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Chinese is one of the most important business languages, as it is second only to English in terms of being the most spoken, so here are a few important things to know while creating your localization strategy.

With a large population and a growing number of middle-class consumers, the Chinese market has been a new hotspot for businesses. The Chinese market can be a successful market for your business if it’s done right. It’s easier than ever to crack this market with the expansion of technology, online shopping, ecommerce translation services, and eLearning platforms. However, there are some major points to consider if you want to localize in a Chinese area or region as there are many ways localizing can go wrong when expanding into this language. 


localize my business in chinese - hong kong

Hong Kong signs – Photo by katie manning on Unsplash


History of the chinese language and its different types

Chinese is an old and very diverse language. In mainland China alone, there are around 70 million people who belong to 55 different minority groups, each with their own dialect and some that don’t even have a distinguishable written form. However, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Mandarin was chosen as the official language of the country. Today, more than 70 of the Chinese population speak Mandarin. 


Written chinese

localize my business in chinese - calligraphy

Calligraphy – Photo by chuanyu2017 on Pixabay


Written traditional Chinese is around 6000 years old and is the oldest written language in the world. Cantonese speakers generally still use these characters while Mandarin speakers generally use simplified characters (though not always). Simplified characters have been around significantly less in comparison to its traditional counterpart as it emerged at the same time as the start of the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949 and at the time, the majority of Chinese could not read or write. In an effort to improve literacy, Mao Zedong decided to initiate a new system of simplified Chinese in which around 2000 Chinese characters were simplified. Simplified Chinese was first used in 1956

While there are a variety of different spoken dialects of Chinese, these are the two major forms of writing. This is handy as even if the spoken dialect is different, Chinese can generally communicate through writing. 


Different dialects

Seven major dialects are used in China and its special administrative regions. If you want to reach the Chinese market with your business you need to know what region your aim is and what Chinese dialect variety is spoken there.


DialectRegion Spoken
Mandarin (Putonghua)Most of mainland China, Taiwan, Macau
Cantonese/YueHong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou (Canton), and Wuzhou.
MinFujian province and in parts of Guangdong, Zhejiang, Hainan, and Taiwan
WuZhejiang province, Shanghai, southern Jiangsu province, parts of Anhui and Jiangxi provinces.
XiangMost of the Hunan province, the counties of Quanzhou, Guanyang, Ziyuan, and Xing’an, northeastern Guangxi province.
GanJiangxi province
HakkaNortheastern Guangdong, adjoining regions of Fujian, Jiangxi, Southern Hunan, and the older generations of the Hong Kongers in the New Territories. In Taiwan, Hakka is spoken by some in the Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli parts of the country.


Related: What’s the Difference Between Mandarin and Cantonese?


Important considerations regarding the different dialect types

  • Cantonese is the main dialect spoken in Hong Kong and traditional characters are used by the general populace. While more Hong Kongers can speak Mandarin and read and use simplified characters, if you are localizing for this region you should consider using Cantonese and traditional characters.
  • In Taiwan, they speak their own version of Mandarin but they will write with traditional characters vs. the simplified ones that mainland China uses. Taiwan will have its own varying types of slang and culturally related words in comparison to mainland China. 

All of this variation within Chinese necessitates the use of the best translation services company to guarantee that sufficient research is conducted in order to develop a translation and localization plan that matches both your business as well as the location and audience you’re attempting to achieve.


Things to consider when creating a localization strategy for chinese 

localize my business in chinese - tiananmen square

Tiananmen Square – Photo by wu yi on Unsplash


  • Know the culture, know your audience, and identify your primary dialect and region

Like any good localization strategy, you need to know your target audience, its culture, its language, and the things that your target market values and deems important. You’ll need to consider how your brand translates and if the meaning is the same in that dialect. Can you directly translate your brand or will you need a transcreation in order to give your brand the same meaning? As China is so expansive and each region and dialect is different, high quality translation services can help you cater your marketing strategy and perform in-depth market research so you can avoid culture mishaps and translation errors.


  • Micro-localization 

With the size of China, it’s important to look at each region and what makes it unique so if you are wanting to reach a broader China, consider micro-localizing by selecting a few regions that you want to reach first.


  • Learn from past successes and failures 

Learn from the companies who have attempted and accessed the market already. Localizing in China is tricky and even some of the biggest names have failed after not performing thorough market research. Learning from what has worked with brands that are similar to yours can help narrow your research and expedite your localization strategy.

Related: The Top 10 Translation Blunders in Advertising 


  • Legal factors 

There are legal factors to consider when localizing within mainland China, for example, Mandarin is the official spoken language and it is written with simplified characters. In mainland China, a directive has been made that means that any marketing materials also must comply with this. Further, you would also need to cross-check any brands or slogans in all the regional dialects for trademark and domain conflicts.


  • Use local social media and eCommerce platforms

Mainland China uses a variety of different social media and eCommerce platforms that are not used or are common in other countries. Baidu is the search engine used by the large majority of the population, with platforms such as WeChat for social media and eCommerce payments. Other social media platforms include Qzone, Renren and P1. In Hong Kong, western social media platforms are popular and a variety of eCommerce platforms from the Octopus card to PayMe are used to pay for products online. 


  • Use expert multilingual translation services

It should be apparent by now the importance of localization and translation services when expanding your business globally, especially in Chinese markets. Navigating any new market is challenging, so take the guesswork out of your localization strategy and get the assistance of translation and localization experts. 

Into23 is a translation agency in Hong Kong offering localization and translation services and is an expert in Asian languages. Reach out to Into23 today to talk about your business localization strategy to establish a stronghold in the Chinese market with your business.