© Ugur Akinci
I wish I knew Japanese and Chinese. Unfortunately I know neither. That’s why I took great interest in reading a great article which explains some of the difficulties involved in translating a technical document into Japanese or Chinese. As you’d expect, one needs to pay special attention to the way numbers are used in these two classic languages.
For example, do you know why “4” is a dreaded number in China; why you should think twice before using numbers that end up in “4” if you’re writing for a Chinese audience? And why “8” is a good number within the Chinese cultural context?
Did you know that there are two date systems, one for the People’s Republic of China, and the other for Taiwan? Or that the Chinese start the date with the year, and not with the day?
One thing I disagree with this article is the way the author describes the Arabic numerals that we use in the West today as one based on “one thousand.” I really think that is not correct. I believe the Western system is based on “ten” as the ten digits (from zero to nine) attest. But other than that I find this article very informative. As technical writers we need to keep in mind such “localization issues”.
Learning Japanese and Chinese is probably beyond the capabilities of most of us. But if we at least keep these pointers in mind, we’ll end up creating documents that are easier to translate and thus save our team time and money in the process.