A Note on “Mandarin Chinese”

I often receive inquiries from English-language writers who’d like to enter the Chinese market. “I want to have my book translated into Mandarin Chinese,” they’d say. “China currently has a population of nearly 1.35 billion, and if every one of them buys a copy of my book…”

OK, to this question, my first answer is that “Mandarin Chinese” is the official spoken language of both China and Taiwan. If you have an audio book in English, then you can certainly “translate” it into Mandarin Chinese. (The correct term should be interpretation, as translation is only for written words.)

My second answer, which can be seen as a question as well, is which Chinese market you want to enter. If you are aiming for the People’s Republic of China, including Hong Kong and Macau, then you should request a translation to Simplified Chinese. On the other hand, if you are interested in the Republic of China in Taiwan, as well as the overseas Chinese communities around the world, then you should consider a translation to Traditional Chinese.

Wikipedia provides pretty good introductions to the Simplified and Traditional characters. All you need to do is a simple search.

I recently found this great interview on YouTube, in which Charlotte Liu, Managing Director, Greater China, The Macmillan Group, talks about the rapidly changing face of China’s publishing industry and the opportunities open to both trade and academic publishers in the West. The interview took place during this year’s London Book Fair.

While Ms Liu has left out a lot of details in her interview, one thing she says is definitely worth noting — in terms of traditional publishing, that is. Currently, no Western publisher is allowed to publish any Chinese-language book in China, unless it is collaborating with a local publisher.

Based on my personal experience of negotiating with Chinese publishers, whenever any one of them wants to publish a translated book, it has to have the project assessed by the government. An application fee for such assessment is always required, but the proposed project may or may not be approved.

Finally, here is an interesting article to read: “China Literary Censorship: It’s the In-house Editing that’s the Killer”. The article’s author, Bruce Humes, has lived in China for more than 20 years, working as a publishing consultant, market researcher, writer and Chinese-to-English literary translator. His views are indeed trustworthy if you are interested in entering the Chinese market as a publisher or writer.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mutyara
    Dec 16, 2012 @ 18:10:22

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