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Should Translation Be Mixed with Personal Understanding and/or Explanation?
Thread poster: coolfool
coolfool
China
Local time: 18:59
Chinese to English
Mar 12

Needless to say
春眠不觉晓,
处处闻啼鸟。
is a part of a household poem, a classical work and one of the ancient masterpieces to be exact, in mainland China.

Someone translates it into
This spring morning in bed I’m lying,
Not to awake till birds are crying.

Obviously, we can’t find the senses, like I or me, bed, lie, this morning, and someone wakes up owing to the big noises of birds’ cry. Considering avoiding the above-mentioned meaning that doesn’t occur in the text, someone else renders it into
Stay drowsy unaware of the dawning,
Birds call here and there come spring.

Please leave your opinion here. Thank you.


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wherestip  Identity Verified
United States
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Chinese to English
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The core of translation Mar 12

coolfool,

The fundamental basis of translation is personal understanding of the original. How would one do translation otherwise?


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coolfool
China
Local time: 18:59
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Apples and oranges Mar 13

Understanding is one thing. So is explanation. Translation, according to the definition given by New Oxford English Dictionary:
translate: v. express the sense of (words or text) in another language
is to translate the senses of the text, not one’s understanding, and ought not to mess around with explanation. They’re apples and oranges, but by no means irrelevant. If one understands the text, fine. If not, or if not fully, one can still put it into another tongue. (Hence, AI may one day, I’m afraid, one-up human being in translation to a large extent, starting with a few particular provinces, for it, by nature, never does its job with its feelings.) What if a so-called pro doesn’t understand, though claiming he does, the text? What if there’re arguments among the pros? What if there’re several choices to understand and explain whereas a renderer can choose only one? … To most foreign readers, to whom Chinese is all Greek, how on earth could they appreciate Chinese classical masterworks if someone distorts them somehow minus an original sense or two and plus an unheard-of new sense or two in the meantime in the process of rendering at the first place? What if different cocksure pros offers different plucked-from-scratch new senses? Worse yet, his so-called understanding may prevent foreigners from understanding freely, not to mention properly, based on the text, as we do.

The senses of patents, technological and scientific documents, as well as legal papers, as is well known, are not allowed to be changed, so can literature? I’m of the opinion that we’re not at liberty to translate whatever we personally love to, let alone to abuse the classical works by old masters, in which each and every word does matter. Once a single word is replaced, strictly speaking, what is known as masterpiece, especially poem, isn’t a tour de force any longer. The way someone distorts magna opera or cries up wine and sells vinegar would make wordsmiths roll over in their graves. Because they never ever produced any lowbrow works as such.

Waster my breath? I guess so. However, it’s nice to cross swords with you.

[修改时间: 2017-03-14 12:47 GMT]


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David Lin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:59
Member (2013)
English to Chinese
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Discussion on translation issues only Mar 13

Dear Coolfool and All,

I've to appeal, again, to confine your discussion purely on translation issues, please.

Personal attack, either directly or indirectly, or on any individual, is not allowed in ProZ.com Forum.

Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated.

David


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Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Canada
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What David said Mar 13

David Lin wrote:

Dear Coolfool and All,

I've to appeal, again, to confine your discussion purely on translation issues, please.

Personal attack, either directly or indirectly, or on any individual, is not allowed in ProZ.com Forum.

Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated.

David


Personal attacks are unprofessional and unnecessary. They will not be tolerated per forum rules.

Please, remain respectful.

Thank you all for your kind attention.


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David Lin  Identity Verified
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Member (2013)
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About a morning in spring Mar 14

Dear Coolfool,

I seldom comment on poem translation because I'm not in this field. Not to mention classical poem translation which is just too difficult for me. I do only legal translation and transcreation for brand marketing. These days I just enjoy reading Chinese classical poems, appreciating the thousands of years of literature and culture few other ancient civilizations in the world can offer.

With this background and a little research on this subject, let me try to throw out the bricks with the purpose to attract the jade here 抛砖引玉.

I gained my first taste of classical poems through the study of the selected works in "The Three Hundred Tang Poems" 《唐诗三百首》in my high school years. I learned from my Chinese literature teacher that Tang poems were composed with the use of metaphors, historical facts and characters, and personal experience and common sense. They are written very concisely. This economy of words, helped with the multiple meanings of the Chinese language, shine through the poems' subtlety to deliver the authors' impression and feeling to the readers.

On the appreciation of classical poems by the modern people, the famous writer and poet of the early 20th century 朱自清先生 says in his 《唐詩三百首》指导大概:

隐居和归田都是道家思想。儒道两家的思想合成了以前的读书人。。。唐人的得失和现代人不一样,可是在读唐诗的时候,只让那对于过去的情感领著走;这种无私,无我,无关心的同情教他们觉得这些诗的真切。这种无关心的情感需要慢慢调整自己,扩大自己,才能养成。多读史书,多读诗,是一条修养的捷径。就是那些比较有普遍性的题材,如相思,离别,慈幼,慕亲,友爱等也还是需要无关心的情感。这些题材的节目多少也跟著时代改变一些,固执 「知识的真切」的人读古代的这些诗,有时也不能感到兴趣。


The author of《春晓》is 孟浩然 who is famous for his poems about landscape and the nature, as a 田园诗人。He later retired to become a hermit.

For us modern readers in order to appreciate the poem, we might have to understand its meaning first. I assume it's the same for translators.

Let's see how 《春晓》is interpreted by《唐诗三百首》- 大众书局出版:

春夜是很短的,睡在床上,往往不知道天亮,只听到各处地方,有鸟叫的声音。想起昨天夜里风雨声中,不知道落下了多少的花朵呢?


There's another interpreting from an online source which sounds sensible:

http://baike.baidu.com/item/春晓/31425

这首小诗仅仅四行二十个字,写来却曲屈通幽,回环波折。首句破题,“春”字点明季节,写春眠的香甜。“不觉”是朦朦胧胧不知不觉。在这温暖的春夜中,诗人睡得真香,以至旭日临窗,才甜梦初醒。流露出诗人爱春的喜悦心情。次句写春景,春天早晨的鸟语。“处处”是指四面八方。鸟噪枝头,一派生机勃勃的景象。“闻啼鸟”即“闻鸟啼”,古诗为了押韵,词序作了适当的调整。


I quote these two interpretation because the former has “睡在床上”, while the latter "睡得真香,以至旭日临窗,才甜梦初醒。" Both stress 不知道天亮 unaware of the dawning, and both does not mention that it was the birds singing that woke up the author.

As a pure reader, I guess we could have the common understanding that the author was fresh from a sleep but whether he was waken by the birds singing alone is arguable because it could be by either the rising sun or the singing birds, or possibly both. The author didn't spell out which was the cause of his waking. I guess it is not important for him to write it in the poem because he wants to tell us how good a sleep he had and the pleasant environment he was in after opening his eyes -- to see the rising sun (dawn) and hear the birds singing.

These two essential elements have to be translated, I guess. I think it might not be necessary to stress that "I sleep on a bed", as we don't sit sleeping or walk sleeping these days.

With this understanding, I would like to put out my humble modified version as follows:

Sleeping in the spring night, unaware of dawning,
The birds are everywhere, singing.


Of course these are just a few bricks I hope to use to get the jade. And I am not a poet of any kind.

David


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ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:59
English to Chinese
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Who is sleeping and unaware of dawning? Mar 14

David Lin wrote:

With this understanding, I would like to put out my humble modified version as follows:

Sleeping in the spring night, unaware of dawning,
The birds are everywhere, singing.


Of course these are just a few bricks I hope to use to get the jade. And I am not a poet of any kind.

David

David,

May I ask you who is sleeping and unaware of dawning according to your modified version? The birds or the poet? In my humble opinion, your version is equivalent to "The birds are everywhere, singing, sleeping in the spring night, unaware of dawning".

You will see more clearly what I mean if you read the following about the use of present participle as an adverbial clause:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/quick-grammar/participle-clauses
Participle clauses
Participle clauses are a form of adverbial clause which enables us to say information in a more economical way. We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. For example:

Waiting for John, I made some tea.

Waiting for John, the kettle boiled. [This would suggest that the kettle was waiting for John!]


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David Lin  Identity Verified
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typo Mar 14

Thanks. It's a typo - the end of the first line should read as a semi colon.

Sleeping in the spring night, unaware of dawning;
The birds are everywhere, singing.


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ysun  Identity Verified
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English to Chinese
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The semicolon doesn’t make much difference Mar 15

David Lin wrote:

Thanks. It's a typo - the end of the first line should read as a semi colon.

Sleeping in the spring night, unaware of dawning;
The birds are everywhere, singing.

I am sorry to say that your correction has not solved the problem because it is still not clear who is the logical subject of “sleeping” in the participle clause (the first line) even if you tried to separate the participle clause from the main clause by the semicolon. Readers won’t be able to understand what the first line means if they have never read the Chinese version.


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David Lin  Identity Verified
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Focus on thread topic Mar 15

Well, I guess reading poems of any language requires certain imagination and emotional adjustment as 作家及诗人朱自清 advised (see my quote in my first post). Btw, I'm rather relaxed about my version whether anyone or you will understand, as I'm not a poet, nor am I in poet translation. Haha!

The focus of my post is about the accurate / reliable interpretation of that Tang poem 《春晓》as my response to the new thread topic of Coolfool, not my suggestion for an English translation really.


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wherestip  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:59
Chinese to English
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Mar 15

I'd like to bring some attention to the Chinese character 闻 in the poem. It is a human being, not birds or any other entity that is the subject of the action - in this instance hearing sounds of birds chirping.

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ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:59
English to Chinese
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Continuing to focus on thread topic Mar 15

David Lin wrote:

Well, I guess reading poems of any language requires certain imagination and emotional adjustment as 作家及诗人朱自清 advised (see my quote in my first post). Btw, I'm rather relaxed about my version whether anyone or you will understand, as I'm not a poet, nor am I in poet translation. Haha!

The focus of my post is about the accurate / reliable interpretation of that Tang poem 《春晓》as my response to the new thread topic of Coolfool, not my suggestion for an English translation really.

By “Focus on thread topic”, were you dropping a hint that I strayed from the thread topic and violated the forum rules? I didn’t dare to stray from the thread topic since “群众的眼睛是雪亮的”. I know the forum rules as well as some of the grammar rules. On the contrary, if I focused on what “作家及诗人朱自清 advised”, I may have been straying from the thread topic.

To be honest, I think your suggested translation is mixed with your personal understanding of the poem and your personal understanding is not as accurate and/or as reliable as you think. At least, your expression of your personal understanding is incorrect as I pointed out from your suggested translation, which could be interpreted as "鸟儿春眠不觉晓". That is a similar error to “the kettle was waiting for John!” I have no way to judge your personal understanding other than making a judgment based on your expression of your personal understanding. Furthermore, the two parts “春眠不觉晓” and “处处闻啼鸟” are interrelated and they constitute one integrated sentence. What sense does it make when you separated them with a semicolon? Even if you separated the participle clause from the main clause by the semicolon, your first line is still a participle clause to modify “the birds are everywhere”.

Your comments on the above would be appreciated.


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Fargoer
Canada
Local time: 04:59
English to Chinese
理解万岁 Mar 16

没有理解,寸步难行。

譬如鸟儿,在哪儿呢?有几只?原文都没说。都靠读者自己理解。如果有人抬杠说:“其实只有一只鸟在笼子里。诗人一觉醒来,提着鸟笼到处溜达,走到哪都能听到鸟叫声。” 我能说什么?


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ysun  Identity Verified
United States
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When To Use a Semicolon Mar 16

David Lin wrote:

Thanks. It's a typo - the end of the first line should read as a semi colon.

Sleeping in the spring night, unaware of dawning;
The birds are everywhere, singing.

"Sleeping in the spring night, unaware of dawning" is a present participle clause, not an independent clause. In other words, it can't stand on its own as a fully formed sentence. Obviously, it is a mistake to use a semicolon at the end of the present participle clause.

Using Semicolons
http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Semicolons.html
Rules for Using Semicolons

A semicolon is most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two independent clauses that are closely related in thought.

When a semicolon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank.

Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.

Two Ways to Use the Semicolon
http://thewritepractice.com/semicolon/
1. Each clause of the sentence needs to be an independent clause.

You know what an independent clause is, right? You’re writers! Sometimes, however, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the semicolon, and you’ll want to use it everywhere. Don’t.

If you’re going to use it, make sure that each clause can stand on its own as a fully formed sentence. If it helps, mentally separate the two clauses with a period to test their independence.

Justin didn’t walk; he ran. -----> Justin didn’t walk. He ran.

Use a semicolon to separate two independent clauses.


[Edited at 2017-03-16 03:59 GMT]


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