Imagine you just received the Chinese and Japanese translation of your manual, and are unable to decipher anything; even the numbers or measurements don't look familiar anymore. 10,000 kW now appears as "1 something", and your company is introduced as being founded in "35 something" rather than 1960. How could that be possible, let alone correct? Do you have any way to cross-check this?
An article in tcworld deals with these very questions. Dealing with numerals and measurements in Chinese and Japanese texts provides a good synopsis of the numerical system and the different measurements in Chinese and Japanese.
It's fascinating to note how different languages and cultures deal with numbers. And it's not just that the Arabic numerical system isn't as universal as one might think.
But even when using Arabic numbers, there are cultural differences to be taken into consideration. I struggle with this every time I travel between the U.S. and Europe; what is the meaning of "floor 1" in an elevator? Is it the ground floor or the first floor up?
But things can get even more confusing as the following example shows:
Taken from Wikipedia's entry on tetraphobia, this picture from an elevator in an apartment building in Shanghai shows that thre are no floors 4, 13, and 14 are missing - and that there is a "negative first" floor.
The tcworld article does a nice job explaining the differences in numerical systems and gives lots of examples around ordinal numbers, calendar dates, measurements, and how to use numbers within text. Highly recommended reading for any device or pharma professional dealing with Chinese or Japanese languages.
We have written extensively about Japan and China. Here is a sampling:
- Identifying written Cantonese
- "Drug lag" persists in Japan
- What does a Chinese keyboard look like?
- Why do companies treat Japan differently?
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translations for regulatory submissions, marketing campaigns, and clinical research studies - in Japanese and Chinese and dozens of other languages.