Archive for translation

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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Imperial miscommunication

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu]

I came across a fun anecdote from The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty,  which is the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty from 1413-1865, a national treasure of Korea. It is full of interesting, authentic records, since no one, including the kings themselves, could revise the records.  Consequently, even funny mistakes made by the Kings will be recorded in detail.

The story of failed communication between a Goryo Dynasty diplomat and the Hongwu Emperor (1368-1398; r. 1328-1398) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The story is as below (I have translated into English what I read in Korean, so what was actually said in Chinese at the time could be slightly different but the meaning should be the same):

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"National backbone"

I. J. Khanewala writes:

While visiting the tomb of the first emperor, I saw a sign in Mandarin which read minzu jiliang and translated as "National backbone". It left me quite mystified.  Here's a photo of the sign:

Source ("Utterly lost in translation").  Any idea what it could mean?

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The wonders of Google Translate

I have sung the praises of Google Translate (GT) before (e.g., "Google Translate is even better now" [9/27/16]), but this morning something happened with GT that really tickled my fancy.

One thing I use GT for is to compose texts in Chinese.  I find it to be a very powerful and easy to use input tool.

So I input the following:

shuō dìngle 說定了
xīngqítiān zhōngwǔ jiàn 星期天中午見

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