10. How are words exchanged between English and Chinese?
In modern times Chinese has, especially in technical area, imported words from many other languages of the world, most notably English. Borrowed words are admitted into Chinese in three main ways: translation, transliteration, and in a few cases, a mixture of both.
Unlike Japanese and Korean, where technical terms are transliterated using Katakana and Hangul, in Chinese, borrowed technical terms are mostly translated conceptually. Therefore, each borrowed word will have a specific Chinese word corresponding to it. To make things even worse, different scientific or engineering disciplines often have different translations for the same English word. For example, the English word "cross-hair" is translated as 十字光标, 十字准线 or 十字叉丝 in computer science, 交叉标线 in Metallurgy, 十字瞄准线 or 十字丝 in machinery engineering, 十字线 in telecommunications, 十字丝 in navigation, 瞄准线 or 十字丝 in aviation, and 十字线 in atomic energy. Borrowed words are also translated differently in Traditional (CHT) and Simplified (CHS) Chinese. A few examples will be: computer (计算机 in CHS and 电脑 in CHT), access (访问 in CHS and 存取 in CHT), radio (无线电 or 射频 in CHS and 无线电 in CHT), and transistor (晶体管 in CHS and 电晶体 in CHT). Millions of technical terms have been translated into Chinese with most disciplines having their own specialty English-Chinese dictionaries. English technical terms are also sometimes transliterated, especially where there is no existing concept in Chinese that is close to the meaning of the borrowed word. This includes gene (基因), humor (幽默) and others. Some chemical and drug name suffixes also systematically use transliteration, such -cain(e) (卡因), nin(e) (宁), -oin (偶姻), to list just a few.
The second category is transliteration, which applies mostly to proper names, such as people's names, geographical names, trade names, etc. In this category, the borrowed words are translated phonetically as close to the English word as possible. In China, there is a foreign-Chinese dictionary of people's names with nearly 4,000 pages providing standard transliteration for 650,000 foreign people's names from around the world. Geographical names are also another area for this category. Most geographical names are transliterated directly with only a few exceptions, such as San Francisco (旧金山), Honolulu (檀香山) where, for historical reasons, the Chinese name has no phonetic relationship with the original English name. A few geographical names are translated conceptually, such as West Point (西点), Mediterranean Sea (地中海), Ivory Coast (象牙海岸), Oxford (牛津) and Iceland (冰岛). The translation of a country's name also does not exactly follow the pronunciation. Usually a commendatory notion and the character 国 (country) are often added. Therefore, United States of America becomes 美国 (Beautiful Country), England, 英国 (hero country), and Deutchland, 德国 (moral country), etc.
The last category is a combination of the two methods - that is, half conceptual and half phonetic. Typical examples are Cambridge (剑桥) and New Zealand (新西兰), where cam is transliterated and bridge is translated while New is translated and Zealand is transliterated.
Some English words are also introduced into Chinese through Japanese such as, economy (经济), crisis (危机), democracy (民主) and others.
In the other direction, English also imported some words from Chinese. Common examples are ginseng (人参), silk (丝), tea (茶), dimsum (点心), typhoon (台风), fengshui (风水), kow-tow (磕头), etc. Just as Chinese borrowed some English words through Japanese, similarly, English also borrowed some characters through Japanese, such as, judo (柔道), tofu (豆腐), and even kanji (漢字).
Among all Chinese transliteration of English proper names, Coca Cola is probably the best example of excellence. The Chinese transliteration is 可口可乐 (kěkǒ kělè), which means delicious and making one happy (or very happy) and is very close to the original in pronunciation. What else could the company have hoped for?!