Chinese and foreign words?

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StorDuff

Chinese and foreign words?

Postby StorDuff » 2005-03-29, 1:26

How do Chinese spell out foreign words? I was watching a movie that had subtitles in both English and Chinese and when words like Citibank and whatnot came up, it was all still kanji in the Chinese section. How is this possible? Is there some sort of, hm, katakana kanji :lol:

Barret VII

Postby Barret VII » 2005-03-29, 2:09

Kanji is Japanese, hanzi is Chinese. I believe they just approximate the sounds phonetically.

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Postby Junesun » 2005-03-29, 8:56

Yes, they use characters that sound alike. Sometimes they also try to translate the concept. For example:

迪斯科
di2 si ke1 = disco

国际互联网
guo2 ji4 hu4 lian2 wang3 = international mutual connection net = internet (youths in Beijing usually just call it "wang3", net)

For personal names there are standard transliterations that are usually too long to be comfortable for the Chinese though. That's why if you ask serious people to give you a Chinese name, they will give you a short name of few syllables that don't necessarily sound much like your English name but that have a good meaning.

Companies have tried to combine both: have a Chinese name that sounds similar to the English brand name but still isn't awkward or meaningless to the Chinese. You can find some examples of how companies have transliterated their names in this article: http://www.hoffmanasia.com/ap/rev2/html/articles/brandequity_jun03.htm

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Postby 勺园之鬼 » 2005-03-31, 16:20

About the Internet, there is actually another word for it, which was transcribed phonetically: 因特网 (Yīntèwǎng) which sounds terrible and has no real meaning by itself, as it only aims to transliterate the pronunciation of the English word. Of course the translation "(国际)互联网" is preferred.

Translating brands names in Chinese is a tough problem, and many companies actually hire people to propose translations/transliterations. Some are very well found, some are phonetical, some others translate the meaning of the firm's name (in the case there is a meaning). The best transliterations are names which manage to be at the same time a translation of the original meaning, but with a good meaning in chinese. There are many examples...Even if I can't remember many right now.

There are two I remember, two western brands of supermarkets:

家乐福 (Jiālèfú): more or less home-pleasure-happiness (each chinese character has a plethora of meanings), which is used to transliterate the brand Carrefour.

宜家 (Yíjiā): it's even better as this word exists, and means "suited to bring harmony to a family". It's the transliteration for Ikea.

By the way, if you are not familiar with pinyin (the transcription used here), don't imagine it sounds as different from the original pronunciation as you might think, as pinyin is certainly not pronounced the way you think it is... ;)

There is another problem, how to translate chinese brands for western countries.

Generally, it's not even necessary, as chinese use "hanyu pinyin" (汉语拼音), the official romanisation system to transcribe chinese brands names in foreign countries.
For instance, the brand 海尔 (Hǎi'ěr) is known abroad as "Haier" (it was also the opportunity to use the slogan "Haier and Higher" in China and abroad, as 海尔 is pronounced a bit like English "Higher").

Some other brands like 康大 (Kāngdà) chose to westermine their name, instead of using the pinyin, its "western" name is Konda. Would there be some dialectal influence, as 康大 is certainly pronounced Konda in some dialects? Maybe. See the website by yourself.

There are brands which do even worse. They keep parts of their names in chinese, and translate other parts of their names into english, which most of the time give terrible results (I don't have any in mind right now, but I might quote some examples in the future).

There is another problem that comes to my mind about that: the way some other Eastern Asians brands are translated into Chinese and into other languages.

For instance, there is a japanese brand which is well known in Europe, and certainly all over the world as "Panasonic". This is actually a huge group called Matsushita in Japan, Matsushita being written 松下 in Japanese. Of course, as there are kanji/hanzi available for that brand name, the brand is known as 松下 in China, and pronounced according to the chinese fashion, Sōngxià. If that sounds very different in both languages, that is because of the japanese notions of on-yomi and kun-yomi (japanese speakers know what I mean and might want to explain that somewhere else ;) ). By the way, 松下 is originally a Japanese surname. As far as I know, the name Panasonic is also used in Japan :?:

Some korean car brands which are to be found in China come to my mind:
Hyundai, in korean 현대 (real transcription: Hyundae), is a word meaning "modern", "contemporary" that comes from chinese (when written in hanja, it is 現代 / 现代), as the same word obviously still exists in Chinese, the brand is called 现代 and pronounced Xiàndài.
You might also know about Daewoo, which is another group but well known in China for its car manufacturing activity, is in korean 대우 and in hanja or in chinese 大宇. It's pronounced in China according to the chinese fashion, Dàyǔ.

These brands names are only some examples to explain the interactions between brands names in several countries within and without Eastern Asia, and as it moved a bit off topic I'll stop right here... :wink:
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Postby Javier » 2005-07-30, 12:36

Just a couple of examples more:

Home Mart = 好美家 (hao3 mei3 jia1) (hăo mĕi jīa) = good-beautiful-family.

BMW = 宝马 (bao3 ma3) (báo mă) = precious-horse

I heard also Mercedes Benz something as bĕn qī, like "run fast"? but I cannot tell what or how, I am more familiar with BMW anyway :P
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Postby 勺园之鬼 » 2005-07-31, 13:14

Javier wrote:Just a couple of examples more:

Home Mart = 好美家 (hao3 mei3 jia1) (hăo mĕi jīa) = good-beautiful-family.

BMW = 宝马 (bao3 ma3) (báo mă) = precious-horse

I heard also Mercedes Benz something as bĕn qī, like "run fast"? but I cannot tell what or how, I am more familiar with BMW anyway :P


Mercedes Benz is 奔驰 (bēnchí) which means gallop, run quickly (originally for a horse, hence the horse radical in the second character). This is a coincidence that it sounds a lot like the brand's name, and a well found translation. Good, I didn't think about it last time. :D
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