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Two translation versions: share your opinion
Thread poster: V_iris
V_iris
English to Chinese
May 18, 2008

Below are two translation versions of one part of a Chinese prose, Can you tell me which one makes better sense to you and why? What still confuses you in your preferred version?(This means a lot to me. One is my translation and the other is the reference answer provided by my teacher. I'd appreciate your opinion very much.

A. Whereas fresh flowers will eventually wither and die, plastic ones enjoy and eternal life.Some shrewd manufacturers have made,with superb craftsmanship excelling nature, artificial flowers that look as if falling, but they never will. This combination of life and death, is it blessed? Or maybe sad?

B. Flowers will wither and fall, but plastic flowers will last forever. It is really clever and skillful of the manufacturer to make the fake flowers appear to begin to wither in such a way as done by nature.Yet they will never wither any more.Living and withering coexist on them, and is this fortunate or sorrowful?


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Alex Farrell  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:01
Japanese to English
B is better May 19, 2008

I like B because the grammar is more accurate and it flows better. In my opinion, prose shouldn't have so many phrases separated by commas as in A.

I think I get the meaning of B, but I would make a few changes:

manufacturer --> maker
any more --> much more/more than this (?)
Living and withering coexist on them --> They both live and wither

- Alex


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 10:01
German to English
A few comments May 19, 2008

It's impossible to deal with the aspect of the accuracy/faithfulness of the translation without studying the source text, and since I don't know Chinese I wouldn't be able to help there in any case.

But here are some comments with respect to the prose in each text.

"Whereas fresh flowers will eventually die and wither" is better than "Flowers will wither and fall" in text B. So the first sentence should read (in my opinion): Whereas fresh flowers will eventually die and wither, plastic flowers will last forever.

I totally agree with Alex about the parenthetical elements separated by commas in text A.

2. "Some shrewd manufacturers have made, with superb craftsmanship excelling nature, artificial flowers that look as if falling, but they never will."

Slight improvement:
Some clever manufacturers have skillfully made artificial flowers that look as if they are falling? in imitation of nature, but they never will.

3. "flowers that look as if falling" – I don't really know what is meant by "falling" flowers. In text B the writer uses "begin to wither."

4. "Superb craftsmanship" – this is a bit "over the top", hyperbolic. The use of "skillful" in text B is much better.


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Sibylle Ferner
Local time: 03:01
English to German
+ ...
Integration or Transparency May 19, 2008

This seems to be quite a good demonstration of the two schools of translation: whether to integrate a text into its target language or whether to keep it transparent showing its foreignness.

I also don't know any Chinese, but I know a little bit about Chinese. Therefore I get the feeling that translation A is showing its Chinese origin more strongly and more closely, while translation B has integrated the text into the English language.

Somehow I find translation A more poetic, and - not being a native English speaker - I have no problem with subdivided sentences.

You also have to ask yourself what the purpose of the text is, before you can assess which meets these requirements more fully.

Sibylle


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:01
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
B is best May 20, 2008

In my opinion, text B sounds far better. Although you say that the original is a piece of Chinese prose, the subject is nevertheless treated poetically. Text A sounds much more commercial, while text B sounds more poetic.
I too don't know Chinese, so can't comment on the accuracy of either translation, but translation requires not merely accuracy but also capturing the style and feeling of the original.
I think text A has a problem with syntax. For example, the phrase "with superb craftsmanship excelling nature" should go at the beginning of the sentence, not in the middle separated by commas.
In text B, I'd divide the last sentence into two.
"Living and withering co-exist with them. Is this fortunate or sorrowful?" (and what about simply "sad" instead of "sorrowful"?)
And I'm not too happy with the word "fake" in text B which sounds pejorative to me - I'd stick to "artificial".
Just my two bob's worth!
Jenny
P.S. Please do tell us which text was yours and which the teacher's !


[Edited at 2008-05-20 07:09]


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:01
English to Dutch
+ ...
I prefer A May 20, 2008

I definitely prefer A, because it's so much more poetic. B to me sounds bland and uninteresting.
It does contain a typo though:
'plastic ones enjoy and eternal life' should be 'plastic ones enjoy an eternal life'. And there should be a space after each dot.

But I'm not a native speaker of English.


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V_iris
English to Chinese
TOPIC STARTER
:) May 20, 2008

Hehehe Jenny, the version A is my work. I'm not much surprised that you guys deem B a better translation.B is the work of an experienced translater. I just wanted to find out mine's shortage. Thank you for your constructive advices. Here are some points I'm not quite sure about.
1.why is "maker" a better choice than "manufacturer"?
2.By "falling" I meant to say "going to fall".Is it grammatically incorrect?
3.About the commas, alex do you mean that if it weren't a prose then it's ok to apply commas here? that it's grammatically acceptable?


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:01
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I didn't mean to hurt your feelings May 20, 2008

V_iris wrote:

Hehehe Jenny, the version A is my work. I'm not much surprised that you guys deem B a better translation.B is the work of an experienced translater. I just wanted to find out mine's shortage. Thank you for your constructive advices. Here are some points I'm not quite sure about.
1.why is "maker" a better choice than "manufacturer"?
2.By "falling" I meant to say "going to fall".Is it grammatically incorrect?
3.About the commas, alex do you mean that if it weren't a prose then it's ok to apply commas here? that it's grammatically acceptable?


I'm sorry, V Iris, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, but you did ask ... it's all part of that difficult learning process.
Re: "going to fall", what about saying "look as if they are about to fall (or drop) (or lose their petals)" ?
Best wishes,
Jenny


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My non-native comments... May 21, 2008

V_iris wrote:
Below are two translation versions of one part of a Chinese prose, Can you tell me which one makes better sense to you and why?


Is this an exercise of how to make the best of a poor source text? Because it seems to me that the logic of the argument put forth in the original text doesn't quite flow as well as the author may have intended.

I can see that the first translation was done by a young translator (the excessive use of adjectives to prop up the text), but in my opinion the first translator is more successful in joining the first and second sentences in a logical sounding way.

The fact that you and your teacher had to completely different interpretations of the second sentence, tells me that the source text may have been ambiguous.


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V_iris
English to Chinese
TOPIC STARTER
tks May 21, 2008

hehe Jenny it's really nothing. I appreciate your taking the trouble to post replies and offering suggestions to me. They are very helpful.I'm grateful to everybody following this thread,coz be it critical or supportive,you have given me some new insights into the translation theories and have made this experimentation an enriching experience.

Yes,Jan I noted that typo later too, thank you for pointing it out.:)

And Samuel, you are right.The source text is itself very ambiguous and many literature critics are still tussling over the true theme of this passage.So this adds difficulty to our translating work.


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Alex Farrell  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:01
Japanese to English
Re: May 24, 2008

About the commas, it just seems to drag out everything and make it into a run-on sentence. Unless it's a contract or some official document where sentences of this nature seem to be the norm (but still irritate me), then this style of writing should be avoided.

As for whether to use "maker" or "manufacturer," I just thought that the former sounds more warm and inviting, whereas the latter seems dry andtoo formal. But then, I'm not sure what the purpose of the text is, so I could be wrong.

- Alex


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xxxAJL MedCom  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:01
Chinese to English
+ ...
Punctuation Jun 23, 2008

The usage of ellipses, commas, punctuation marks etc is a commonality of literature--there is no golden rule that differentiates poor prose simply by commas (which are mostly exiguous in the case of A); commas not only serve to semantically parse clauses, but also coordinate metaphorical/stylistic meaning of the prose (breath, diction, drama, etc.,). TS Elliot, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, hell even Pynchon are renowned for their adept skills in punctuation.

I offer some of my observations since I have time to spare now:

A. Whereas fresh flowers will eventually wither and die, plastic ones enjoy and eternal life.Some shrewd manufacturers [manufacturers generally refer to large-scale producers ] have made, with superb craftsmanship excelling nature [awkward clause, incorrect/unclear usage of "excelling", do you mean outperforming nature's craftsmanship? ], artificial flowers that look as if falling [ how do flowers look "as if falling"? Flowers do not fall; only leaves, petals, are deciduous, ], but they never will. This combination of life and death, is it blessed? Or maybe sad? [ completely metaphysical talk here, nothing mentioned can be construed as pertaining to life and death ]

B. Flowers will wither and fall, but plastic flowers will last forever. [ short, compact dependent clauses are effective for first sentences ] It is really [really is colloq. usage ] clever and skillful of the [ qualities emphasized as subjects? Awkwad ] manufacturer to make the [we already know the subject in reference] fake flowers appear to begin to [awkward, irregular syntanx ] wither in such a way as done by nature.Yet they will never wither any more. Living and withering coexist on [qualities cannot exist on objects, they exist within them] them, and is this fortunate or sorrowful? [ metaphysical again, unnecessary & nonsensical rhetorical question in the end, but hell it's a translation ]

The first passage suffers from incorrect usage of words, which I suspect, arises from a lack of understanding of the source text. The second passage, despite the irregularities of non-native English syntax and word choice, presents a clearer understanding of the gist of the original prose (which must have been convoluted, and vacuous). It is obvious that the latter translation is settled in its grown flaws, meaning that it has reached its limits; the former exhibits a greater potentiality for improvements. So my friend, in time you will outcompete your master, the trick is knowing your grammar and making complete sense of source texts!



[Edited at 2008-06-23 22:31]

[Edited at 2008-06-23 22:33]


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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:01
German to English
+ ...
Honestly... Jul 12, 2008

I prefer A. I guessed that you would soon reveal who wrote which, and so I formed my definitive opinion before reading on. However, I think "shrewd" is just wrong (it suggests sharp practice: I would prefer "clever"). And maybe "falling" should be "about to fall", unless you meant "starting to wither". Also, does the Chinese say "excelling nature"? That sounds unlikely, and your teacher's version is quite different.

B is stilted and unidiomatic. Whatever the Chinese says, you definitely need an adjective to contrast the real and fake flowers. The pairs living/withering and fortunate/sorrowful are badly chosen. It simply does not read like a native English production.


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MarleneBM
United States
Local time: 11:01
English to Spanish
Version A Oct 4, 2008

This is quite old but I'd prefer version A, way more poetic according to the subjetc, version B is like a flower in an stainless steel table.

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xxxVerse 5B
Local time: 17:01
English to Serbian
+ ...
Translation Revision Nov 13, 2008

V_iris wrote:

Below are two translation versions of one part of a Chinese prose, Can you tell me which one makes better sense to you and why? What still confuses you in your preferred version?(This means a lot to me. One is my translation and the other is the reference answer provided by my teacher. I'd appreciate your opinion very much.

A. Whereas fresh flowers will eventually wither and die, plastic ones enjoy and eternal life.Some shrewd manufacturers have made,with superb craftsmanship excelling nature, artificial flowers that look as if falling, but they never will. This combination of life and death, is it blessed? Or maybe sad?

B. Flowers will wither and fall, but plastic flowers will last forever. It is really clever and skillful of the manufacturer to make the fake flowers appear to begin to wither in such a way as done by nature.Yet they will never wither any more.Living and withering coexist on them, and is this fortunate or sorrowful?


A few inputs

Firstly, you should have mentioned the author, book title, and the page Number, when exposing the piece/excerpt publicly on the Internet ( legal aspect of intellectual property).

I don't like either of these translations, but the version B. definitely reads better. Sentence structure in the A.translation is clumsy. Besides, how can I evaluate the quality of a translation without having a reference either to the source text, or the context of the entire novel?

When it's pluck out of context like this, it doesn't make much sense to me. Especially the last two sentences ( in both translations).




[Edited at 2008-11-14 01:17 GMT]

[Edited at 2008-11-14 01:18 GMT]


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