the platform they are looking for!


  1. Take the lead in competition

Having a multilingual website can gain you competitive advantage by differentiating you from your competitors. Moreover, websites that can be accessed in different languages make your customers aware that you care about them and that your businesses is willing to adapt to an international customer base.