Translationese in English-to-Chinese Translation
发布日期:2020-04-21 09:43
Translationese is a common problem in translation practice. Translationese means mechanically transplanting the language form, expression, and syntactic structure of a source language into a target language, thus forming a language mixture that does not conform to the expression habits of the target language. Translationese is mainly characterized by a poor writing style, that is, only translating the original text word by word in form without focusing on the language structure characteristics and customary expression of the target language, thus making readers feel that the translation is a mixture of accents and difficult to read or comprehend. This problem is particularly prominent in the translation of newspapers, magazines, literary works, advertisements, politics, company websites, marketing, and other projects.

There are many causes for translationese. In my view, there are objective and subjective causes for translationese: The main objective cause is westernization, while the main subjective cause is the translator's translation attitude. In the process of learning a language, the thinking pattern and language expression of a translator will inevitably be affected by the language. Due to the influence of the English language for a long time, translation delivered by the translator inevitably becomes westernized. Therefore, after translation, the translator should read his/her translation from the reader's point of view, to confirm whether the translation conforms to the Chinese expression habits, whether the translation is logical, and whether the translation is comprehensible to the reader. Furthermore, the translator should adhere to the concept of textual translation, to examine whether each sentence conforms to the meaning of the entire text as a whole. In the absence of these two steps, translationese is very likely to arise.
I. Reflection of translationese:
  1. Words
Both English and Chinese words have basic and extended meanings. The basic meaning is the original and inherent meaning of the word. For the extended meaning, the basic meaning should be adjusted based on the context. With the change of context, in English-to-Chinese conversion, if the basic meaning of the word is not converted correspondingly in the target language, translationese arises. For example:

Source: Each track is aligned to industry-leading certifications, which employers look for as validation of your exceptional skill.
Original translation: 每条发展道路均与行业领先的认证保持一致,雇主将其视为卓越技能的验证。
Modified translation: 每门课程均与行业领先的认证直接挂钩,雇主会据此评判您是否具备卓越技能。

This sentence appears in a marketing article about a course of the Cisco Networking Academy. Therefore, the wording, sentence style, and even tone of the translation must conform to the characteristics, purposes, and requirements of such an article. The basic meaning of the word should be adjusted based on the context. You should not think of "道路" as soon as you see "track" and "验证" as soon as you see "validation".

2. Sentence expression

In terms of sentence expression, translationese mainly means that the translation is not easy to read and does not confirm to the expression habits of authentic Chinese. For example, in the translation, there are long sentences with multiple attributive modifiers, adverbial postposition, and frequent use of pronouns, and the translation is excessively restricted by the word order and grammatical structure of the original text. For example:

Source: To get started, we recommend these three "no experience required" courses for all students, regardless of your career goal.
Original translation: 我们建议从适用于所有学生的这三个“无需经验”的课程开始,无论您的职业目标是什么。
Modified translation: 无论您的职业目标是什么,我们建议所有学生都从这三门“无需经验”的课程开始学起。

3. Sentence pattern

English is a hypotaxis language that attaches importance to external formal connection, while Chinese is a parataxis language that attaches importance to internal logical relationship. Therefore, the use of connectives in English is far more frequent than that in Chinese. In English-to-Chinese translation, if the translation is excessively affected and limited by English connectives, translationese arises. For example:

Source: Rather than have the Web Auth process be handled exclusively by the local WLC, the authentication portion can be separated and handled by an external authentication server while the local WLC handles the provisioning of the web login pages.
Original translation: 网络身份验证过程不由本地 WLC 专门处理,而是可由外部验证服务器隔离和处理验证部分,而本地 WLC 处理 Web 登录页面的设置。

Modified translation: 不是由本地 WLC 独立处理网络身份验证过程,而是可将身份验证部分分离出去,由外部身份验证服务器进行处理,而本地 WLC 负责处理 Web 登录页面的设置。

4. Realistic logic
Both the source language and the target language must be based on objective facts and conform to logical relationships between objective things. If you just translate English into Chinese literally without focusing on logical relationships between objective things, the translation will be incomprehensible. For example:

Source: Then, find one of our 10,500+ academies near you to enroll.
Original translation: 然后,从附近的 10,500 多所学院中找出一所并报名。
Modified translation: 然后,从我们的 10,500 多所学院中就近选择一所报名学习。
(Judging from practical experience, it is impossible that the 10,500+ academies are all nearby.)

5. Cultural transmission

The differences between English and Chinese are actually cultural differences. In translation, literal translation is caused due to lack of consideration in rhetorical expression and effect and incomplete understanding of the source language information of idioms and allusions, and there is no necessary addition or explanation in the translation. Therefore, translationese arises and cross-cultural communication fails. For example:

Source: John can be relied on. He eats no fish and plays the game.
Original translation: 约翰为人可靠,他不吃鱼,玩游戏。
Modified translation: 约翰为人可靠,既忠诚又正直。
This is a usage with a historical origin. In British history, religious struggles were fierce, and the Catholicism stipulated that Christians in Ramadan can eat fish. After the Protestantism overthrew the Catholicism, the Protestants refused to eat fish to show loyalty to the Protestantism. Therefore, "eat no fish" is translated into "忠诚", and "play the game" is translated into "守规矩".

II. Measures against translationese
  1. Full and thorough understanding of the original text
Correct and thorough understanding of the original text is the basis for full expression. Translation is not an easy task. To create a good translation, you should weigh every word and repeatedly review the first draft after translation. In translation, usually, we are completely confused about the meaning of a sentence when we see the sentence for the first time, but we can understand the sentence after reading the sentence repeatedly. At first, we may be affected and restricted by the language habits of the original text, but after repeated reading and review, we can gradually get rid of the constraint of the original text, thus making the translation more confirm to the language expression habits of the target language. Furthermore, the translator should know as much as possible about the author's writing intention, writing style, etc. to fully understand the original text.
  1. Improvement in the translator's quality
The translator should strive to improve English level to lay a solid foundation for understanding the original text correctly and efficiently. In addition, the translator should improve Chinese cultivation to lay a foundation for expressing the target language authentically and freely. Furthermore, translation itself involves different disciplines and fields. The translator should often focus on accumulating background knowledge in all aspects to overcome the difficulties in the professional field during translation, thus creating a translation without translationese.
  1. Focusing on use of translation strategies and skills
In translation, the translator should use various translation strategies and skills flexibly to avoid mechanical translation of the original text. For example, at the lexical level, available skills include word omission, word conversion, semantic extension, etc. At the syntactic level, available skills include long sentence splitting, word order adjustment, voice conversion, etc. This involves extensive and deep knowledge and cannot be clearly described in a short article. We will have a further discussion in the future.