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What can you do when the speaker “corrects” your interpretation in the front of audiences?
Thread poster: Kevin Yang

Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
Member (2003)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Mar 9, 2006

Dear fellow translators,

Have you ever being corrected by a speaker in front of everyone and you are too polite to argue back? It happened once to me a few years ago. Lately, when I was watching the press conference on CCTV4, Mr. Li Zhaoxing did it to his interpreter. I found it was unnecessary. His interpreter was so beautiful and superb with her interpretation job. I was very impressed that China has such great interpreter. She was so professional and polite, and even took his “correction”.

Here is the sentence that Mr. Li had a problem with:

李肇星 : “山不在高,有仙则名,国不在大,热爱和平、主持公道就好。”

The lady interpreter: “A mountain, no matter how high it is , if it is blessed with the touch of divine, it would be well-known. A country, no matter how big it is, if it can uphold peace and justice in the world, it would be a good country.”

Then, Mr. Li made a quick and partial "correction": “What the matter of a mountain is not its height, what the matter of the country is not its size.” Personally, I find this translation awkward and sounds as if a translation from someone just starts to learn translation. I admire Mr. Li’s style in his line of work. What else can you do to work with someone like Mr. Li? You might loose you job if you argue back.

With great interest, I translated it myself. Here comes my version: “The height of a mountain does not matter. What matters is if there is an immortal dueling there. The size of a country does not matter. What matters is if this country can uphold peace and justice.”

What are your versions or comments?

Kevin

[Edited at 2006-03-09 22:53]


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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 09:25
English to Chinese
+ ...
人不在塊頭大 Mar 10, 2006

這個故事讓我想起納粹德國商討「猶太人最終解決方案」的所謂「汪湖會議」,以及那個會議主持人 Reinhard Heydrich 的表現。這段歷史被拍成電影,曾經在 HBO 放映了一陣子。Reihhard Heydrich 利用權勢逼迫與會的法界人士為納粹 SS/SD 早已擬定的猶太人屠殺計畫背書。

Wannsee Conference 的記錄值得研究,它會讓人對世間的運作更加清楚些。 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088377/ 為了當官,有些人是會出賣良心的;要不就是小辮子被揪著了,乖乖一起幹壞事。

如果遇到談話者當場糾正你的口譯,不必在意,不必緊張,不必爭辯,你應該把整場演說還是按照自己的理解口譯完畢,但要準備接下就是找另外的工作崗位去了。「此地不留爺,自有留爺處」,俗話是這麼說的。為五斗米作恭打揖折腰,那是很不值得的。

不過,如果聽到 "What the matter of a mountain is not its height, what the matter of the country is not its size.",我的反應大概會是:What matters of an interpretation is not the phrases, what matters is the contents brought over and understood. What's the matter with you?

有趣的是「山不在高,有仙則名;國不在大,熱愛和平,主持公道就好。」我倒想加個:「人不在塊頭大,能保護自己即可。」


[Edited at 2006-03-11 19:50]


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Angus Woo
Local time: 09:25
Chinese to English
+ ...
It happened to me once. Mar 10, 2006

It was a consecutive interpretation assignment. At one particular moment, the speaker thought my version wasn't explicit and simply said in front of everybody IN English that my interpretation was "wrong". The fact is that his Chinese expression was somewhat ambiguous and the speaker didn't realize it until I said it in English word by word. I didn't argue and corrected the phrase the way the speaker preferred.

The interesting thing is that the very same speaker bought me dinner right after the meeting. And we had some great time together. Both of us never mentioned a word about that little interlude ever again.

I believe to err is only human. No one can say that his/her interpretation is always flawless. In my opinion, it's a job, not a competition between the speaker and the interpreter. In theory, it's possible the speaker just might have a better idea.


[Edited at 2006-03-10 09:49]


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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 09:25
English to Chinese
+ ...
會受到尊敬的口譯者 Mar 10, 2006

Angus Woo wrote:

I believe to err is only human. No one can say that his/her interpretation is always flawless. In my opinion, it's a job, not a competition between the speaker and the interpreter. In theory, it's possible the speaker just might have a better idea.


那當然的囉。口譯者的危機處理也是很重要的,尤其對方是你的衣食父母時,不爭辯,但持住正確的觀點和立場,對方反而會尊敬你。


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:25
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
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請您吃飯也許是因為他意識到自己做的有些過份。 Mar 10, 2006

Angus Woo wrote:

It was a consecutive interpretation assignment. At one particular moment, the speaker thought my version wasn't implicit and simply said in front of everybody IN English that my interpretation was "wrong". The fact is that his Chinese expression was somewhat ambiguous and the speaker didn't realize it until I said it in English word by word. I didn't argue and corrected the phrase the way the speaker preferred.

The interesting thing is that the very same speaker bought me dinner right after the meeting. And we had some great time together. Both of us never mentioned a word about that little interlude ever again.

I believe to err is only human. No one can say that his/her interpretation is always flawless. In my opinion, it's a job, not a competition between the speaker and the interpreter. In theory, it's possible the speaker just might have a better idea.


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:25
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
MY COMMENT Mar 10, 2006

[A country, no matter how big it is, if it can uphold peace and justice in the world, it would be a good country.”

這句話是有問題。no matter how big 和would be a good country.並無邏輯關係。 不管辭藻多華麗﹐ 邏輯上不通﹐ 總是屬於大忌﹐ 因為它影響了意思的傳達。 也就是說﹐ 譯文不準確。


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ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:25
English to Chinese
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发言者应尊重译员 Mar 10, 2006

我认为,除非必须当场纠正的重大错误,发言者最好不要去纠正译员的翻译。Kevin举的那个例子中,那句话也许译得不是很完美,但无伤大雅,那种纠正就纯粹多余。如果一定要纠正,为什么不能小声地提醒译员而让她自己纠正呢?不管多大的官,都应尊重译员,不要让译员当众出丑或感到尴尬,也不要让听众觉得自己有显示才华之嫌。有功夫好好去想一想自己如何去说好下面的话。本来译员翻译时正是发言者思考下一段话的最好机会,哪还有什么功夫去管翻译的闲事!官不在大,有德才会受尊重。

至于那位译员,她还能说什么呢?心里打鼓还来不及呢!


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ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:25
English to Chinese
+ ...
Is that good English? Mar 10, 2006

“What the matter of a mountain is not its height, what the matter of the country is not its size.”


这句话我怎么念都觉得别扭,恐怕老外们不会听得懂。英语是这样说的吗?我觉得最起码应改为“What matters to a mountain is not its height, what matters to a country is not its size.”


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Angus Woo
Local time: 09:25
Chinese to English
+ ...
I think Sun's version is better Mar 10, 2006

Yueyin Sun wrote:

“What the matter of a mountain is not its height, what the matter of the country is not its size.”


这句话我怎么念都觉得别扭,恐怕老外们不会听得懂。英语是这样说的吗?我觉得最起码应改为“What matters to a mountain is not its height, what matters to a country is not its size.”

I think your version is a lot better.


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Last Hermit
Local time: 09:25
Chinese to English
+ ...
Incorrect in grammar. Sucks in style. Mar 10, 2006

Yueyin Sun wrote:

“What the matter of a mountain is not its height, what the matter of the country is not its size.”


这句话我怎么念都觉得别扭,恐怕老外们不会听得懂。英语是这样说的吗?我觉得最起码应改为“What matters to a mountain is not its height, what matters to a country is not its size.”


My tentative versions:

It's not the height but the deities of a mountain that render it mighty.

Sounds misleading. Changed to:

A mountain is prized not necessarily for its height but its deities.

[Edited at 2006-03-10 17:25]


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adj600
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:25
English to Chinese
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真金不怕火炼 Geniune gold fears no fire Mar 10, 2006

It's more common nowadays than ever for us interpreters to meet with such a situation. Because more and more Chinese people speak good English but they still need our service as required by certain circumstances. Let me contribute my two pence.

There are 4 possibilities:

Senario 1/ your translation was simply wrong (because of various reasons, lack of knowledge, preperation, daydreaming... etc., all your fault) and the speaker pointed out.

Suggested Action: Calm down and accept the correction immediately, thank him/her, then concentrate on the next sentence, without thinking about the mistake, be cool;

Senario 2/ your translation was wrong but that's because the speaker didn't speak clearly.

Suggested Action: DON'T blame the speaker, let him say it, concentrate on the job, hopefully, the audience would make the right judgement. It's a reflection of your professionalism and good manner.

Senario 3/ your translation was right but the speaker offered another correct version.

Suggested Action: Let the speaker perform, he/she is the hero/heroine of the stage. NEVER bother to take over the central role. No need to insist, on the occassion, or afterwards.

Senario 4/ your translation was right but the speaker offered another wrong version.


Suggested Action: CORRECT HIM/HER, but POLITELY, even if you'll upset him/her.

Another tip for your performance under spotlight: love yourself and demonstrate your excellence, try to make it a happy experience.


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Xiangdong Zhuo
China
Local time: 09:25
English to Chinese
不要造成误解 Mar 10, 2006

在重要的场合,为避免引起误解,做这样的当场纠正还是应该的,毕竟这里还有政治性涵义,中国不能以大国自居。至于如何表达才确切,倒是值得研究的。

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#41698 (LSF)
Malaysia
Local time: 09:25
Japanese to English
+ ...
It's a democracy Mar 10, 2006

Kevin Yang wrote:

Dear fellow translators,

Have you ever being corrected by a speaker in front of everyone and you are too polite to argue back? It happened once to me a few years ago. Lately, when I was watching the press conference on CCTV4, Mr. Li Zhaoxing did it to his interpreter. I found it was unnecessary. His interpreter was so beautiful and superb with her interpretation job. I was very impressed that China has such great interpreter. She was so professional and polite, and even took his “correction”.

Kevin



Speaker probably wanted to voice an additional angle to the interpretaion or what he thought should be better (correctly or wrongly).
Ever thought of buying the highest resolution computer monitors that are available in the market (never mind the cost) only to realize later that the OS doesn't support that sort of resolution or you can't see the small words on the screen?
Democracies work most of the time but not always.


Kevin Yang wrote:

Here is the sentence that Mr. Li had a problem with:

李肇星 : “山不在高,有仙则名,国不在大,热爱和平、主持公道就好。”

The lady interpreter: “A mountain, no matter how high it is , if it is blessed with the touch of divine, it would be well-known. A country, no matter how big it is, if it can uphold peace and justice in the world, it would be a good country.”

Then, Mr. Li made a quick and partial "correction": “What the matter of a mountain is not its height, what the matter of the country is not its size.” Personally, I find this translation awkward and sounds as if a translation from someone just starts to learn translation. I admire Mr. Li’s style in his line of work. What else can you do to work with someone like Mr. Li? You might loose you job if you argue back.

With great interest, I translated it myself. Here comes my version: “The height of a mountain does not matter. What matters is if there is an immortal dueling there. The size of a country does not matter. What matters is if this country can uphold peace and justice.”

What are your versions or comments?

Kevin

[Edited at 2006-03-09 22:53]



My version:
Mountains need not be higher,
for fairies ensure fame is there;
Countries need not be bigger,
for passionate love for peace
and upholding of justice bring forth contentedness.


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Angus Woo
Local time: 09:25
Chinese to English
+ ...
Maybe you are right. Mar 11, 2006

jyuan_us wrote:

Angus Woo wrote:

It was a consecutive interpretation assignment. At one particular moment, the speaker thought my version wasn't implicit and simply said in front of everybody IN English that my interpretation was "wrong". The fact is that his Chinese expression was somewhat ambiguous and the speaker didn't realize it until I said it in English word by word. I didn't argue and corrected the phrase the way the speaker preferred.

The interesting thing is that the very same speaker bought me dinner right after the meeting. And we had some great time together. Both of us never mentioned a word about that little interlude ever again.

I believe to err is only human. No one can say that his/her interpretation is always flawless. In my opinion, it's a job, not a competition between the speaker and the interpreter. In theory, it's possible the speaker just might have a better idea.

Thank you, Jyuan.

Maybe so. Actually I wasn't upset.

The speaker is the boss. That says it all.

[Edited at 2006-03-11 07:32]


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Last Hermit
Local time: 09:25
Chinese to English
+ ...
I am afraid I have made another big boo-boo... Mar 11, 2006

Li's sentences can well be paraphrased as: 'The matter of a mountain is not its height'. In this case, it is of good and idiomatic use. Silly me!

That means it is I whose English sucks. Boy!

But then, Li is such a sycophant of the Great Qing that I dislike. This maybe the one to be blamed for.

Last Hermit wrote:

Yueyin Sun wrote:

“What the matter of a mountain is not its height, what the matter of the country is not its size.”


这句话我怎么念都觉得别扭,恐怕老外们不会听得懂。英语是这样说的吗?我觉得最起码应改为“What matters to a mountain is not its height, what matters to a country is not its size.”


My tentative versions:

It's not the height but the deities of a mountain that render it mighty.

Sounds misleading. Changed to:

A mountain is prized not necessarily for its height but its deities.

[Edited at 2006-03-10 17:25]


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