Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mandarin Chinese video games/MMORPG terms

I am a proficient Mandarin speaker. I lived in Taiwan for six years, studied for more than two years at the Taipei Language Institute, and traveled extensively throughout mainland China. I have family members from Taiwan and China, and we try to speak Mandarin with our kids as much as possible.

However, even though I am proficient in Mandarin, I have not achieved fluency. I often study specialized vocabulary lists prior to conducting interviews or preparing for visits to Asia. In advance of my trip next month to Singapore to participate in the State of Play V conference, I wanted to get a handle on the Mandarin terminology used to describe virtual worlds and popular gaming platforms. These are words that do not appear in my Oxford putonghua dictionary, so I asked a friend and former colleague of mine to help translate some of the Mandarin used to describe the videogame industry and related software concepts.

It was interesting to see her list. I recognized many of the characters right away, and many terms made perfect sense -- these phrases tend to be direct translations of the modern English expressions, such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG, 大型多人線上角色扮演遊戲, da4xing2duo1ren2xian4shang4jiao3se4ban4yan3you2xi4).

Others were readable, but were not word-for-word equivalents. According to my wife, some of these terms may have been derived from classic Chinese literature, or older translations from foreign sources -- for instance, the term for "dungeon" is 地下城 (di4xia4cheng2), lit. "underground castle," or 魔洞 (mo2dong4), lit. "monster's cave." It's also interesting to see how -- in certain cases -- the terminology has split in Taiwan and China.

Here's the list:

3d (3d image): (3D 影像)or 三度空間影像
video game engine: 電玩遊戲引擎
Software platform: 軟體平台 (Taiwan); 軟體平台 (China)
Hardware platform: 硬體平台 (Taiwan); 軟件平台 (China)
Tolkien: 托爾金 (Taiwan and China)
Lord of the Rings: 魔戒
Gaming experience: 遊戲體驗 or 遊戲經驗 (in different contexts)
Players: 玩遊戲者 (could also be 玩家)
Gamers: 玩家
Massively multiplayer online game (MMOG, MMO game): 大型多人線上遊戲
Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG): 大型多人線上角色扮演遊戲
Subscription model: 訂購模式
Micro-transactions: 微交易
Virtual goods: 虛擬物品
Dungeons: 地下城 or 魔洞
player-vs-player: 玩家對玩家
Online account: 線上帳戶
Username: 使用者名稱
Online community: 線上社群
Beta: 測試版
Concurrent users: 同時上線使用者
Game industry: 電玩業
Internet cafe: 網咖 (Taiwan), 網吧 (China)
Prepaid cards: 預付卡 (Taiwan), 預付費卡 (China)
Prepaid playing time: 預付遊戲時間


  1. Ian: I'm leaving this message so your blog site shows an incremental increase in traffic.


  2. Thanks, Vin. Every click helps!

    BTW, I am in Taiwan right now, shortly off to Singapore ...

  3. Any thoughts on an MMORPG for a 10 yr old boy learning Mandarin? He currently has the proficiency of a 4yr old and next to no literacy. His video collection and textbooks are getting pretty sleepy. Thanks.

  4. Hello Bathsheba,

    Unfortunately, most MMORPGs in Chinese require reading skills, as opposed to spoken Mandarin. If Mandarin is used on headsets, it tends to be pretty colloquial and brief ("shoot him, quick!") so I am not sure how much value he would get from that.

    If you want another way to get him into the culture, consider musicians -- the Mandarin speaking world has a ton of dance-focused youth bands with catchy songs, as well as rockers -- Mayday is one I know, or see what turns up on Google. Good luck ...

  5. How about for someone with some reading skills? I am looking to maintain an 11-year-old's proficiency.


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