Cantonese needs proper skill to translate

Since a political advisory body in Guangzhou in southern China proposed that TV stations should broadcast their prime-time shows in Mandarin instead of Cantonese in the run-up to the Asian Games there in November, protest voices have been increasingly raised, with rallies in Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Although Mandarin, also known as Putonghua, was declared China’s official language in 1982, there are around 70 million Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong, Macau and China’s southern Guangdong province, and is widely spoken in overseas Chinese communities around the world so it’s easy to see how this recommendation could be taken as an attack on a long-established, widely-spoken language.

Mandarin language lessons became compulsory in schools in Hong Kong after its return to Chinese rule in 1997 and an increasing number of professionals began to learn the dialect after the handover as Hong Kong’s business links with the mainland have grown.

Whilst it’s understandable that the Guangzhou authorities might be keen to ensure that their region benefits as fully as possible from the opportunities presented by the Asian Games by ensuring that media coverage is widely accessible, it would be a great shame if this were a step on the way to the disappearance of Cantonese.  With that, it would only be a matter of time before other dialects such as Hakka and Shanghainese which also add greatly to the richness of Chinese culture also vanished. 

In the UK we are familiar with campaigns to keep traditional languages and dialects from around the country alive and, at SanTranslate, we would like to know that Cantonese will also continue to be spoken by future generations.  It is a lovely dialect that easily allows for the expression of emotions similar to the way that body language can communicate an underlying emotional component to a conversation.  For example, simply by adding the word “ga” – which corresponds to the English “isn’t it?” or “it is!” you can convey some subtle nuances.

Whilst Cantonese can present its own challenges in interpretation – especially in formal situations such as in court – we would hate to see this powerful dialect disappear.

By | August 19th, 2010|Blog|0 Comments

Keeping costs and complications out of court interpretation

SanTranslate has recently completed a court interpretation for a Chinese client.  What might have been a simple assignment for a small claim turned out to be more costly than expected when the defendant vigorously denied the charges.

It highlighted a couple of things that are worth bearing in mind should you find yourself on either side of such a situation.

Firstly, in this instance, although the defendant had a family member with good English who translated around 400 pages of statements for them, this could turn out to be a short-sighted approach.  Without a professional translation, there is a strong possibility that the judge could query the accuracy of the translation, causing delays in proceedings.  Additionally, should they win the court case, they might not have the translation costs reimbursed, adding to their inconvenience and costs of defending the case.

Secondly, we have had occasions in the past where we have turned up for an interpretation assignment only to find that the client has cancelled the appointment.  In these cases we have to levy our standard cancellation charge which is included in our terms and conditions.  We appreciate that sometimes clients’ plans change which is why we urge them to notify us of such changes as soon as possible – that way they can avoid the cancellation charge and we can conveniently re-schedule the assignment.

By | March 29th, 2010|Blog|0 Comments

Medical Interpretation

After a series of tough exams, a director of SanTranslate was headhunted by Washington-based interpretation company,  After going through a telephone interview, live telephone interpreting examinations and training, she has qualified to provide instant telephone interpretation for work that involves 911 calls, as well as medical and legal calls.  The company had limited numbers of professional Cantonese interpreters making this a good match for both them and SanTranslate.

By | March 19th, 2010|Blog|0 Comments
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