Let’s Chat Chinese! Developing Training For Chinese Markets

Let’s Chat Chinese! Developing Training For Chinese Markets
Summary: Developing training for Chinese markets is unique, as Chinese has two primary spoken versions as well as two character sets in its written form. Depending on the specifics of your particular scope of work, you’ll need to determine which form of written and which form of spoken Chinese you really need.

Developing Training For Chinese Markets 

With global expansion, it’s nearly impossible for any consumer or business person to not run into an engagement involving Chinese. Everything from manufacturing products, imports/exports, consumer goods (especially electronics) involve China or Taiwan. Training initiatives almost always require at least one version of Chinese in the localization.

In my line of work, I am often tasked with helping my clients figure out which specific dialects of Chinese they really need to address their target audience. So, I thought this would be a great topic to share some industry insider information and rules-of-thumb to help navigate this huge market.

Ethnologue.com provides us with the following statistics on the Chinese language:

  • PRC: Pop. 1,357,380,000 / 297 individual languages.
  • Hong Kong: Pop. 7,118,000 / 7 individual languages.
  • Taiwan: Pop. 23,120,000 / 25 individual languages.
  1. Spoken Chinese.
    There are two primary spoken versions of Chinese which are Cantonese and Mandarin. Often we see these used to refer to written Chinese, which is different: Cantonese and Mandarin are only spoken. Which dialect is your native language will depend specifically on where in China or Taiwan you are from or currently reside. These dialects are not mutually understandable and are as different from each other as German and French. Spoken Chinese can also vary regionally.
  2. Written Chinese.
    The two primary written forms of Chinese are Simplified and Traditional. Again, depending on where in China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan you are from or currently reside will determine whether you read Simplified or Traditional Chinese characters. A common misconception is that Simplified Chinese is an “easier” version of Chinese. It’s not. It’s a different language all together.

Here are a few tips that may help you determine which specifically you need for your project. Please keep in mind, these are general guidelines:

  • Traditional Chinese written – Cantonese Spoken is most often what we see to serve immigrant populations in the Pacific NW and Northern California.
  • Almost anywhere in the US is going to be Simplified / Mandarin.

Please note, there are definitely areas in the US that will require both and potentially Cantonese/Simplified.

For use within Chinese markets, here are some very general guidelines that you can work with:

  • PRC: Simplified Mandarin.
  • Hong Kong: Traditional Cantonese.
  • Taiwan: Traditional Mandarin.

Please remember that the best option for use in Chinese markets is to determine exactly where this localized information is to be used. This can vary by region.