Difficulties in Translation of Driver License & its Use in China

(Last Modified: 2019-06-12 21:37:21    Author: jinyu)

Driver license is a kind of official certificate permitting its owner to drive certain types of vehicles or showing identity. Since every country has different procedures for achieving the document or various regulations on its issue or use, it's translation into Chinese can sometimes be difficult. Meanwhile, foreigners need to learn something about Chinese rules when driving here.

cover for driver license

As a professional certification translation organization, we have summarized about the difficulties about Chinese translation for driving license and things to know when using it in China.

Difficulties for Translation

1. Abbreviations. For some driver licenses (especially for USA), there are lots of abbreviations. Some of them are very common and are familiar to most of the translators, such as DOB, ISS and EXP. However, there are some shortened words which are uncommon or obscure in their meanings, for example:

  • DD -> Document Discriminator. The remarks "DD" are very common on American driver licenses: they use the long integer strings as distinguishing tags of the document. But it is an uncommon abbreviation and a different practice for Chinese. So translators have to check it on Google when they firstly see this.
  • R/RST/RSTR/RESTR -> RESTRICTIONS. On licenses of Rhode Island, it writes "RESTR"; On licenses of California, it writes "RSTR"; On licenses of Pennsylvania (old version), it writes "RST", while on licenses of New York, it writes "R". It's really misleading for incautious readers or translators to tell them apart from each other while translate into the same thing.
    driver license - abbr
  • Dups. -> Duplicates. On one driver license of Pennsylvania we found the "Dups." mark. After google for it, we came to know that it stands for sequence of the documents duplicates (begin with "00").

2. Regulations. The classification or categorization for the driver license types or vehicles varies from country to country. In UK, driver licenses are divided into around 10 type series according to driving approach or load capacity of vehicles. While in Hongkong, passenger seats or gross weight are 2 main factors of division for licenses.

driver license - uk

Sometimes we do not need to translate those detailed descriptions, but knowing well about different regulations is helpful for a translator to comprehend rules behind words or to offer more help.

3. Extra remarks or notes. In one Canadian driver license, we found a number of condition codes and class examples for additional explanation. Some of the notes are thought-provoking, such as "Daylight driving only" or "Outside mirrors", which are somehow odd for us (as we do not have such practices here). Therefore, translation of them requires copious reference to official documents.

driver license - canada

FAQs for Driving in China

Q: Can I drive here with my international passport?

A: No. Foreigners can not directly use any overseas driver's license in China. However, there are policies in big Chinese cities for exchanging foreign driver licenses into Chinese licenses.

Q: What do I need to exchange my driver license into Chinese?

A: It depends on regulations from local traffic police department. Taking Shenzhen for example, personal identification and translated driver license are needed for applying Chinese driving license. After certain procedures (physical examination, theory test, fingerprint acquisition), you can get the lawful document.

Q: Can I use my Chinese Driver License as Identity here?

A: No. According to Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China Article 38, foreigners shall carry with them their passports or other international travel documents.

Q: Which law(s) shall I refer to when driving here?

A: Basically, there are several laws and regulations stipulating on public driving. Among them, the most important one is: Law of the People's Republic of China on Road Traffic Safety.

Q: What are the driving speed limits here?

A: All the rules are in Regulation on the Implementation of the Road Traffic Safety Law of the People's Republic of China. Here are some major rules from it:

Driving Speed Limit in China
Condition Speed Limit
Express way 60 - 120 km/h
Double-line 0-50/70 (urban/suburb) km/h
Single-line 0-30/40 (urban/suburb) km/h
Special Condition 0-30 km/h
Default Condition Refer to road sign

Q: Are there any general principles when driving here?

A: Sure. For speed control, drivers shall slow down to comity pedestrians, animals or non-motor vehicles. For safety, drivers shall properly use lights, brakes, or horns to raise attentions of other traffic participators. Obey the limits from road signs, traffic policemen, special instructions, and do not drive after drinking.