3 Useful Skills for Language Translation from English to Chinese

(Last Modified: 2019-07-16 09:50:02    Author: jinyu)

English and Chinese are so different. The sentence forming, language structure, expressive manner make them distinct from each other. When translating English into Chinese, there are some practical strategies or methods suitable for some of the documents. Here we are going to get an insight into how some of those translation tricks work.

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1. Conversion

There is a significant difference between English and Chinese: Passive voice is more widely used in English than that in Chinese. That makes voice conversion necessary when doing translate on some of the English sentences. For examples:

English (Passive): The teacher is respected by all the students.

Chinese (Active): 所有学生都尊敬这名老师。
("suǒ yǒu xué shēng dōu zūn jìng zhè míng lǎo shī")

English (Passive): The weather must be given into consideration when you travel.

Chinese (Active): 当你旅行时,必须考虑天气状况。
("dāng nǐ lǚ xíng shí, bì xū kǎo lǜ tiān qì zhuàng kuàng")

English (Passive): It is well known that smoking is bad for our health.

Chinese (Active): 众所周知,吸烟不利于身体健康。
("zhòng suǒ zhōu zhī, xī yān bú lì yú shēn tǐ jiàn kāng")

Above 3 examples converts passive voice to active voice, making the sentences more readable. Sometimes, we need to convert on word classes:

English (noun): A careful study of the manual will make you experienced.

Chinese (verb): 认真学习手册会让你更具经验。
("rèn zhēn xué xí shǒu cè huì ràng nǐ gèng jù jīng yàn")

English (adjective): I am confident that I will pass the exam.

Chinese (verb):深信,自己将通过此次考试。
("wǒ shēn xìn, zì jǐ jiāng tōng guò cǐ cì kǎo shì")

English (verb): The behavior of anger characterizes the mind of fear.

Chinese (noun): 愤怒的行为是恐惧心理的特征
("fèn nù de xíng wéi shì kǒng jù xīn lǐ de tè zhēng")

English (verb): That little girl has been encouraged by her father.

Chinese (noun): 那个小女孩得到了父亲的鼓励
("nà gè xiǎo nǚ hái dé dào le fù qīn de gǔ lì")

English (noun): Water is of great importance for human beings.

Chinese (adjective): 水对于人类来说十分重要
("shuǐ duì yú rén lèi lái shuō shí fēn zhòng yào")

Furthermore, Conversions can be carried out on sentence component also. Such as:

English (attributive): Nothing in the world is difficult for one who sets his mind to it.

Chinese (adverbial): 世上无难事,只怕有心人
("shì shàng wú nán shì, zhǐ pà yǒu xīn rén")

English (adverbial): In many villages, public toilets have been built for travellers.

Chinese (subject): 很多村子都为游客修建了公共厕所。
("hěn duō cūn zi dōu wèi yóu kè xiū jiàn le gōng gòng cè suǒ")

To sum up, conversion is needed in English translation for words, expressions, or even whole sentences, to make the target sentence more suitable for Chinese readers while conveying the original sense as much as possible. And vice versa, when translating from Chinese into English, the same principles shall be implemented.

2. Omission

Due to different grammar systems, omissions are often needed for English sentences on expletive components, redundant parts, conjunctive words, article words and prepositions.

For those translations omitting expletive components, here are some examples:

English (expletive subject): Stay at home when it rains.

Chinese (omitted): 下雨的话就待在家里。
("xià yǔ de huà jiù dāi zài jiā li")

English (expletive object): We think it unnecessary to contact our parents.

Chinese (omitted): 我们觉得没必要联系家人。
("wǒ mén jué de méi bì yào lián xì jiā rén")

For those redundant parts, they are also deleted from Chinese translations. Such as:

English (redundant subject): Mr. Li started to run when he saw his wife.

Chinese (omitted): 见到妻子后,李先生跑了起来。
("jiàn dào qī zǐ hòu, lǐ xiān shēng pǎo le qǐ lái")

English (duplicate content): Candidates who don't have any tattoos are preferred to this job over those who have.

Chinese (omitted): 没有纹身的候选人优先聘用。
("méi yǒu wén shēn de hòu xuǎn rén yōu xiān pìn yòng")

For those omissions on conjunctive words, here are the examples:

English: My father went back safe and sound.

Chinese: 我的父亲安然归来。
("wǒ de fù qīn ān rán guī lái")

English: As it is far from here, you'd better take enough money.

Chinese: 路比较远,你最好带够钱。
("lù bǐ jiào yuǎn, nǐ zuì hǎo dài gòu qián")

Article words and prepositions in English are sometimes omitted when translated into Chinese, for example:

English: A businessman should be honest.

Chinese: 生意人应该诚实。
("shēng yì rén yīng gāi chéng shí")

English: The Sun is bright and hot.

Chinese: 太阳明亮而又炽热。
("tài yáng míng liàng ér yòu chì rè")

English: Smoking is not allowed in public areas.

Chinese: 公共区域不许抽烟。
("gōng gòng qū yù bù xǔ chōu yān")

Omission is practical as Chinese relies not so much on sentence structures or relative components as English do. Lacking of some parts or even essential components in Chinese is allowable and common. Therefore, to achieve the aim of briefness or coherence, unnecessary contents are omitted when translating.

3. Separation

Due to the unique sentence forming rules, English sentence can be extensive. When dealing with those long English sentences, a useful practice is to split them into several short sentences while keeping the context unchanged, for example:

English: Tom and Lily bought a house close to 9th street where they first met in 2012.

Chinese: 汤姆和莉莉在靠近9号大街的地方买了房子,那里是他们在2012年初次认识的地方。
("tāng mǔ hé lì li zài kào jìn jiǔ hào dà jiē de dì fāng mǎi le fáng zi, nà shì tā mén zài 2012 nián chū cì rèn shí de dì fāng.")

English: It was a Sunday morning when I was preparing breakfast for the family and the thunderstorm came suddenly.

Chinese: 那是一个周日的早晨,我正在准备一家的早餐时,暴风雨突然来临。
("nà shì yī gè zhōu rì de zǎo chén, wǒ zhèng zài zhǔn bèi yī jiā de zǎo cān shí, bào fēng yǔ tū rán lái lín")

Explicit cohesive parts such as conjunctions, relative pronouns, syndetic pronouns make English unique in forms. English readers will not get overwhelmed by long sentences as indicators exist. However, one may not find those indicators in Chinese sentences. Therefore, separation of long English sentences is required to obtain better Chinese translation.

To summarize, word by word translation of English sentences is inappropriate. One shall get a full knowledge about properties of English and Chinese, their grammars as well as the sentence forming principles before he begin translating. The skills of conversion, omission and separation in this article are extensively used in Chinese language translation for their great effect on conveying original meanings.

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