How to find the best Chinese professional translator for your legal document

Updated: Aug 24, 2018

China is one of the fastest growing world economies. At last ranking, they were second in the world. All of this growth means that many businesses and entrepreneurs are looking at China as a great place to put down some commercial roots and the skills of professional translators will come in very handy.

In order to put down those roots, there are a lot of legal procedures that must be navigated. Visas must be processed, real estate deals concluded and many other legal documents must be put right.

As with many other countries, these documents need to be translated into the language of the destination country for local processing, and China is no different. This is why professional translation is becoming one of the most sought after professional services in China and around the world.

Even after putting down those roots, except you’re adept at writing Chinese, you would still need to rely on competent professional translators to help translate your documents to Chinese in the course of your daily dealings with locals.

For business to go smoothly, and it must go smoothly, you require the services of highly competent, professional Chinese translators to do your translation. No one wants the embarrassment of improperly translated documents, which can happen a lot easier than you’d expect. In short, you need the best.

But how do you find the best? Even though the translation industry in China is not exactly the biggest, there are still enough translators to give you a headache when you need to pick one. How do you wade through all these to find the one that won’t let you down on your crucial business or legal documents?

We know how tough it can be to find the best, so we prepared this guide to help you recognize the qualities you need to look out for in your search.

Finding the best Chinese professional translator

Translation can be a matter of life and death.

Okay, maybe not life and death but a professional translator’s job can be pretty fiendish. This is because language is not exactly the best of tools and when you have to operate across two or more languages, the task can only get trickier.

When the language you have to translate into is Chinese and you throw in the added factor of legal documents, the margin for error becomes very small. This is because if deeds, agreements or other documents are improperly translated, it can cause red-faced problems for individuals and businesses.

The best professional translator needs to have a unique skill set that is so important to getting your documents translated exactly how they need to be translated. So, it’s not enough to simply know how to speak Chinese very well.

They need to be native level speakers in whatever language they’re translating from. They also need to have a strong legal background. You’ll see why below.

Apart from these, professional translation services are just another business relationship and like all relationships you enter into, you need to feel comfortable in them. Let’s take a deeper look into these basics of the best.

Chinese proficiency

It goes without saying that your professional Chinese translator needs to be able to speak and write Chinese like a native. In fact, it’d be a plus if they were native. This is because Chinese is not the easiest language in the world.

There are two major dialects in the Chinese language: Mandarin and Cantonese. While Mandarin is the majority language, Cantonese is spoken primarily by those that live in Hong Kong, Macau, the Guangdong region of China and oversea Chinese communities.

In both dialects, language is centered more around meaning than formal cohesion. This means that word for word translation from, say English to Chinese can create a radically different document than the original.

Your translator needs to be able to use their discretion in translating the document to render an acceptable Chinese equivalent. One of the best indicators that they will be able to use this discretion is their certification by the top regulatory bodies in China.

The China Accreditation Test for Translators and Interpreters (CATTI) is considered the most authoritative certification for interpreters and translators in China. And with good reason too, seeing as it is notoriously difficult to ace. Another useful certification is the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) test, with its various levels of testing.

Membership of the Translation Association of China (TAC) should be a plus. The association holds yearly salons where translators and interpreters are exposed to best practices in the industry so approaches and processes are kept fresh.

You need to be sure your translator has also registered his translation business with the National Administration for Industry and Commerce.

If you’re doing a notarized translation (shè wài fān yì), your translator needs to have a translator seal issued and approved by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. When your translator completes a notarized translation, he certifies it with this seal.

Other language proficiency

This is a crucial part of the services you will be requiring from your professional translator. They need to have a high level understanding of the language from which you want to translate your documents.

As the Chinese language has its quirks and unique approaches, so do the other languages that your documents are written in. Your translator needs to be very fluent in that other language so they can understand the document intimately and provide accurate rendering of their meaning in Chinese.

You can also look to see if they have qualification in the language your document is originally written in.

Deep legal knowledge

Hiring a professional translator who has no legal background or deep understanding of legal documents is like hiring a race car driver to overhaul your Ferrari. He may know a lot about how the car drives but you won’t have much of a Ferrari left when he’s done tinkering with it.

Put simply, your translator needs to have an intimate understanding of legal documents. This is because legal documents can frustrate even the best of individuals with no legal training. And seeing as a lot of discretion is necessary in translating these documents into their Chinese equivalent, giving a legal document to a children’s book translator may be nothing short of a disaster.

How do you know your translator has the necessary legal knowledge to help you? You can start by asking if they have experience drafting legal documents. This experience shows a sort of informal familiarity with legal documents. Previous background in the legal industry should also be a plus.

Other necessary things to look out for

Now you’ve sorted out the basics of what your professional Chinese translator should have, we can’t let you go without some tips on other things to look out for.

Check their previous work

A professional is only as good as their past work. If their past work is not exactly encouraging, it may be a bit risky to rely on them. Make sure what they have done is up to the standard of what you expect from them.

If it’s not up to par, then you really should be looking elsewhere.

Check for reviews

Reviews are always a very good indicator of the overall quality of work that your translator does.

If you have made a good pick, the reviews should show you that they have been friendly and committed to their clients. This is important because it shows the dedication they have towards making sure documents are given first rate treatment.

Their services should also be efficient and timely. They should be able to give you a delivery timeline and stick with it. We assume you are serious with your business, your translator should too.

See if they have quality control

Many a disaster has been averted at the point of quality control. Needless to say, it’s a necessary last frontier before the translated work goes out into the great big unknown.

No professional translator should send out a finished work without one of these. That’s what puts the “professional” in professional translator. They should have a means to ensure that translated work is carefully vetted before final reversion.


With this guide in hand, you’re now equipped to find the best Chinese translators for your legal documents.

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