Translation Rules and Difficulties (English & Chinese)

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By Darkgaia

In progress

Chinese and English are two of the world's most-spoken languages. First and second place, respectively (See: Wikipedia:List of languages by total number of speakers). Being able to translate between these two languages effectively places one at a significant advantage, considering the astronomical demand for such a service. However, quality translation between English to Chinese is, irritatingly, a very difficult task. High school and college students undertake multiple-year courses in order to specialize in the field of English-Chinese language-pair translation. As of this writing, the best method to translate the English-Chinese language pair is through professional human translators. I have not yet found any machine translation programs that can produce even a decent sentence-based translation of the English-Chinese language-pair.

This page attempts to describe and explain the challenges of English-Chinese language-pair translation, and, hopefully, Apertium might be able to build a prototype for this revered language pair in the future.

Common Translation Mistakes

Meaning Errors


Vague Translations


Contextual Errors


This occurs when the translator understands the words individually but did not take into account the context.

For example:

(zho) 番茄 1粒 → 1 tomato

(zho) 花椰菜(花碎) 少许 → A little broccoli

(zho) 蟹柳 1条 → 1 crab meat (willow)

The last one is an example of an error.

Causality Errors


Sentence Formation

Word Usage

Sentence Structure

Cultural/Shared Knowledge


Expression Errors

Inappropriate Word Usage

Flawed Sentence Construction

Modifier-Head Construction

Subject-Verb Agreement