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English to Asian Languages: Top translation challenges

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The world has become a global village. If you want your business to go global, you must speak with your target audience in their native language. As a result, translation has become extremely essential and that’s where you need help from a reliable translation agency.

Suppose you have the headquarter in the U.S. or UK, and now you’ve just stepped into the Chinese market. For the basic operations, your head office will need to coordinate with its subsidiaries and maintain standardization and consistency throughout the organization.

Hence, you can’t simply go with the word-to-word translation of your documents. You might run into serious problems unless you’ve got a partner that can provide accurate Chinese translation services to you. Thus, you see the need for professional translators will emerge as you expand your reach to various regions in the world.

The translation dilemma

Content translation is a tedious job. It becomes much more difficult especially when there are two languages closely related to each other. Finding an equivalent word or phrase can sometimes become a big hurdle.

Cultural diversity is the next big thing that greatly impacts translation work. These are cultural nuances that shape a particular language. Translators often encounter emotions and concepts that are difficult to convey in another language. One can effectively translate concepts from one language to another when one possesses total linguistic competency in the languages they are dealing with. And this alone won’t cut it unless they thoroughly understand the cultural nuances as well.

Polysemy is another source of difficulty in translation. Polysemy is the study of multiple meanings for a single word. This complicates translation even more as direct translation cannot provide an accurate equivalent.

Translation becomes more challenging if you are dealing with marketing content. Content like brochures, ad copies, and sales pages require special attention to tone and intent and you need marketing translation services for seamless results.

There’s something special about Asian languages

When it comes to Asian languages, they are notoriously difficult for Westerners to learn and master. Particularly when they need native English speakers are needed for their accurate translation.

Similarly, if we’re to go from English to an Asian language, the problem still persists. You’ll find so many English-speaking Asians but it’ll be hard to find a quality translator. The one who can not only speak English fluently (at a near-native level)  but also has a delicate understanding of Western culture.

And not to mention the complex alphabets and scripts used in the Asian languages. Put all these challenges together and you begin to see how challenging a job is for translation companies. When they have to find clear, accurate translations of your content material.

Now that we understand that a well-done translation is nothing less than art. We want to discuss some common issues that come up when localizing content into Asian languages. Such as Japanese, Chinese,  Malay, and Thai.

a) Japanese

For a native English speaker, learning Japanese is challenging. You must first learn two syllabic alphabets with a combined total of more than 40 characters. Plus, a plethora of written characters, referred to as Kanji and borrowed from Chinese. Around 2000 of these characters are in daily use.

It’s also very common to see a Japanese native reading a newspaper or a book while using a dictionary. Add to this the huge grammar and sentence structure differences that make translations into or from Japanese a mammoth job. This is the reason Japanese translation services are among the highest-paid linguistic services around the world.

To successfully achieve your goals, work with companies like Mars Translation. They have a proven track record of providing precise and extremely professional Japanese translation services and can help you reach new markets without any hassle.

b) Chinese

Chinese is another toughest language among Asian languages. It somewhat presents a similar set of challenges that the Japanese does to Westerners. It has an even greater number of characters, and grammar and sentence structure are again very different. A big shout out to linguistic service providers who make it look simple with their high-quality translations.

Finding a partner for Chinese traditional translation services, however, may be even more challenging. Especially if you’re looking for a corporation with expertise in your particular line of work.

c) Malay

There are more than 33 million native speakers of the Austronesian language known as Malay. This language, which originated in Malaysia and Indonesia, is also used in Borneo, Sumatra, and Vietnam. It has fewer English loanwords than other Asian languages. When terms from another language are used, their pronunciation is completely changed. Who would have imagined that the Malay term “sains” is a derivative of the English word, “science”? While in English we simply put an “s” at the end to form a plural of a noun, Malaysians do it differently. They might repeat the whole word to form its plural.

How do translators offering Malay translation services tackle such problems? Well, there are many methods they use to overcome Malay translation difficulties. Sometimes they would substitute the term with one that has a similar meaning and is well-known in the target language. When it becomes impossible to paraphrase certain vocabulary, translators would borrow words from other languages to convey the same meaning. If you’ve ever worked with a professional Malay translation services company, then you’d know that they often skip the “untranslatable” terms. Which is so tricky that only experts can do it.

d) Thai

Thai is also considered a difficult language to translate due to its unique script and language patterns. Thailand has never been ruled by a European country or been invaded, so the Thai language is ‘pure’. While people learn English in schools in Thailand, there are very few truly fluent speakers of the language. This language has 44 consonants and 18 vowels and a large number of alphabets.

Thai letters do not use upper and lower case. Sentences do not end with a full stop.  There are no spaces in sentences either. When translating Thai content, the linguist must be aware of the sentence’s context, verb tenses, and any adverbs that are used in place of verbs.


Kossi Adzo is the editor and author of He is software engineer. Innovation, Businesses and companies are his passion. He filled several patents in IT & Communication technologies. He manages the technical operations at

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