Many Chinese translators’ big flaw: poor esthetics for native language

When proofreading many Chinese translator’s works, I saw this big flaw of them – poor aesthetics in native Chinese language.

For example, I once did a transcreation job for a global brand and provided three excellent options – excellent in my opinion. Later I received an email telling me that someone had improved my options and asking me to check the edits.

I cannot remember what the original translation was now, but I do remember a Chinese character in an edited option – “佳” (good / better).

I wrote back saying that this character cannot be more vulgar or generic, therefore it’s never suggested in today’s brand name or company name.

But I have no idea if the client accepted my opinion. Anyhow, it is undeniable that this character has a good and positive meaning, and its pronunciation just fit the source.

However, the client had no idea that why this character is too vulgar and would never be adopted by any translator who has aesthetic ability of Chinese language.

This “佳” was commonly used in names of my primary and middle school female classmates, and is also used by many low-end Chinese products.

So in the public impression, it has nothing to do with its original idea – “good” or “better”; instead, it almost represents “low-end” or “unrefined”.

French giant supermarket Carrefour’s Chinese name is “家乐福”, it’s “家” shares the same pronunciation with “佳”, but fortunately “家” instead of “佳” was used. Otherwise, I’m afraid this supermarket would never be considered equivalent to its status.

One phenomenon has proved how successfully this name is in China – it has been imitated by many smaller supermarkets. We can often see supermarkets with similar names on Chinese streets, such as “家家福”, “家家乐” and “家乐购” – just with one different character.

I saw a lot of such examples, but “佳” is the most impressive one. It reflects how blind some Chinese translators are and how easily overseas clients could be misguided.

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