Archive for translation

Niggling nitpicking in Hong Kong bureaucratese

Did China "take back" (shōuhuí 收回) Hong Kong from Great Britain or did it "recover" (huīfù 恢復) the former colony?  Even though representatives of the Chinese government have used the former expression in the past, they now insist that there was no "taking back", only "recovering" what was always China's.

On July 1, 1997, was there a “handover of sovereignty” (zhǔquán yíjiāo 主權移交)?  Despite the fact that this phrase was widely used by diplomats to describe what took place between the governments of Britain and the PRC, the Protocol Division of the Hong Kong government is now attempting to retroactively excise this offending language from official publications, including school textbooks.

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Sexist tech ad

The news about sexism in China's high tech industry is out and it's all over the internet:

The most damning account of all comes in Lijia Zhang's "Chinese Tech Companies’ Dirty Secret" (New York Times Opinion, 4/23/18), which includes a video presentation.  At 1:34, there's a job ad from the Chinese tech company Meituan which is so disgusting that I've purposely put the screenshots on the second page.  (What follows in the video is even more repulsive.)  I didn't want to pass up the Meituan ad altogether, however, because it does have an interesting linguistic hook.

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The elegance of Google Translate

When I was in graduate school, some of my best friends were mathematicians.  I was always intrigued by their approach to problem solving.  They told me that merely solving problems was not satisfying to them.  Rather, their goal was to solve problems elegantly.

This morning, I was reminded of the modus operandi of mathematicians when I asked Google Translate (GT) to render a short passage of German into English.

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Sino-Mongolian toponymy, part 2

[This is a guest post by Bathrobe]

Global Times have an article on the archaeological site mentioned in this recent LL post:

"Questionable Sino-Mongolian toponymy" (1/18/18)

The Global Times article is "Chinese-Mongolian archeological team study mysterious Xiongnu city" (2/5/18) by Huang Tingting.  The relevant section is:

Since 2014, Song's institute, the National Museum of Mongolia and the International College of Nomadic Culture of Mongolia have been excavating the Khermen Tal City site at the junction of the Orkhon River and one of its major tributaries – the Tamir River, also named Hudgiyn Denj, literally Three Interconnected Cities.

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Hockey language divergence between North Korea and South Korea

People have been wondering if there has been a language problem between North Korean and South Korean players on the combined Korean women's hockey team at the Olympics.  As a matter of fact, there is a gulf between the two nations in the language of hockey itself.

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Korean editorial rumor, speculation, and innuendo

It all started with an English language South Korean newspaper making unsubstantiated claims that a staff member on President Trump's National Security Council was said to have mentioned that a limited strike against North Korea "might help in the midterm elections".

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Don't blame Google Translate

Douglas Hofstadter has a critical article in the latest issue of The Atlantic (1/30/18):

"The Shallowness of Google Translate:  The program uses state-of-the-art AI techniques, but simple tests show that it's a long way from real understanding." (1/30/18).

Hofstadter criticizes GT for not being as good as himself at translating from French, German, and Chinese into English.  I will let others respond to his critique of the French and German translations, but I will comment on his critique of the Chinese to English translation.

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Translating Trump

Whether he really said it or not — "Trump appears to deny using 'shithole' language" (POLITICO [1/12/18]), see also here — "shithole" is already part of the ever-burgeoning scatalogical lore surrounding President Trump, so people have to deal with it, including translating this colorful term into other languages.

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Progress in the war on Chinglish

If you see the two big letters "GB" in the top right corner of an official publication from the Chinese government, you know it's serious.  Those letters stand for Guójiā Biāozhǔn 国家标准 ("National standard").

In the present instance, they have promulgated, as of December 1, 2017, "Guidelines for the use of English in public service areas — Part 9:  Accommodation and catering".  They also have issued similar guidelines for transportation, tourism, culture and entertainment, sports and athletics, education, medicine and sanitation / health / hygiene, communication, and commerce / business and finance.

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Japanese "Yankee" ("juvenile delinquent")

"Japanese start-up helping ‘delinquents’ compete against college graduates for city jobs with new internship:  The company Hassyadai has so far helped 100 youth from outside Tokyo to land employment", SCMP (12/2/17):

Dubbed the “Yankee internship”, the programme, whose participants range in age from 16 to 22, is unique in that it includes the category of Yankee – Japanese slang for delinquent youth.

How did English "Yankee" come to mean "delinquent youth" in Japanese?

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Awesome / sugoi すごい!

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Translating the I ching (Book of Changes)

For the last two decades or so, my brother Denis and I have been working on a translation of the Yìjīng 易經 (Classic of Changes).  We shall probably finish the first draft within a year.

Of all the Chinese classics, the I ching is the one that most Sinologists do not want to touch because of its maddening opacity.  In this regard, it is worth quoting at some length the words of James Legge (1815-1897), the Victorian translator of all the Confucian classics, a monumental achievement that still stands today as an invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to acquaint him/herself with these essential texts of early Chinese civilization.

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A sign pointing to a sign

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