As Taiwan sees increasing cultural exchanges with different countries, more and more foreign visitors come to the country to learn about Chinese culture, specifically Chinese cuisine, which is the most popular. However, most foreigners could not understand Chinese culture as well as food names. Hence, there is a need for professional Chinese translation companies that can translate menus and help promote the culture of Chinese cuisine.
Menu translation is difficult because certain dishes cannot be translated word-for-word. For example, the dish " meat ball with soy sauce " is translated into "red-hot lion's head". Such translation does not only fail to describe the characteristics of the dish, but it also causes ambiguity. Often times, there are no words to describe these dishes, because they are unique to China. So how can they be translated? It takes skill to translate menus. Here are a few simple methods:
i. Transliteration. This is the most direct way to translate Chinese menus into English (i.e. using pinyin). For example, dumpling can be directly translated into "jiaozi," which keeps the authenticity of the dish’s name. “Jiaozi” can also be translated as "dumplings", but it is difficult to distinguish it from ravioli, and it doesn’t sound interesting. Some special dishes such as Dandan noodles and Mapo tofu are spelled in pinyin to showcase their uniqueness.
ii. Free translation. This approach is based on three aspects; namely, ingredients, taste, and cooking method. It is applied depending on which aspect of the dish to emphasize. The ingredient-based translation approach is used when food components are the focus of translation. When introducing ethnic dishes, taste (spicy, salty and hot or sweet and sour) is emphasized to enable diners to choose which dish to order. Another translation approach is to focus on cooking methods. This does not only highlight Chinese food characteristics, but it also helps foreigners understand the art of Chinese cuisine.
Using the above methods flexibly enables Chinese translation companies to provide authentic menu translation as a way of promoting Chinese cuisine.