You’ll find all sorts of options out there for an online Chinese translator, but not all of them are going to be right. From personal use to business use to travelling, your needs and preferences will be different enough that you are going to want to make sure that you know what the best translator is. What fits in one scenario will not fit in another.
Below, you’ll find some help to sift through the options and when (as well as where to) they will be best for your needs within the country!
1: For Basic Text Translation
One of the first and most common uses when people find themselves in China is to translate basic text. Maybe you’re looking for an online Chinese translator to help you understand a menu or to ask a question or something similar. In these examples, you’d want just a basic text translation that should be accurate, but it isn’t the end of the world if it’s not completely accurate each time.
You’ve probably already used Google Translate. Whether you use it as an online Chinese translator or the downloaded version that allows you to use it on the go on your phone. You can use Google to translate from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese, too. With audio pronunciations to guide you, this can help in a pinch.
As you may already know, Baidu is the largest search engine in China. Similar to how the Western world relies on Google for basically everything, Chinese will search on Baidu for things they are interested in.
Baidu Translate helps people translate between almost everything, and because Chinese is the native language there, they will definitely have an upperhand when it comes to Chinese language translation.
You may not have heard of this one before, but this is a wonderful basic translator that can be helpful when you need it, how you need it. One of its main selling perks is that it has an impressive 10, 000 character limit that allows you to translate large texts at a time. If you’re reading a menu, for instance, this is great!
This combines audio with text and it even has a great autocorrect feature! Piggybacking off of Google for translation, it’s top quality and will be very helpful for the modern user.
This is pretty much the same thing as Google as far as its focus on both written and spoken, but you will not need a VPN for this since it is one of the few Western-loved apps that isn’t blocked in China.
This also is neat in that, if others around you also have Microsoft Translator on their phones, you can connect via the network and see all of the conversation in one spot, similar to a group chat!
2: For Translating Your Website or Business Content
If you need something above the standard text translation and you aren’t travelling, business-focused translations do exist.
Since more and more people are looking to cater to a Chinese market, they’re on the hunt to make sure that their website or other business content is going to be accessible to Chinese shoppers and investors.
This means professional-level translation that is going to take into consideration language as well as the business-oriented end goal. Here are some ways to consider reaching the Chinese audience.
You’ll find no shortage of local and international translators that will take your English content and translate it into either simplified or complex Chinese. Depending on your market, you’ll want to make sure that you are choosing the right Chinese for your users.
As with anyone that you hire to do translator work, you’ll want to thoroughly check out your resources and get a feel for their work. You don’t want to pay a pretty penny and then find out that the results weren’t what you needed.
This can sometimes be hit or miss, but you’ll also want to go with the real deal for translating a website! Don’t forget, too, that translation may also focus on the look and feel for websites, too. Chinese websites focus on different details than classic Western ones!
UpWork & Fiverr
If you’re more focused on the content for the websites (such as blog posts and other details), you may find it helpful to reach out to a business writer on platforms such as UpWork and Fiverr. Both of these focus on cost-effective ways to get content written in the native language of your choice and they most often work from roughly translated existing content or even briefs written in the language to which you are translating.
When you go this route, you’ll want to get a native speaker who is not only comfortable with the language, but comfortable with business writing. Both of these will determine how successful the translation is when it comes to your content.
WordPress Translation Plugin
If you want to translate your website but you aren’t looking to have it done by a human, you can also look at the WordPress translation plugin. This is available for any WordPress website and will offer direct translation services to your website content so that your user can see it done in realtime on your website.
This may not be entirely accurate (similar to Google Translate), but it can be really helpful for those who are looking for on-demand translation without shelling out the big bucks! Of course, this is only helpful if you have a WordPress website!
3: For Travelling: Free Options
There are some wonderful free options that you can put into use when travelling short- or long-term to China. Since you may not want to spend money on a pricey translator, it’s nice to know that you’ve got dependable options if you want them.
Baidu is China’s biggest search engine and this means that you will have its full power and support behind you when you use it to translate Chinese to English.
This app will work best if a user speaks into the app’s microphone function and then the Chinese will be translated to English in visual form for the user. This is especially helpful when asking for directions or other practical information when travelling!
A name that most know and love, Microsoft Translate will be wonderful for when you want to see the language in front of you as well as have the option to hear it spoken. It can pair with other phones on the network and offer for a group chat version, too. Since it is not blocked in China, this is easy to have on your phone and requires no VPN!
This is a fun app that is intended to help you specifically have conversations with those around you. You’ll be able to use this to learn Chinese (you can adjust the speed of the words and phrases) and understand the different words at varying speeds.
You can also use this to have a conversation with those around you by speaking and translating it into an audio file that will spit out the Chinese version.
When you’re travelling, there’s nothing like the handiness of having Google right on your phone. While you will need a VPN to get this to work (thanks for the firewall in China), it can be a great way to ask questions to those around you and make sure that you are understanding their responses properly. It’ll help with pronunciation with its audio features, too.
This is a particularly helpful app that will be useful in that it doesn’t require any internet connection. It will help offer character recognition and translation which is helpful when it comes to being in those smaller places that don’t offer pinyin or English translations on signs. Using a camera, all you have to do is point and shoot. Talk about handy!
4. For Travelling: Paid Options
If you want to shell out some cash in order to make sure that you get the right Chinese translation and/or English version back, you can also find a series of pricey apps. These will give you the professional and streamlined version for Chinese translations and still be user-friendly.
This is sort of like Siri or Alexa in the Western world. Using an audio function, you speak into the translator and it will translate and speak the same thing in the other language. It works back and forth from Chinese to English.
You can also hold down the microphone back and both with a conversation, too, which can be a lot of fun when immersing yourself in the Chinese communities. If you want more excitement, you’ll be able to copy and paste Chinese or English text for print learning.
Plus, you can even try your hand at Chinese characters which you can save for later in case you see them again and need to know what they mean!
Speak & Translate
An app specifically designed only for Apple phones, this focuses on the idea of speaking and then translating and repeating the words in the other language. Working back and forth, you can use this app endlessly when you upgrade from the free to the paid version.
You can choose from robotic translations to human-like voices for the translations, though it does take a little longer to translate.
This is another voice recognition software that is well-loved in China because it is state-owned. It is great for offering translating speech and signs, but it can also offer translation for song lyrics and other musical focuses!
Unique and focused more on Chinese users, it’s got some great options to offer the modern voice recognition user out there.
A Word on Your Chinese Translator: How to Choose One
The best Chinese translator is going to be the one you use, so the saying goes. When it comes to trying out. Few basic text translators or even going for the paid options for our phone, you’ll want to make sure that you’re comfortable with using it before you actually use it. Before you start to put it to use in formal or time-sensitive situations, get used to its controls and functions so that it stays a stress-free experience for you from start to finish.
Also, be careful in going for options that are not on this list. While these are all legitimate and formally backed, you’ll want to remember that there may be some translators that may sell or share the text that you allow to be translated, as well as even access sensitive data on your phone. Always be careful to make sure that your chosen translator is legitimate!
Lastly, a Chinese translator — no matter how great it is — is no substitute for learning Chinese itself. A translator works well in a pinch, but it’s frowned-upon to use in something more formal such as a business meeting or a personal meeting with your in-laws. You’ll want to either learn the basics of the language or consider more appropriate services such as with an interpreter.
The Beauty of Language Translators
There’s something pretty neat about being able to speak another language without actually having to learn it yourself. As more and more options become available online and offline for your smartphones, you’ll have even more options to learn from for easy and trustworthy use in China!
Never be lost without a voice again when these modern and varying use translators in your pocket — literally — to help you out.