The History and Cultural Significance of Chinese Translation

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Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2020 9:23 am

China is a land rich in history and culture. This history dates back more than 4,000 years ago at the time of the Xia Dynasty. However, there are no records of any significant Chinese translation activities until much later in the 11th Century BC. After that, however, China experienced four great waves of cultural exchange and knowledge sharing with the rest of the world.

The First Wave: Buddhism

In the days of the Zhou Dynasty, (around 1122 to 256 BC), the people of China primarily used“上古汉语” (Archaic Chinese) to communicate with each other. However, China was (and still is) a very vast land, incorporating many different people. To bring the classic works of Central Asian Buddhists to more people, Chinese monks that were fluent in Sanskrit began to translate them into Archaic Chinese. Thus, you can consider them the first Chinese translation services of the planet.

Religion continued to demand much of the translation requirements in China well into the Tang Dynasty (around 618 to 907 AD). In this era of Chinese history, the language of choice was “中古汉语” (Middle Chinese).

This is also when the most significant of all translators of ancient China, Xuanzang, was born. Studying to become a monk, Xuanzang had concerns about the authenticity of the translations of Buddhist scriptures in China. At the age of 20, he set out to India to learn about the original texts. When he returned 17 years later, he set up a school and began translating volumes of holy Indian books. This school might as well be the oldest Chinese translation company of the world.

The Second Wave: European Contact

The second wave of translation owed its existence to religion as well, albeit a different one. Europe had begun to trade with the Far East by the 13th Century, and European adventurers and businesspersons often stayed in China for extended periods.

One such person was the Spanish priest, Saint Francis Xavier. When he died in China in 1552, the Church decided to carry out a mission in China. Portuguese Jesuits settled on the mainland, but soon realized that they could not deliver their message without any professional Chinese translations. They set up St. Paul Jesuit College of Macau in 1578, where many Chinese scholars translated Jesuit books to Chinese. At the same time, other scholars translated scientific works, such as math, hydraulics, and astronomy.

The Third Wave: Treaty of Nanking

The third wave of translation owed its existence to British domination. After Great Britain and Ireland defeated the Qing Dynasty in 1842, China signed a treaty agreeing to open its markets for international trade. This resulted in a surge in translation requirements. Local traders wanted to communicate with their newfound business partners. This spurred the exchange of knowledge and culture between China and the West.

Chinese scholars who learned English in England brought about ideas of the likes of Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and Herbert Spencer to the mainland through their translations.

Fourth Wave:  Modern Times

The fourth wave is the one we are currently experiencing. In 1952, China started to take measures to simplify the language challenges it faces. A movement arose that undertook efforts to standardize written Chinese characters. This resulted in the birth of Simplified Chinese that we see today.

Translation to and from Chinese continues to flourish to this day. Unlike the older days, where religion fueled translations needs, much of the Chinese translation needs arise due to much different reasons. Modern music, books, and movies from around the world undergo translation into Chinese to cater to the Chinese demographic.

However, the translation needs arising due to these reasons pales in comparison to the translation requirements of the Chinese trade industry. China is of the biggest international manufacturers and a key player in global trade. Therefore, the demand for Chinese translation services is on the rise.

Final Word

Although the times have changed drastically from the time of the Zhou Dynasty to today, China’s requirements for translation have only increased in number. However, you should be careful with your choice of Chinese translation service. If you want accurate and reliable Mandarin translation services, choose a professional Chinese translation agency such as Waterstone Translations. We offer the best affordable English to Chinese translation services, all without compromising on the quality of translation.

Why Microsoft’s Machine Translation System Is a Big Deal

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Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 9:18 am

Computerized language translation services are nothing new. The most well known of them all, Google Translate, has been around since 2006. In stark contrast, Microsoft stepped into the consumer automatic translation services industry a whole five years later (which is a lot in the fast-paced online world).

With their early entry into the market, Google snagged the largest piece of the pie for automated translation services. It still enjoys a very extensive user base to this day, and is the automated translation service provider of choice of many people.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is not too far behind. Even if it cannot beat Google yet, it is pulling its own weight in the automated translation segment.

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Microsoft’s Machine Translation System

As popular as it is, Google Translate is infamous for making many mistakes in translating long phrases or sentences. Google Translate takes an extremely literal approach to translation, translating each sentence one word at a time. Thus, the translation can be hit or miss. As it does not take into account the complete context of the sentence, the translated phrase can often be complete gibberish. This tends to happen more frequently with longer phrases and documents.

Microsoft’s machine translation system, on the other hand, seems to take the context of the whole sentence or phrase into account. Thus, it is able to provide much higher quality and more accurate translations.

Recently, Microsoft has been taking steps to improve its automated translation system. In 2018, the company claimed to create the first machine translation system that could rival humans in quality and accuracy of Chinese to English translations.

Microsoft Translator – How Did They Do It

Even a few years ago, critics deemed the act of achieving human parity with computer-generated translations as a pipe dream. When Microsoft announced the creation of an extremely accurate machine translation system, it took the world by storm. They had effectively broken through a major milestone in the professional translation services industry. However, how did they do it?

The answer – Artificial Intelligence. Using powerful computer hardware and complex algorithms for translations, Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence created accurate translations.

The AI used a host of different methods, such as dual learning, deliberation networks , joint training, and agreement regularization, among a lot more advanced techniques to reach this milestone. Processing ginormous amounts of language data every second, and cycling them through the AI to get more and more accurate results, Microsoft was able to achieve significant improvements in their automated translations. These processes would usually take lots of time on a traditional computer to work, but with the massive computing power of their dedicated supercomputers, the AI was able to reach these results in a reasonable amount of time.

However, the competition for accuracy in translations between man and machine is far from over. The machine translation is only a proof of concept as of now. The technology is not yet ready for widespread public use.

The leader of a natural language processing group that worked on Microsoft’s project, Ming Zhou, admitted that they still had some challenges to overcome. For one, they had not tested the system outside of the lab and on real-time news stories. Guaranteeing the accuracy of the translation all of the time proved to be another difficult problem.

Final Word

Machine Translation System is looking to pave the translations of tomorrow. Until we get there, however, there is no substitute for professional translation services that depend on humans for translation. The technology definitely has the potential to automatically generate accurate and contextually coherent translations. However, the technology has not matured enough to overtake human translators.

As of now, machine translation can be an incredibly useful tool for translation companies to lessen their workload. The machine translation software can attempt to accurately translate documents by itself. However, we are not at that point yet where we can blindly trust the translations generated by machine learning to be 100% accurate and contextually correct. A certified human translator is still required to guarantee the accuracy and quality of the translations produced.

 If you require accurate translations today, you will have to go with professional language translation services. To guarantee the quality and accuracy of your translations, choose a reputable translation agency such as Waterstone Translations.