A tip and a question about finding English translations of Chinese book titles
Thread poster: Mark Sanderson

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 08:37
Chinese to English
Aug 25, 2014

Hello,

As part of a recent assignment I had to translate a reference list which consisted of a large number of published works in the Chinese language. I discovered that if I went to Amazon.cn and found the title in question, I could then find the ISBN number and input it into Amazon.com to find an English translation of the book's title, publishing house, author etc.

Although I checked each translation carefully, some of the translations seemed a bit "Chinglishy". Do you think these translations can be relied upon?

Thanks,

Mark


 

Yan Yuliang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:37
Member (2008)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I think so Aug 25, 2014

The "Chinglishy" translation may be because it's done by Chinese natives, at a very low payrate.

Amazon should be a reliable source.

Mark Sanderson wrote:

Although I checked each translation carefully, some of the translations seemed a bit "Chinglishy". Do you think these translations can be relied upon?


[Edited at 2014-08-25 05:13 GMT]


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:37
Chinese to English
Relied upon for what? Aug 25, 2014

We have no idea how those English titles are generated. I suspect some of them might be the work of computers. But if they appear on a very large website, then they have a certain reference value.

However, I think in your case they are not the right option. In your reference list you are giving the Chinese titles, right? So there is no question of accuracy of reference. If a researcher wants to find the reference, she will track down the book by its Chinese title, not the translation. In reference lists, when an official English title does not exist for a work and the translator gives a translation, the point of the translation is to tell the non-Chinese speaking reader at a glance what the book/article is. Therefore the translation should be communicative. I think in general you'll get a better result by translating the names of the references yourself.

The exception might be if you don't know what the name of the work means, as sometimes happens. In that case, just go with whatever's easiest. Sometimes life's too short!


 

wherestip  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:37
Chinese to English
+ ...
Truly a dilemma Aug 25, 2014

I think your idea of cross-referencing using the ISBN is a good one. But as you pointed out, it often still results in some unsatisfactory book title translations.

This topic reminded me of one of the Chinese movies that was discussed in the forum 4 or 5 years ago, "蜗居". The official English translation was "Dwelling Narrowness", which IMO was very substandard.

Out of curiosity, I did a search on Amazon.com using "dwelling narrowness", and one of the results that came up was as follows ...



http://www.amazon.com/Compatriots-narrowness-low-income-graduates-generation/dp/7308092399/ref=sr_1_1

Compatriots, Please Be Calm dwelling narrowness, low-income graduates living in a compact community and second generation of the rich in Hong Kong (Chinese Edition)
(Chinese) Paperback – November 1, 2011


This book is intended to offer the historical lessons that Hong Kong people have experienced the demolition, dwelling narrowness, low-income graduates living in a compact community, leftover unmarried men and women, and second generation of the rich, etc. to the compatriots in the mainland. This book provides an important pivot to understand the cultural persons and culture of Hong Kong.



Turns out the original title in Chinese was as follows ...

同胞,请淡定
- 我们香港的蜗居、蚁族、富二代
http://v.book.ifeng.com/book/ts/12553.htm

As we can see, in this case, even Amazon.com had to settle for gibberish.

So I agree with Phil's recommendation. If the existing translations of a book title are not acceptable in your judgment, re-translate the book title yourself. After all, it's your reputation as a translator that is at stake here. icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2014-08-25 23:07 GMT]


 

Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:37
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
This had me in splits Aug 25, 2014

wherestip wrote:

This book is intended to offer the historical lessons that Hong Kong people have experienced the demolition, dwelling narrowness, low-income graduates living in a compact community, leftover unmarried men and women, and second generation of the rich, etc. to the compatriots in the mainland. This book provides an important pivot to understand the cultural persons and culture of Hong Kong.



Run-on sentences, repeated "and" after comma instead of using the semicolon, all that...even if the phrase was actually grammatically correct, punctuation alone will tell you that much already about the actual translation.


 

wherestip  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:37
Chinese to English
+ ...
a judgment call Aug 25, 2014

Rita Pang wrote:

wherestip wrote:

This book is intended to offer the historical lessons that Hong Kong people have experienced the demolition, dwelling narrowness, low-income graduates living in a compact community, leftover unmarried men and women, and second generation of the rich, etc. to the compatriots in the mainland. This book provides an important pivot to understand the cultural persons and culture of Hong Kong.



Run-on sentences, repeated "and" after comma instead of using the semicolon, all that...even if the phrase was actually grammatically correct, punctuation alone will tell you that much already about the actual translation.


Rita,

I agree with you. Substandard translations might be rare on Amazon's website, but they still exist. The first thing I tried was to search for the combo "dwelling narrowness", and bingo. icon_biggrin.gif

It goes to show that whether to rely on the translation from even a reputable website could be a total judgment call.


[Edited at 2014-08-25 23:46 GMT]


 


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