Archive for Translation

Pork in a pot

That's how Google Translate renders "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉", and it sounds pretty good, though it's wrong, as we will discover below.  Baidu fanyi gives "Soul of shadow", for which I have no idea how they got it or what it means in relation to a pork entree.  Microsoft Bing Translator has "Pots and pans of meat", which leaves me wondering how carefully prepared it might be. 

I got interested in this term, "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉" (lit., "pot package / bag / bundle meat") because of these remarks by Michael Broughton:

I am a Chinese translator and a long time reader of Language Log. 
 
I am currently in the midst of translating a travel book from Chinese to English and have recently come across a dish called 锅包肉. 
 
After doing some searching online I discovered that the most common translation for this dish is "Fried Pork in Scoop" (over 2000 hits in Google when searched with quotation marks [VHM:  I got 11,500 hits]).

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Child bear

From Philip Lutgendorf:

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"(Political) party" in the Analects

A select quotation from the Confucian Analects (Zǐlù 13.18):

Shè gōng yù Kǒngzǐ yuē:`Wú dǎng yǒu zhígōng zhě, qí fù rǎng yáng, ér zi zhèng zhī. 'Kǒngzǐ yuē:`Wú dǎng zhī zhí zhě yì yú shì. Fù wèi zi yǐn, zi wèi fù yǐn, zhí zài qí zhōng yǐ.'

葉公語孔子曰:「吾黨有直躬者,其父攘羊,而子證之。」孔子曰:「吾黨之直者異於是。父為子隱,子為父隱,直在其中矣。」

The Duke of She informed Confucius, saying, "Among us here there are those who may be styled upright in their conduct. If their father have stolen a sheep, they will bear witness to the fact." Confucius said, "Among us, in our part of the country, those who are upright are different from this. The father conceals the misconduct of the son, and the son conceals the misconduct of the father. Uprightness is to be found in this."  (trans. James Legge)

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Google Translate Sabotage, part 2

This is all over the Chinese internet:


(source)

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The (alleged) untranslatability of Chinese poetry, part 2

[This is a guest post by Leanne Ogasawara]

After reviewing David Hinton’s latest book, China Root, for the Asian Review of Books, a friend pointed me to this discussion at LL. I was so happy to see old friends (Hi Bathrobe!) and wanted to leave a comment. Sadly, because I was so late in the game, I was unable to do so. But then, our wonderful host invited me to leave my comment as a guest post—thank you VM!!

I am a Japanese translator and an old friend of LL. For twenty years now I have been working on one particular modern Japanese poet, Takamura Kotaro. I started my translations of his Chieko Poems in Grad school and have been steadily working on them ever since, publishing a few here and there over the years. I would never have continued this if I thought Japanese poetry is untranslatable. And indeed like so like many people here, the article on the NYRBs drove me up the wall. Part of the problem is that it leads to discussions like we saw on the blog on September 26—discussions which inevitably started revolving around a bit of a straw man, since no one reasonable has ever said that Chinese poetry is “untranslatable." What people say is that something will be lost. And how much? This is the “traitor” in translation. And it is a valid thing to ask in English translations in a language like Japanese or Chinese. In this case, the writers mentioned in the article— Eliot Weinberger, Lucas Klein, Burton Watson, Stephen Owen, and David Hinton, among others— are concerned with the Chinese characters. And in Japanese this is further complicated by the choices authors make in using kanji as opposed to hiragana and katakana—how to ever convey that in English?

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BLM in Chinese

The whole world knows about BLM (Black Lives Matter). Native speakers of English (at least American English — I can't vouch for other varieties) instinctively know what the innately idiomatic intransitive verb "matter" means in this construction. But, even for native speakers, it's not easy to define in one word. I suppose, in the expression "Black Lives Matter" it means something like "are of consequence / importance". Yet, if we reworded the slogan as "Black Lives Are of Consequence / Importance" or "Black Lives Are Important / Consequential", it would lose its impact, its zing.

Pondering all of these aspects of the movement's name, I often wondered how "matter" could be felicitously rendered in Chinese. To tell the truth, though, I didn't spend much time on trying to come up with a good translation, because nothing readily came to mind — until this morning when Diana Shuheng Zhang told me she was dissatisfied with the translation that she was most familiar with and appalled by its underlying racism: "Hēi mìng guì 黑命贵" ("Black Lives Are Expensive / Costly" — that's a raw, crude, literal translation of the last word, which can also be interpreted to mean "Important / Valuable"). Diana said that it sounds too crass and materialistic, and I would have to agree with her. She further says that this is blatant Chinese racism, reflecting perhaps not Chinese xenophobia but more of the Chinese willingness / initiative to be merged with supremacists — be they white (who have already “attained” supremacy in many repects), or Chinese themselves (who are yet “striving” for supremacy, at least ideologically!).

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Non-Han writing in the PRC: A new series

[Blog post today by Bruce Humes]

VHM:  Since I know about half of the authors and translators in this series, I am pleased to see them and their cohort getting wider recognition and circulation.


"'Multi-ethnic' Literature: Yilin’s 2020 Cache of Fiction by non-Han Writers"

As your year-end holiday lockdown fast approaches, it’s worth noting a new series of books by non-Han writers launched this year by one of China’s best-known publishers, Yilin Press — lit., “translation forest” — that is normally associated with marketing popular foreign-language fiction in Mandarin for Chinese readers.

The name of the series itself, Library of Contemporary Classics by China’s Multi-ethnic Writers (中国当代多民族经典作家文库), is notable, because it employs the term “multi-ethnic” rather than the former politically correct, ubiquitous reference to “minority ethnic” literature (少数民族文学) that must surely have rankled some.

I will write more about the worrisome outlook for mother-tongue, multi-ethnic literature out of China — given moves to severely restrict education in Uyghur, Tibetan and Mongolian, and the ongoing incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Turkophone people in Xinjiang — but for now, here are the titles in Yilin’s new series (so far available only in Chinese) with a bit of background info and links:

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"Hit the airplane" and Google Translate

Charles Belov writes:

In response to a tweet by How Wee Ng:

During speaking class today, students practised describing different modes of transport, including taking a taxi dǎchē 打车, taking a plane zuò fēijī 坐飞机. But someone almost said "He took the plane to Beijing" using dǎ 打+ fēijī 飞机. I immediately intercepted, "No, you can’t go to Beijing that way."

I checked Google Translate and it responded "Take a plane".

I've submitted the correct translation "masturbate", but it will take more than one person submitting it to get the correction to happen.

Wiktionary has the correct translation, and it apparently has acquired a secondary meaning in Cantonese ("to do something solely for the feel-good feeling"), according to that entry, to my surprise.

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Translation loops

From Jeff DeMarco:

I’m sure you’ve seen the Facebook translation artifact where it repeats “and I’m going to go to the middle of the day.” This post does that and something similar with “of the 912th.” I keep advising Facebook that these are unintelligible, but they seem to be a low priority.

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Wattle gate

Stefan Krasowski, who graduated from the Wharton School of Penn in 2002, and has visited every country in the world, just wrote this note to the e-Mair list:

Wattleseed milkshake

This Australian milkshake brought to mind a VHM Classical Sinitic class where I first encountered the word "wattle" in translating a Du Fu (712-770) poem.

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Learning Tamil

Recently we have had a string of posts on South Asian linguistic phenomena.  Most of the languages involved have been Indic, and will probably continue to be predominantly so during the coming months and years.  Consequently, I'm delighted today to make a post about Tamil, a Dravidian language with a glorious heritage.

Except where otherwise noted, the indented paragraphs below are by Carrie Wiebe (professor of Chinese language and literature at Middlebury).  They are integral and self-explanatory, so I will make few interpolations.

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Shitshows, shitholes, and shitstorms

I don't know who was responsible for first labeling the Trump-Biden debate a "shitshow", but the word has been much talked about during the last couple of days.

Nathan Hopson wrote in:

Well, obviously I want to know how the world is translating "shit show." You surely don't have to ask why.

French, the other language I read my news in, can fall back on un merdier or un spectacle de merde, both of which appear to be also liberally sprinkled in social media today.

Japanese famously doesn't have a whole lot of obscenities, but fortunately shit is one of them.

Asahi, Japan's #2 paper gave us:

Shit show(くそみたいなショー)
kuso mitai na shō = a show like shit

(FWIW, Yahoo Japan's realtime search of "shit show" (on Twitter, etc.), has many examples, mostly referencing the Asahi article.)

IMHO, it's sad that we have to fall back on a simile here. Takes some of the oomph out of the gut punch that was our national horror show.

How is the rest of the world press dealing with this "spectacle of shit"?

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The (alleged) untranslatability of Chinese poetry

Review:

"Poems Without an ‘I’", by Madeleine Thien
NYRB October 8, 2020 Issue

The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po)
by Ha Jin
Pantheon, 301 pp.

The Selected Poems of Tu Fu: Expanded and Newly Translated
by David Hinton
New Directions, 267 pp.

Awakened Cosmos: The Mind of Classical Chinese Poetry
by David Hinton
Shambhala, 138 pp.

I have never been a fan of the view that Chinese poetry is untranslatable, or that  any other genres of Chinese literature, for that matter, are untranslatable.  Since I have done a huge amount of translation in my lifetime, if I accepted the notion that Chinese literature is untranslatable, I would long ago have made a gigantic fool of myself.  Quite the contrary, I am content with my accomplishments in translating all sorts of Chinese literature into English, and I believe that what I have done enriches the intellectual life of Americans and other speakers of English by making available to them an equivalent emotional and esthetic experience as that afforded to Chinese readers of the works in their original language.

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