Tag Archives: translation

Fortunately, most of China's greatest poems were given English translations long ago. Hence, translating them anew is rarely a requirement: authoritative translations can be presented instead (ideally duly referenced - but that is the client's choice). Contextual knowledge assists in every translation task, and the following is a case in point. Lacking much knowledge of Southern China's geography, I found this translation a challenge. The side-by-side parallel translation format that I prefer shows - very clearly on this occasion - how terse Chinese can be compared to English. In this translation I made two very small mistakes. Can you spot them?

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Thank goodness trilingual jobs rarely arrived. The following is a tour guide I did for what is probably Japan's most famous fish market. I can't vouch for the quality of the Chinese (red) I'm afraid!

築地魚河岸(うおがし)市場ツアーガイド

筑地鱼市场观光导游手册

Tsukiji Riverside Fish Market Tour Guide

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This must have been the mid to late 2000s. I had begun my second Masters. It wasn't described as an "online" learning format. If I remember correctly, I negotiated with the university in the UK to allow me to do the three-year course remotely (I was living in Japan at the time and the options for distance learning Technical Communication were very limited). They accepted, on the provisos that I met all the standard deadlines, contributed regularly to the Blackboard discussions, kept up with the reading, and paid for the printed material to be sent to me by courier. (They also wanted three printed and bound copies of the dissertation couriering to them, which cost me a small fortune!) I think I might have paid more than a regular student, too, but I forget. Anyway, while doing this, I began to have thoughts about integrating translation and/or language enhancement functionality into Blackboard, the online learning platform (very similar to Moodle). What follows is a formal articulation of my ideas. Needless to say, I never realised any of these myself, but much of this functionality has become available - if not successfully integrated into e-learning platforms.

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Quantification is a component of extreme importance in the field of technical translation. Numbers, in their many and varied guises, are responsible for a galaxy of translation mistakes. In English, small quantities are customarily counted in dozens; in Japanese, as tens, hence sūjū and jūsū, which are usually correctly, if not always appropriately, translated as “several tens” and “ten and several”, respectively. Although both are accurate in their expression of numerical value, both are alliteratively unnatural. A more effective translation would be “a few dozen” and “just over a dozen”, respectively. Just to confound things however, terms like sūman are usually translated appropriately, i.e. as "tens of thousands".

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All the following terms express future continuation, but their differences and degrees of appropriateness pose substantial challenges for technical translators:

shōrai (将来), kongo (今後), kongo mo (今後も), kongo tomo (今後とも)

For all three terms, the most frequently encountered English rendering is “in [the] future”. However, in most cases this is an over-translation. These terms, despite their standard, dictionary definitions, amplify a statement by suggesting, quite strongly, (to native Japanese speakers at least) emphasis or determination. As a result, these terms are usually best exempted from the translation. Forcing the translation can result in unintended meaning loss or meaning change.

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Overused transitions represent a multifaceted, seldom effectively tackled problem. Japanese uses transitional words and phrases much more frequently than in English. In Japanese, fewer than two dozen account for the majority of transitions in expository writing. These have fewer than a dozen common equivalents in English, and they are far too often word-swapped, i.e. translated mechanically on the basis of dictionary correspondence, not vernacular appropriateness.

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