Let's say my current job requires me to contact a certain hardware manufacturer in China and request technical documentation. But they don't speak English and I don't speak Chinese. Hiring a commercial translator would be impractical due to the number of reasons.

Which of the ways of dealing with the situation would be more (culturally) appropriate?

  1. Asking one of my known business contacts to do this for me.

In this case, what should I offer in return - a similar favor or a small amount of $?

  1. Using machine translation.

Which could lead to prolonged and tediously unproductive conversation, wasting the manufacturer's time.

  1. Making acquaintance with someone speaking both English and Chinese remotely (like in a chat or language exchange group) and asking them for a favor on the same terms as in pt. 1

Which is fine in my country, but I'm not sure if it wouldn't look weird or insulting elsewhere.

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not related to learning Chinese.
    – zyy
    Sep 16, 2018 at 0:27
  • If it is technical docs, I would imagine machine translation work well on specific words, but not the whole sentence. Also why not ask if they can find someone speaking English? Most Chinese are trained for basic daily English. However if you want translated Chinese tech doc, then it is probably impossible unless you can find an expert in that particular field to do the translation for you.
    – WDC
    Sep 16, 2018 at 0:40
  • 1
    I don't think OP is trying to get technical documents translated. They are looking for a way to contact and communicate with a Chinese manufacturer.
    – monalisa
    Sep 16, 2018 at 0:57
  • 1
    This is off-topic. Not even culture related. @zyy I'm so amazing to see there is still someone would think about whether a question is off-topic. As far as I see, this community doesn't care about that anymore, it's turning into quora, not stackexchang. Sep 16, 2018 at 5:26
  • 1
    I'd say don't trust on machine translation too much. If you talk via WeChat there's translator supported which is both convenient and good for general talks. But for special terms, e.g. technical terms. My suggestion is that you look for someone who knows both English, Chinese and the terms well to translate for you. Then both you and your client should agree on the 1-to-1 translation of technical terms. Sep 21, 2018 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


I think something is left out of the question and I have problem understanding why there is a problem in the first place. If you need/want to contact someone with whom you don't share a common language, the obvious solution is to hire a translator. What exactly are the reasons that make hiring a translator impractical?

Whether you want to pay fair compensation to hire a qualified person to represent your business, or you'd rather ask someone to do it for free (or for a small gift), or use machine, or simply grab some stranger in an internet chat group, is entirely up to you. It depends on how you wish to present your company to your contact and how much control you wish to have over the situation.

You also said that getting someone over the net to do it for you is fine in your country. I don't think there is anything cultural about that. If that's who you'd rather have to represent your company, it's absolutely your choice. I am simply curious what country you are from.

  • From Russia. I don't have or represent a company, this is a freelance task with about $300 budget ($100 of which is hardware). Hiring commercial interpreter ($300-1200 per day) would be over budget. Translators, while being affordable ($0.1 per word) wouldn't mediate an interactive chat (they would probably say "you need an interpreter, not a translator!") and such task itself hardly fits into a typical translator's workflow.
    – ogurets
    Sep 17, 2018 at 21:13
  • 1
    As I said in the answer, I do not think there's anything cultural about asking someone to do a task for you. If you don't have the budget to hire someone, and you're fine with getting an acquaintance or stranger to do this for you, by all means ask. This is a business decision, not a cultural or linguistic one.
    – monalisa
    Sep 18, 2018 at 13:53

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