back to article In the Pearl River Delta's electronics souks, AI lets the haggling happen

The electronics markets of Shenzhen are bewildering. These football-field-sized buildings seemingly sell almost anything, any bit of electronics – chip, component, connector – if you know where to look among the myriad stores in the ten-storey towers. To find find what you need in that riot of abundance you have to ask someone …

  1. Chris G Silver badge


    The Chinese Souk websites like DHgate, AliExpress, Gear Best, Mini in the Box etc use similar software for their chat features and to translate reviews when changing language on their sites. I use English and Spanish, when reading the reviews the translation is quite good and surprisingly accurate, even with colloquial terms.

  2. frank ly


    In terms of differences between Cantonese and Mandarin and between Simplified and Traditional script, how do they compare to the differences between, let's say, American English and UK English and between Spanish and Portuguese (as examples)?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Differences

      More like Spanish and Portuguese, they are different languages not different dialects. There are *many* Sinitic languages, most are tonal and are quite unintelligible to each other whilst retaining similar characters. The article delves in to that a bit too, as characters look different in different scripts - so the Cantonese word for "dog" written in Simplified looks the same as Mandarin for dog in Simplified, but looks different in Traditional.

      Actually, Spanish and Portuguese are very close, a better analogy would be Greek and Dutch; they are both Indo-European and share common words, but pronunciation has shifted/evolved.

      1. Sanguma

        Re: Differences Ethnologue is your friend

        14 Chinese languages recorded, one spoken in Kyrgyzstan. I don't know how close the separate languages are, or yet their (likely, hypothesized) histories, but we know the Chinese have had empires for over two thousand years and the Romance languages derived from Latin post the Roman Empire's breakup - less than two thousand years old. So it's bad grounds for a rigorous comparison.

        Arabic and Aramaic might be a better comparison, or Arabic and Hebrew. Or Modern English and Gothic. Or Swahili and Xhosa. Or for that matter, Maori and Indonesian.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Differences

      On holiday in Brazil, I heard a tour guide talk about the differences in Portuguese as spoken in Portugal and Brazil. In general terms it reminded me of the differences between UK and US English. The New World takes it more slowly, and has some different words.

      Every other country in middle and south america speaks Spanish; but on another occasion I was told that each version of spoken Spanish is different and recognisable. Maybe the written languages are closer, as is the case with good English in the UK and US.

      Arabic has many versions, as I found in repeating a Moroccan word to an Iraqi.

      1. Alistair

        Re: Differences


        "Arabic has many versions, as I found in repeating a Moroccan word to an Iraqi."

        I hope your hospital stay was short and accomodating.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Differences

      "In terms of differences between Cantonese and Mandarin [...]"

      Two Hong Kong Chinese friends demonstrated the difference between spoken Mandarin and Cantonese.

      They likened Cantonese to an English regional dialect - very short and direct to the point. On the other hand Mandarin was an academic very polished, flowery, and convoluted purple prose.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Differences

        "They likened Cantonese to an English regional dialect - very short and direct to the point. On the other hand Mandarin was an academic very polished, flowery, and convoluted purple prose."

        That may seem so seen from HK, but Mandarin is actually heavily based on the Beijing dialect (unsurprisingly), minus some very colloquial expressions. It's not convoluted at all in its daily use, actually, a lot of it is made of very direct idiomatic expressions that are used between people with different main languages/dialects.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So when touring China...

    What are good translation apps that aren't slurp happy? Recommendations appreciated... Especially for apps that can still work offline, as tourists aren't going to have regular wi-fi / cellphone-network access..

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is surprising that Google Translate does not appear to improve. Over several years, many times in the year, it has always failed to translate the German "adventskonzert". It does recognise that the containing sentence is German though. Every time I submit the correction edit -"Advent concert" to no avail.

    The only thing I can think is that there are more editors insisting that as a German event name then it should not be translated. I do the same - correcting "the little singers of the wooden cross" back to its internationally recognised French "Les Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois".

    Such native representations do get tricky if they are in Cyrillic.

  5. ecofeco Silver badge

    Meanwhile, in America...

    ...people can barely use half the features on their cellphone, pads and laptops.

    I've experimented with Google translate and it works good enough. I find this entertaining and amazing every day, because outside of these cool pocket computers, there isn't much everyday evidence we live in the 21st century.

    Americans are loath to embrace technology compared to other places.

  6. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Comparing Cantonese to a regional English dialect is like comparing French to a regional German dialict. They are two completely different languages, they just happen to use the same writing system from historical empire-building reasons.

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