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Mediocre Chinese translations altering the Chinese language?
Thread poster: David Rockell
David Rockell
Chinese to English
May 10, 2002

Especially in recent times, a vast amount of information exchange has been necessary in China and so vast amounts of foreign language materials have been translated into Chinese by all manner of people of varying abilities (most often students for little or no pay). One common problem with translation is the tendency to follow the structural patterns of the source language too closely (I am guilty of this sometimes in my Chinese to English translation) and reading many materials in China these days, you can get the feel of a piece of Sinocized English. I often get emails and read reports by native Chinese speakers that also sound increasingly more like \"Chinese with English characteristics\". My question is do you feel that the Chinese language is being fundamentally changed by translation? Is this a positive, negative or neutral phenomemon. What should be done?! I don\'t know if this topic will generate any interest out there. Every other topic I have posted has received a sum total of 0 replies (perhaps a subtle message as to how welcome I am). Neverless, post it I shall (providing it meets with Big Bro Kev\'s seal of approval that is) Regards to all translators out there, I do stress that I am not saying that professional translators such as present company are causing this, what I theorize is that most of the translation being done in China is done by part-time and amateur translators and by virtue of sheer quantity, it is possibly having a pervasive effect on the whole language and its written use. I would love to hear your ideas. Regards, Dave

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-05-13 07:20 ]


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Libin PhD  Identity Verified
Chinese to English
+ ...
I am with you, David. May 14, 2002

Your concern is a very legitimate one as everynoe can get into this profession and get some jobs easily. As translation is an art which requires one to practise a lot and continues to hone his/her skill, new comers who offer outrageously low price often get the job. I think in the long run, the poor translation probably will have some effect on the language, but it should be limited as most people can tell the difference. Just like what you felt about your own translation, I am often not satisfied with my work, either. As we are in the commercial area of this profession, with deadlines and new jobs to take care of, it is impossible to achieve the same quality as we do for publication, where you have control as to when to release your work.



Don\'t feel bad about raising concerns in our industry. We need people who care to advance our profession. You are very popular at least with one person.



Bin

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-05-14 03:40 ]


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David Rockell
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your ideas May 14, 2002

There are many articles in newspapers over here bemoaning slipping standards in written Chinese among school students (just as I have seen in foreign newspapers about English and French) and so it seems to be something common to all countries. Especially polemic is the case of English encroachment in the French language with the French government even getting

involved to defend the language. I have only seen a few articles warning of the threat of English on Chinese but it is something that may become more apparent with this next generation. As most are aware, Chinese has traditionaly translated concepts into Chinese rather than transliterate like Japanese (some would even say to a ludicrous extent) but there are signs too that transliteration is on the rise. I am interested only in an academic way, as my written Chinese will never win any awards (nor my English for that matter). I am most interested in how Chinese perceive their own language and the changes that are occuring to it. I agree totally with Li Bin\'s comment about publication standard translation. People should realize that like sugar, translation can be refined into different grades of purity. To put something into English or Chinese of a standard acceptable for newspaper publication really requires a professional editor to completely revise the translation and to pay someone to do this costs money and takes time. Even then, nobody will agree as there is no such thing as a perfect transalation and it is more a case of trying to please the greatest percentage of people most of the time. I have seen fine translations attacked and labelled as rubbish by so-called eminent Chinese professors in translation (won\'t mention names as I must not speak ill of the dead)offering their appaling versions as how it should be!(specific case, not a criticism of Chinese professorsas a group) and also appalling translations held up as fine works of the translator\'s art (in my view). It is my belief that translation is a field best suited to teamwork, pooled talents and resources. There are some amazingly talented people out there that can do everything and do it well, but these a very small minority. I am quite happy to be just a cog in the machine, as long as what I do is of value and I can constantly improve through my work. 有一分热,发一分光!

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-05-15 03:06 ]


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Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:56
Member (2003)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Yes, tanslator plays an important role! May 15, 2002

\"Chinese with English characteristics\"



Dave,



First of all, I want to thank you for being an advocator and supporter of the Chinese Forum. If I have a badge of articulation, you would be the one to be given. I think you are certainly among the popular translators at ProZ.com.



Being articulate is definitely a talent. However, the Chinese culture values those who talk less. Have you noticed that most of the active “talkers” at this Forum are those who reside outside China and Taiwan. I do not think they are lacking opinions or do not want to share with us their thoughts. I think they perhaps are being intimidated by those who can express themselves so well in English. As you know well, to write English well and make a point is a challenge to many Chinese translators. To this date I still make very silly grammar mistakes. But, fortunately, I have “thicker facial skin” to help me get by the embarrassing moment. I am satisfied as long as my point can get crossed. I want to let everyone know that English is NOT the “Official Language” at the Chinese Forum. I encourage you to use Chinese here. The opinion is more important than what language you use to express yourself. I like to write in English because I can type it faster. Also, did you notice that each topic posted here can get very impressive number of hits. That tells me that the translators are interested in reading the posted messages. See, your thought has certainly been shared!



Your concern about the translator’s role in generating mediocre Chinese is very interesting. I did not think in that way until you brought it up. This definitely should be discussed here. I would love to hear other translators’ opinions on this issue. I have not read any articles by scholars in this regard. Personally, I think the Chinese people are very confident (being ignorant?) that “English invasion” is not threatening phenomenon, because 1.3 billion people with various education backgrounds, ages, dialects, geographical locations, will be quite a job to conquer. I can understand why the French is so concerned about the fate of the French language due to the size of its population and territory. Another “disadvantage” they have is that French, as a romance language, shares too many similarities with English and other European languages, therefore such characteristics in “design” made the “English invasion” much easier. Chinese is a different story. It is so unique by itself, plus with very weak “spelling” or “phonetic” writing system (comparing with Katakana and Hangu), it is very hard for the Chinese to “copy” an English word like the Japanese and Korean people do.



I do not like some Chinese people who like to talk in Chinese but keep throwing in some English words into the conversation. Some might think it is a “status” thing, some might think it is a flare of Western mannerism. I think it is a sign of laziness and lack of creativity. Some online news from the People’s Daily or Xinhua News Agency start to use the English words such as “CEO”, “COO”, etc. That is a strange phenomenon indeed.



As matter of fact, the Chinese people are very good at spinning the foreign words around and generating a new word with “Chinese characteristics”. In recent years, I noticed there are some foreign words have been cleverly translated into Chinese. One of them is “hacker” = 黑客, another one is “jaccuzi” = 冲浪浴缸.



I do concern that the young Chinese readers are losing the judgment skills and appreciation abilities to differentiate good Chinese writing from the bad ones. Well, that is one way to look at it. Foreign style in writing and expression can also be a fresh air to an old house, or fresh water to a stagnated pond. New perspectives can always help the Chinese people think differently and stimulate people to be more creative in expressing themselves. So it is not necessarily a bad thing. But, I do NOT like to see the “Bible phenomenon” repeated in China. What I meant here is that the Chinese translation of Bible is very strange, and it is not considered as an easy reading for me, I am also certain that most Chinese people would agree with me. It was translated by some foreign missionaries. However, it became the “established style” and the church people all have to talk that way. My point here is that if the translator did not do a good job at the very beginning, the translation work produced might be harmful to the Chinese for generations. I definitely agree that the translators play an important role in introducing good foreign language styles, expressions, words, concepts to the Chinese people. I do not think such introduction can be so alarm that the Chinese language is being fundamentally changed by translation, at least not for a while.



What should be done? Be a responsible translator. Translation is NOT just a paid job, but also an educational experience to other people. Be more creative in digesting the meaning of English sentence and write it out in a style that is easier for a Chinese to understand. If you have trouble to read it or understand it, then don’t expect your reader can do it. If any sentence that made me to stop and read twice so as to “figure out” the meaning, it should be considered as poor translation. Don’t hesitate to ask help from your peers. I found ProZ.com is very helpful in this aspect. Sometimes I can almost get good suggestions instantly. As we all know, it is like an “open trial” to put out your suggested translation in the Kudos, but it is also a good “test” of the knowledge of the asker in term of what answer is finally being selected.



I will stop here and give other people a chance to talk. I had been busy in the last two weeks in roll, and until today all the on-hand jobs are completed. I can relax for a few days, I hope. To write in English is truly a form of “mind rest” for me.



“Big Bro Kev”







[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-05-15 08:41 ]


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David Rockell
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
人而无信,不知其可也(认罪书) May 15, 2002


因为几年来我的中文写作多为“事情经过”或“自我批评“之类公文,所以今天不知道笔底下会生出何种花。如同以往作品一样,我首先要直入正题向大家表示歉意。前一阵子, 咱们的Forum似乎有点安静, 于是,我顿生歹念,故意想出一个本以为耸人听闻的标题来引起议论。肇事后销声匿迹,坐山观虎斗。没想到,此谋不遂,回答的两位长辈都不嫌其繁而且很有涵养地回答我的问题。虽然我依然相信英文的推广甚至推崇确实会对中文造成威胁,但是我承认我并非专家,发表的意见只能算庸人自扰“白人说梦”。然而,他们能够平心而论,而不因人废言令我颇有几分敬意。我在此郑重地向大家保证不再企图惹非生事,扰乱社会秩序。。。



其实,我确实对中国语言和文化很感兴趣,很想多听个方的意见和感受。语言和文化的一个特点在于它本身也是千言万语说不清楚的,每个人的感受不一样。所以,我的真实目的不是得到答案而是听取不同观点来丰富自己的内心世界。我很佩服李斌博士和Kevin并觉得很荣幸能与他们交流吸收他们的经验。



在工作之余,能打开PROZ阅读各位朋友的贴示,在困难时向远在天边的高手求助真有一种“世界村”之感。今后希望能继续作为一个“村民”,通过自己的努力和“同村们”的支持把咱们村建设得更美更繁盛!















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xxxyybing
Chinese to English
+ ...
It's great to read messages for the gentlemen and professionls under the thread May 16, 2002

Oh, as a locally based student, I\'m always quite eager to have \"eyes\" broardened to view more outside world without losing the place where I\'m standing now. It\'s encouraging when you know there are people out there are helpful and peaceloving, as we have the common interest.



My English looks terrible when it can not convey my messeges as friendly and helpful to other. But I love the language business and the people here in this forum and Kudoz. As a linguistic student for the coming September, I will go back to school. I read and feel encouraged as the first time I was here.


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Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:56
Member (2003)
English to Chinese
+ ...
话题都是我们大家提出来的。 May 16, 2002

Dave,



真没想到你的中文程度这么好,写出来的句子、使用的词汇非常恰当,还文绉绉的,根本看不出是出自一位外国人之手。很多中国人也写不到你的程度。我的一些学中文的美国朋友学习中文多年,在中文写作方面进展很慢,挫折感溢于言表。你应该把自己的学习体会好好总结一下,写成一本介绍中文写作的书,供母语是英语的中文学生阅读,一定会很畅销。我想你一定会在观点和学习方法方面与中国老师所介绍的有很大的区别。



祝你生日快乐!



Kevin


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David Rockell
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
过奖了 May 16, 2002

过奖了Kevin。我没那个本事,连本像样的日记也写不成。当然,为保全脸面,当我被问及为何仍未著作,我会抛出各种推托之词, 聊以自慰。

恐怕只好把希望寄托于下一代。可是文人之道坎坷不平, 不如让儿子成流行歌手。他能长得像刘德华,唱歌不太走调的话,说不定我晚年还能坐享清福,含饴弄孙!



对于外国人学中文这一课题, 我只能提供一些个人经验(包括成功的和失败的),但是总结起来, 还是他老人家说的话“努力学习,天天向上”。说真的,词汇量极其重要。在我念大学的时候我常听到同学说“这个单词不常用,何必去学它!”就连一些对外汉语教师也这样想,对学生的要求不高,结果无意中遏止了学员的进步。我觉得教师和学生都要给自己定下较高的目标,然后努力去实现它们。鼓舞人心的是如今有大量很出色的教材问世,准能对教学工作大有帮助。学中文的人越来越多,也许将来中文还能对英文造成威胁!!



窗外申城天空一片蓝,春意盎然,飞来的蜻蜓靠近了玻璃,似乎没发现什么值得逗留的,转身往河里冲。隔壁邻居在骂女儿不好好学琴。世上的疾苦何惧之有?留得译稿在,不愁没柴烧。



Just before posting this now, I see another colleague has posted a note on this thread. I hope that we can comunicate on the Chinese forum in eitehr language and help each other out in the Kudoz section. I\'m sorry for my silly ramblings. Sometimes, staring at a computer for 12 hours a day makes you go a little crazy. Don\'t worry about making mistakes in writing, just write. I will stop making a nuisance of myself here and go and look for that dragonfly outside. Greetings to all.



Dave





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Libin PhD  Identity Verified
Chinese to English
+ ...
Bravo! Dave. May 17, 2002

Bravo! Dave. Congrats on your beautiful Chinese.



Bin


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