Twittering in Chinese is Easier in Terms of the Message Length

Jun 27, 2009 at 03:17 | Posted in Business 商务, Language 语言, Localization 本土化, Social Media 社交网站, Translation 翻译, Twitter in Chinese | Leave a comment
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Started twittering in March 2009 on an ad-hoc basis. The first couple months I stayed with English. Over a week ago, I started the entries in Chinese. What I have found is interesting: Twittering in Chinese is much easier in terms of the message length.

First I created a Chinese message. It reads “除了学习英语,不同的中文说法也让新移民不得不多花些时间。坎城是哪个城?是法国的Cannes,在大陆则叫戛纳。雪梨不是梨,在大陆是悉尼,是澳大利亚的Sydney。保险业里claim在美国叫理賠,在大陆叫索赔;endorsement在大陆是签注,在美国叫什么呢?批單?”. It talks about how the Chinese translations differ among the Chinese people depending on which area the translation was made or who made it. The Chinese message has 132 characters in Chinese. Without trimming, it fitted right into one message in Twitter that allows only up to 140 characters per posting.

I then tried to develop the same message into English. The trouble came. I could not fit the same level of information into one Twitter message in English. I tried to fit into two, and it did not work. I ended up splitting the English into three chunks to form three Twitter messages. The total English character count is 366 for the 132-character Chinese text. The ratio is close to 3:1.

What does it mean in this social media arena? It means that the Chinese users can save as much as 75% of the effort in tweaking the intended information to fit the current Twitter. Or, of the amount of information going out from the current Twitter, with the same length of 140 characters per message, Chinese can easily contain 75% more content compared with English. Up to my knowledge, the length of some other Indo-European languages such as German is even longer than English, about a fifth to a third longer.

The character limit certainly has set English users up long ago being creative. “u” is “you”; “n” is “and”; etc. In Chinese, without any shortening, “you” is “你”, 1 character. And “and” is “和”, 1 character again. Such examples can be easily grown into a long list.

What does it mean to multi-language communicators? Language wise, nothing new here: developing messages from English into Chinese, one should expect the message to shrink; the other way around, from Chinese to English, expect the message to expand. Twittering wise, any well-designed, thought through message, when being developed into another language, expecting the count of messages will change.

By the way, the three English messages were posted on June 24, 2009 at my Twitter

Finally, I want to thank Jerry Crippledshark Neal and Ted Silker CC/CL at LinkedIn for the feedbacks on the discussion.

What is the Most Popular Chinese Dialect, Mandarin or Cantonese?

Jun 05, 2009 at 06:46 | Posted in Language 语言 | 8 Comments
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Mandarin is the most popular dialect among the Chinese speakers. It is mainly used in Mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore. These areas represent a population over 1.3 billion Chinese. Mandarin dialect is the official and standard dialect in Mainland China. Almost all TV and radio stations announce in Mandarin dialect. The China education system requires that all schoolteachers in China must teach in Mandarin. In Mainland China, Mandarin is called “putonghua”, meaning “common language”.

The Cantonese dialect is popular in Canton (Guangdong) province of China, Hong Kong and with overseas Chinese in cities such as San Francisco and New York. The Chinese population in these areas is approximately 10 million.

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