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2009年7月7日

Will conversion between Simplified and Traditional Chinese work?

I know there are still lots of people did not know what's the difference between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Well they can try some Google search to find lots of materials to help them understand more. I am not going to talk about that, but I am going to discuss "Will conversion between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese work?"

It's not simply to find a characters mapping or some incomplete phrases mapping like below and then you will do a good conversion.


Above conversion seems fine, but it's not. Note on the last two phrases, people in China usually use "设置" and "默认" instead of those on above table.

Some people get upset when they read the translated articles which did not use the local phrases. Some phrases came from other companies, some came from different culture and different habits. Simply imagine why in some case you will describe something is very "big" but sometimes you will say "huge"? Although "huge" might be bigger than "big" in common, that's not my point, but just imagine it, people in different culture will have different way to express something.

Both "預設" and "默认" refer to English "Default". Personally I think both translation is correct. Let's take a look of the explanation from Cambridge Dictionary:

    what exists or happens if you do not change it intentionally by performing an action

So maybe I can translate "Default" as "原始" or maybe "最初" in Chinese, as they are all similar meaning.

Keep in mind that even those phrases are all similar and may be used to express the same condition, but people still have some favor. It's something like what you prefer to each in the morning or what you get used to live with.

Some people though the conversion between Simplified and Traditional Chinese is something like converting "colour" to "color" (enGB to enUS). It is, in most of the cases. But not all. Maybe another example, how will you translate the "male / female" into Spanish? I learned that in some cases the translation "hombre / hembra" is just fine if you are going to describe a person's gender. But in some cases (some regions), there are used to described animals' gender.

One interested example for Chinese. In some casual conversation, if you are going to ask someone's body weight, you will say "你多重?" in Taiwan, and "你几斤?" in China. The later one sounds funny for Taiwan people because normally the term "斤" refers to the Taiwan-jin, one of the weight-metric and normally used in traditional markets. Something like "The pork is 1 Taiwan-jin weight." Although in China the term "斤" actually means the "kilogram".

So maybe someone or some company like Google can build up a very big phrases database to include most of the phrases mapping between Simplified and Traditional Chinese, but I am not sure if some techniques can resolve the culture issues. People in different cities or regions still talk differently. The way to describe something may still different. When you met your neighbor in the street, you say "Hey, how's everything?" as a simple polite hello. It's fine. Many people in Taiwan may say "Hey, did you finish your meal?" or "Are you full?". In Chinese it's "你吃飽了沒?". Sounds weird to you? It's just a polite hello asking, nothing big deal. But I don't think if you converting the Traditional Chinese into Simplified Chinese will work. People in China don't say "你吃饱了没?"

So, will conversion between Simplified and Traditional Chinese work?

No, I don't think so.

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