Comparative critique

PJ
PJS
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Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:53 pm Post

To clarify my post above, the observations were to buttress earlier conclusions:
Trans 1 is probably the work of a native English speaker who has learnt Chinese;
Trans 2 is probably the work of a native Chinese speaker who has learnt English.

Now I find a year-old post from Mark in the "Translations" thread:

xiamenese wrote:[O]ne of the problems with translations into English produced by native Chinese-speakers; in general they range from "almost impossible to read" through to the very best of them being "OK to read", but no more.


So, are you through teasing us yet?

Phil
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xiamenese
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Sun Jan 24, 2010 4:27 am Post

PJS wrote:So, are you through teasing us yet?

Phil

Shortly, I promise. I have had two responses from Chinese friends only so far, but both meet my predictions ... the second one "in spades" :) One other friend had started to comment, but we had to break off and haven't yet re-communicated ... for the moment, she was focussing on detail and I want to get the answer as to which she prefers to read. I realise that one of the difficulties related to their reactions is that, knowing it is a translation, they immediately want to find the original and judge them as translations of that, rather than just judging them as an English text, which is what I really want.

On the English side, apart from all of you here, who have provided real food for thought, but also surprised me in some ways, I have sent it to my wife, my daughter and her boyfriend, none of whom have any pretensions to writing, though my daughter in particular is an avid reader, so I'm hoping for good reactions from them, and also from an American colleague here, and perhaps her son and later her husband, both of whom are due to visit her in the very near future. I am also hoping that some of the other members of the forum, like Exegete77, Zikade, and Paolo will pick up the baton.

I would love also to do the experiment the other way, but I don't have any English-speaking colleagues or friends with sufficient ability to read Chinese.

With apologies to you all for keeping you a while longer on what I seem to remember Hercule Poirot refers to as "tender cooks"; but I promise I won't keep you dangling much longer. :) Further responses from people outside the forum will still be useful, after that.
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xiamenese
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Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:50 pm Post

OK. The flow seems to have dried up, so I'll have to come clean — partially — now. I'm in the middle of a mountain of exam papers, so a fuller feedback will have to wait.
Siren wins the packet of cheesy wotsits; not sure who gets the wooden spoon. I did both translations myself, No 1 first and then No 2, so Siren wasn't entirely right.
The text is a "xiaopinwen" or "sanwen", one kind of poetic, literary essay ... in fact, the sentence beginning "In March ..." is virtually a poem in Chinese, which is part of the tradition of that literary form. I'll say more about that and the language later.
The first translation was intended to preserve that poetic flavour as much as possible in "natural" English, hence the ... perhaps self-conscious ... language. The second follows the structure of the Chinese closely ... it's not word-for-word, but the clauses within each sentence are in the Chinese order. In doing that one, I was also at pains to try and use slightly different vocabulary in parts from that used in the first.
The original Chinese has the two middle paragraphs as a single paragraph. It is I who split it in my first translation, 'cos I felt it should be separated.
My prediction, largely borne out, but with caveats, was that English native speakers would prefer the first, Chinese native speakers would prefer the second, the reason being the discourse structure. In the Chinese, there is no linguistic link between the beginning of one sentence and the preceding sentence, which is the normal situation in English.
Only 2 people commented on this latter aspect, both Chinese. One, a former student with whom I've worked closely on translation for a number of years, picked it up immediately as the reason for preferring the first translation; the second, a young woman who is spending a year at Xiamen University as a teacher-trainee in translation/interpreting, got it totally upside down, saying that the cohesion and coherence in the second was more natural English, and that's why the second was preferable.
For the rest, it'll have to wait, as I must go off and bore the pants off myself with marking exam papers!

@Dafu: Thanks for the PMs; I'll get back to you on them.

:-)
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Jaysen
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Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:02 am Post

So can I repeat my original opening Mr. K? Bacially Mr. X has shown that I fail in two languages simultaniously. :'(
Jaysen

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vic-k
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Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:16 am Post

Jaysen wrote:shown that I fail in two languages simultaniously. :'(
It`s a gift Mr Jaysen, cherish it.
Fluff

Mr Mark,
My human Vic-k, wants me to point out, that, when he says, 'fallen in love' with the translator, he means copious amounts of admiration and respect, for that person, not that he wants to do the other mucky messy stuff that humans do :oops:
Fluff
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xiamenese
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Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:21 pm Post

@Jaysen, "Dinna fash y'sel". Judgements as to preference are highly subjective, and it's perfectly OK to like the second ... you share the excellent company of my daughter! Your post about your colleagues and the translated Chinese you have read made me wonder how long they have been in the States, or indeed whether they are Chinese Americans, as according to my lights, if they write more like the first, then they have absorbed very natural English structure; it's very flattering that you should say the second is like the English in books translated from Chinese that they have given you, as that text is not unlike the better end of Chinese-done translations. Even Chinese friends thought it was done by a Chinese speaker; it means I got the style of a Chinese translator into English about right!

@Fluff ... no problem with his Vic-ship. Actually, his reaction was very flattering indeed.

In general, I think it needs to be borne in mind, thinking of the first translation in particular, that, leaving aside the conscious attempt to preserve the poetic nature of the source and it's language quality which will come later, it was done by a British English speaker in his mid-60s, who went through a classical education and who has a prediliction, therefore, for more complex structures and less common lexis than many, in particular those of the younger generation, and it would seem of many Americans. I am minded of the American I met in Beijing, who told me that he really admired British academics for their much richer language and wider vocabulary in one breath, and in the next, as it were, told me that I should simplify my English! :)
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da
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Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:57 pm Post

I am minded of the American I met in Beijing, who told me that he really admired British academics for their much richer language and wider vocabulary in one breath, and in the next, as it were, told me that I should simplify my English!


Gad.

Dave

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Siren
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Tue Jan 26, 2010 7:43 pm Post

xiamenese wrote:packet of cheesy wotsits

Ooooh, thank you! I didn't know cheesy wotsits were being dangled. :)
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vic-k
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Tue Jan 26, 2010 7:56 pm Post

Siren wrote: I didn't know cheesy wotsits were being dangled.
With your record of, and propensity for, substance abuse, the mind doth boggle at just what you`ll do with them! :shock:
Fluff
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Siren
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Tue Jan 26, 2010 8:46 pm Post

vic-k wrote:the mind doth boggle at just what you`ll do with them! :shock:

I'm going to hang them from my sou'wester, Aussie-cork-hat-style, to keep the flies out of my face when I trek across deserts. There aren't many deserts in rural Suffolk, but I think I will cut a sartorial swathe, regardless.
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vic-k
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Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:31 pm Post

xiamenese wrote: it was done by a British English speaker in his mid-60s, who went through a classical education and who has a prediliction, therefore, for more complex structures and less common lexis than many, in particular those of the younger generation, and it would seem of many Americans.
Mark,
I`m assuming this is yourself you`re talking about here. I am right, am I not?
Is this thread dead now, or are you still marking.

Who was the author?
Take care
VIc
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xiamenese
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Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:33 am Post

Sorry for the long silence ... wedding in Guangzhou of favourite former-student, now in NZ for the Spring Festival holiday, with 40th wedding anniversary, wife's birthday and nearly 90th birthday of father-in-law rolled in. He's a bit crook — OK, you'se on the other side of the puddle, that's Aussie-Kiwi for unwell — so were hoping and praying he'll pull out of it.

But no chance to tell you more at the mo'. But the translator was me, yes, Vic.

Mark
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vic-k
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Sat Feb 06, 2010 10:24 am Post

xiamenese wrote: But the translator was me, yes, Vic.
Of course it was. I must `ve been, skimming, through Jameson induced miasmic haze when I read the post.

Hope your father in law makes a speedy recovery.
Take care
Vic
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