Troubles arising from poor English -but is it really poor?
Thread poster: fallenangel
fallenangel
Turkey
Local time: 11:43
Turkish to English
+ ...
Dec 14, 2010

Hello dear colleagues,

I have been translating a novel by a Chinese author written in -sometimes- poor English both grammatically and lexically for quite a long time. Although the story deserves a good deal of appraise I occasionaly find it hard to translate to my mother tongue as I cannot be sure of the meaning that a particular sentence seems to convey because of the semantic ambiguities. One example to this would be as follows:

-He thinks he understands enough -he speaks more of our language than he will say, bu he knows nothing.

To add some background information regarding the dialogue, I must say he is an English man in China and it is a Chinese woman who says this to another Chinese woman.

What I would like to ask, although this might not be the most striking example, is whether a native speaker of English would think this sentence is a cohesive one and sounds pretty acceptable? I mean since the person in question is a foreigner, by language the author probably means Chinese. But I am still at a loss as the comparison statement in the sentence "than he will say" leaves me clueless and then I find myself saying "Maybe the author means: "We are actually speaking the same language but he would not say so." OR I am simply confused by these slight spasms in my chest(:

Anyways, long story short, any explanations will be appreciated and I also would like to learn if any native speaker would be kind enough to be my mentor, that is to say, I would be more than grateful if I had a native speaker friend to ask such translation related questions sometimes, without bothering him/her too much of course.. If there is anyone interested I would be glad to be able to contact him/her via e-mail..

Thank you in advance
Have a great morning/afternoon/night

Regards,
Pinar


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 03:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Seems fine to me... Dec 16, 2010

"...our language..." means Chinese from the information you gave. "..more than he will say..." means more than he admits.

Sounds like the man doesn't want them to know how much Chinese he understands and the women know of a situation they don't want him to know about.

The English in this example is fine as far as I'm concerned...perhaps another example would help.


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Paul Malone  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:43
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Yes, I think it sounds OK in English Dec 16, 2010

For "more..... than he will say" you could read "more than he is willing to say" or "more than he is prepared to admit". Maybe this wording would make the meaning clearer to you.

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Sebastian Abbo
Local time: 10:43
French to English
There is nothing wrong with the English Dec 16, 2010

There is nothing wrong with the English apart from the misspelling of "but"...

However, the meaning is vague and could be interpreted in different ways. It is the translators job to retain this ambiguity and retain the various semantic levels as they are in the English, which is often quite difficult. It would be a mistake to try to clarify the meaning in the translation.

Regards, Sebastian


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fallenangel
Turkey
Local time: 11:43
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I thought so.. Dec 16, 2010

Since there is quite a consensus I continue to stick to the first and most reasonable interpretation of mine.

However, -I knew this was not the most striking example as I said in my previous post- I encounter many unusual ways of grammar and word usage and since I am not that naive in translation, I sense something is wrong but I think it takes to be native to judge precisely. That's why I sometimes come close to the point where I take deep breaths and seek help from native speakers and I believe this doesn't have anything to do with the interpretation inability but the tone of the language.

In fact, I can ask my question in a clearer way if I say the author is Pai-Kit-Fai. Is there are anyone who happens to have read or heard of him?

Regards
Pinar


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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:43
English to Spanish
Apparent contradiction between framing sentences and framed sentence Dec 16, 2010

In my opinion, what makes this paragraph difficult to interpret is the apparent contradiction between the two framing sentences and the framed sentence.

Framing sentences:
- He thinks he understands enough
- but he knows nothing.

Framed sentence:
- he speaks more of our language than he will say


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:43
French to English
+ ...
"will" Dec 16, 2010

Paul Malone wrote:
For "more..... than he will say" you could read "more than he is willing to say" or "more than he is prepared to admit". Maybe this wording would make the meaning clearer to you.


I would tend to interpret this as "...more than he tends to say/speak". I don't think the interpretation of "more than he is prepared to admit" would be very common nowadays in this particular case. (On the other hand, in the negative it would be more common: "He won't say how much Chinese he speaks" = "He isn't willing to...".)


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Melissa Dedina  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:43
Czech to English
+ ...
I think the English might be ok Dec 16, 2010

fallenangel, I've never read any of his writing, but according to an interview with Pai Kit Fai I just read, he was born in England and adopted the name Pai Kit Fai when he married into a Hong Kong family. Meaning he's presumably British. Maybe the writing is just vague then, and not actually non-native - for what it's worth.

Link:

http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides_c/the_concubines_daughter2.asp


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fallenangel
Turkey
Local time: 11:43
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That was wey helpful indeed Dec 16, 2010

Melissa Dedina wrote:

fallenangel, I've never read any of his writing, but according to an interview with Pai Kit Fai I just read, he was born in England and adopted the name Pai Kit Fai when he married into a Hong Kong family. Meaning he's presumably British. Maybe the writing is just vague then, and not actually non-native - for what it's worth.

Link:

http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides_c/the_concubines_daughter2.asp


Now that makes sense, thank you Melissa, this precious culture specific information leaves me with only one challenge to deal: language of the book, not the author. I know that Canadian men may assume their wives' surname if they want to do so, but apparently I should have also gone through the biography of the author to not to miss this important and more related detail.

Actually that's what I call the love and hate relationship between the translator and the literature works. Once you go beyond being a mere reader and find yourself translating the books for all the target audience in your country, things get somehow harder when it comes to decipher deliberate or indeliberate vague ideas. In the case of this book, the editorial work is a little weak maybe that's why I suspected about the quality of the English. So far, my real-time English experience has been confined to a few months. I learned English at school and whenever I encounter such difficulties I feel I am on the wrong side of the barrier between my native tongue and English to be a qualified translator -well that was a heartfelt confession.

Regards


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Melissa Dedina  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:43
Czech to English
+ ...
when in doubt, google, baby Dec 16, 2010

Well, it's never a bad idea to improve your language skills

At least in this case you can probably assume that the author said what he meant to say, clear or not, which isn't always a given with a non-native speaker. Check out his website (www his name .com) for some background information, including the fact that he's British-born, married into Hong Kong family and living currently in Australia.

Good luck with the rest of the translation!


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