Transcription into Chinese characters is the use of traditional or simplified Chinese characters to phonetically transcribe the sound of terms and names of foreign words to the Chinese language. Transcription is distinct from translation into Chinese whereby the meaning of a foreign word is communicated in Chinese. Since, in mainland China and often in Taiwan, Hanyu Pinyin is now used to transcribe Chinese into a modified Latin alphabet and since English classes are now standard in most secondary schools, it is increasingly common to see foreign names and terms left in their original form in Chinese texts. However, for mass media and marketing within China and for non-European languages, particularly those of the Chinese minorities, transcription into characters remains very common.
Despite the importance of Cantonese and other southern coastal varieties of Chinese to foreign contact during the 19th century (as seen, for instance, in the number of Cantonese loanwords in English), the northern capital dialect has been formally sanctioned within the country for centuries. This status continued under the Republic, which retained the importance of the "National Language" (國語 Guóyǔ) despite moving its capital to Nanking, Chungking, and Taipei, none of which natively spoke it. Similarly, "Standard Chinese" (普通话 Pǔtōnghuà) has been mandatory for most media and education throughout the People's Republic of China since 1956. Except for a handful of traditional exceptions, modern transcription therefore uses the standardized Mandarin pronunciations exclusively.