Global Lingo Blog

Chinese jettison rare surname unrecognised by computer

According to the BBC website, two hundred members of a Chinese family are reportedly changing their surname because the character used to write it is so rare computers do not recognise it.

Computers convert most Chinese characters for printing, but some are so rare that they are never assigned a code and one of those is a variant of the family name Shaan, from Shandong province in the eastern part of China on the lower reaches of the Yellow River.

If the Shaans require a driving licence or permit issued by machine, they have to change their name.

Chinese words pronounced the same can be differentiated by how they look. But according to the local newspaper in Shandong, computers do not recognise the local variant of Shaan, a cross between the symbol for “three” and the sign for “and”. So the Shaans of Shandong are changing their surname to a more easily recognised form.

Professional Chinese translation

From a translation point of view this is a common occurrence, where names, words or phrases may have no equivalent in a foreign languages. That’s why professional translators are so vital. They have the knowledge and experience to be able to look for alternative versions of words or phrases which will be relevant and understood in the target language they are working in. Something machine just can’t achieve.

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