If you are planning to do business in China, localizing content is a necessity. You will definitely want to put your best foot forward. Similarly to doing business in any location, building relationships is key to your success. At the heart of building those solid relationships is effective communication. In short, it is essential that your messaging is clear and direct. Don’t let the language be a barrier in effectively getting business done in China.
China’s economy is massive and it still has an almost mindboggling amount of potential growth still to come. It is no accident that businesses around the globe are jockeying for position. Chinese citizens are learning the English language at a rapid rate. But with that stated, it is essential to keep in mind that the majority of the population still does not speak English. Doing business in China means factoring in language and communication.
Consider the Language of Your Target Demographic
The first step is to think about the specific region(s) of China where you will be doing business. Here is a key point to consider – there are actually almost 300 different languages still spoken in China. You obviously can’t address them all. However, don’t let that fact stop you from proceeding. The first step is to have materials translated.
You’ll likely want to translate to Chinese Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by almost 850 million people, and it’s the official language of China and Taiwan. Mandarin is also the language used by most of the educational institutions in the country as well as throughout entertainment and advertising. Read more here about the Mandarin language and its history. True Chinese (Cantonese) also is spoken by a large group of Chinese citizens. Around the world, there are about 66 million people who speak Cantonese. Currently, Cantonese is the main language spoke in Hong Kong, although increasingly the city is turning towards Mandarin.
It’s also essential to be aware of the writing system in China, as there are two versions in the form of Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. Simplified Chinese is a fairly recent development, as it was first introduced in the 50’s as a way to improve literacy rates. Today, Simplified Chinese is more prevalent in Mainland China as well as Singapore. If you are planning to do more business in Hong Kong, Malaysia or Taiwan, Traditional Chinese is the appropriate selection.
The New York Times published an insightful blog about Chinese language entitled The Chinese Language, Ever Evolving. Several experts discuss the past and the future of the language.
It’s essential to translate your materials to the correct combination of spoken and written language that is applicable for a specific part of the country. Communication in China comes down to the simple fact that one approach simply will not fit all regions. You must ensure that your marketing materials are targeted and appropriate for your potential customers.
Adapting Proper Business Etiquette
Business etiquette is another area where you must focus your attention. People in China conduct business in a different way. This culture is one of the oldest in civilizations, and there are certain cultural factors that are very much a part of life. That’s why direct translations are just not sufficient if you want to leave the most accurate impression. It’s essential to be aware of issues like idioms and expressions, both in Cantonese and Mandarin.
Cultural as well as political issues must be noted. Western notions of freedom and democracy are not well received in China. Censorship is a factor that must be addressed, as the government has introduced strong policies.
You’ll want expert translators that are fully aware of these policies and procedures. Otherwise, you could end up with more problems then you bargained for, often due to a simple miswording issue. You have to invest heavily in preparation and preplanning, as you may not be given the benefit of the doubt.
Successfully Doing Business in China
Ensure that all your materials are accurately translated before the public sees them. That means you’ll need to properly translate websites, contracts, financial documents, brochures and more.
The bottom line is that you’ll want to start building trust in China, so that citizens readily acknowledge and accept your enterprise. The best way to do this is to make your language clear, concise and free of errors.