Short story translation

da
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Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:31 am Post

Hi Mark,

I read the story. It works in English. The translation gave me a feeling for the character's experience that is what I look for in a good story—a far-away life made accessible. The only stylistic thing I would mention is that the rhythm of the piece had a metronomic feel to it. Perhaps that's the way the original spools out but the arc of the story seems to ask for something more dynamic (we're talking subtleties, here, by the way).

Thanks for the story!

Dave

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Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:57 pm Post

On the wider debate - at one point in my working-life, it was part of my job to re-write translations of foreign spoken words in colloquial English that fitted the time constraints of the original, so that it could be convincingly voiced-over the original, foreign speakers. (Interesting, incidentally, how different languages take different durations to say the same thing. French... but that's another story.)

I couldn't resist the temptation to extemporise somewhat in an effort to communicate better (what I believed was) the true meaning of what was being said. I hoped that the original speakers would have agreed, but, such is life in TV, I never had the chance to find out.
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xiamenese
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Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:46 pm Post

dafu wrote:Hi Mark,

I read the story. It works in English. The translation gave me a feeling for the character's experience that is what I look for in a good story—a far-away life made accessible. The only stylistic thing I would mention is that the rhythm of the piece had a metronomic feel to it. Perhaps that's the way the original spools out but the arc of the story seems to ask for something more dynamic (we're talking subtleties, here, by the way).

Thanks for the story!

Dave

Thanks, Dave. As for the story arc and rhythm, I have to say I think it’s largely down to "the way the original spools out”. I’ll have a look at it again from the point of rhythm, but am not sure that I would do much, as I suspect it would take it further from the original. I’ll discuss it with Shirley too, when I have a chance, as she has a much better sense of the way the original is written.

Mark
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Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:19 pm Post

Hugh wrote:On the wider debate - at one point in my working-life, it was part of my job to re-write translations of foreign spoken words in colloquial English that fitted the time constraints of the original, so that it could be convincingly voiced-over the original, foreign speakers. (Interesting, incidentally, how different languages take different durations to say the same thing. French... but that's another story.)

I couldn't resist the temptation to extemporise somewhat in an effort to communicate better (what I believed was) the true meaning of what was being said. I hoped that the original speakers would have agreed, but, such is life in TV, I never had the chance to find out.

English takes roughly one and a half times as long to say something as Chinese!

I had an occasion just after I arrived in Xiamen to work at the TV Station. To cut a long story short — the rest was important to me, but not significant here — a video about the development of one part of Xiamen was being edited in our office. Part of that development was around an oil-wharf, run by a Dutch company. They had interviewed the CEO of the company asking about the reason they had chosen to set the oil-wharf up in Xiamen. The answer — in a Dutch accent so thick you could have stood a spoon up in it! — was proximity to Taiwan. Now, I realised that the way the man had said it implied that Taiwan was a separate country ,,, the biggest political gaffe you can make in China, and I realised that none of my colleagues had picked this up. Since I didn’t want them, or the TV Station to find itself in trouble — the video was to be played in a loop at the huge foreign trade and investment fair taking place the following September — I told our managing editor, Xiaolin, who, having listened carefully, immediately went off to inform the top brass of the problem.

A few days later, I had a phone call:

Xiaolin: Mark, you know that video about Haicang and the interview with the man from the oil wharf?
Mark: Yeee_ee_ees?
Xiaolin: I told the President (of the TV Station) what you said.
Mark: Mmmm?
Xiaolin: Well, he says it absolutely can’t go out as it stands, and they feel they can’t go back and ask him to rephrase his comment.
Mark: No, that I can understand! (Losing face all round, including making the Dutchman lose face!)
Xiaolin: So, what they have said is, would you rewrite just that one phrase so it doesn’t imply that about Taiwan, and then record it over the top to fit in precisely?

So I spent a whole day, recasting it — in the end about 10 words — to remove the implication and then practicing saying it imitating his thick guttural Dutch accent. Finally, I dubbed it in, fitting it exactly, though I felt uncomfortable about doing it.

I wondered if the man himself ever watched the video and spotted it, The only people who knew about it were Xiaolin, the President and those involved in making the decision, and me. As I went round the trade and investment fair later that year, I picked it out every time, but no-one round about seemed to notice the brief change in voice.

I really wish I’d been given a copy of it to keep.

Mark
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Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:57 am Post

A very nice story, Mark. One of my equivalents involved the then-leader of the French Euro-Communists, at that time a significant power in the land - I don't think he ever saw what we made of his speech, but I hope that he would have approved.
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
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Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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Sat Sep 13, 2014 5:14 pm Post

My first evening at work at Xiamen TV Station, before I’d come to know so much about these things, I was given the passages to edit, which I did — they didn’t ask me to record dubbing tracks until a week or two later.

One of the news items was about an initiative by some of the expats to have an annual “Help clean up Xiamen Day”. They started by organising gangs of people to pick up rubbish on part of the beach. So I was given a text, which I was told was a condensed version of the Chinese, as the video edited to the Chinese commentary lasted a given amount and the English had to fit with that. I edited it, one of my colleagues recorded it … and the chap who was putting the English track together with the video, just plonked the two together. When the whole was done, the deputy head of the channel came to give the result the OK before it went down to the transmission centre — they stopped doing that after about 6 months — so we all watched the tape.

That item … the commentary was talking about all the rubbish on the beach while the video showed a group of teenage girls dancing on the beach! It took me over a week to convince my colleagues that they could and had to make sure that the video matched what was being said in the commentary.

That evening, the audience, if any, watched a group of teenage girls being described as rubbish to be cleared up!

:D
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Sat Sep 13, 2014 6:27 pm Post

xiamenese wrote:a group of teenage girls being described as rubbish to be cleared up!
As Fluff would have said, "Typical male chauvinistic misogyny!" :shock:
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