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Essential Writing Techniques in Chinese Document Translation

Author:dongdong   Joined:2013/7/24   Clicks:2694 Secondary

    A. During the Chinese document translation we found that English grammar is structure-oriented while Chinese grammar is semantic -oriented. In terms of structure, the former is more logical, while the latter is more expressive. 

    Example: Children will play with dolls equipped with personality chips, computers with inbuilt personalities will be regarded as workmates rather than tools, people will enjoy watching television will smell-o-vision system and the digital age will have arrived.

    This English sentence is made up of four separate compound sentences. The first three sentences are in the simple future tense while the last one is in the future perfect tense. The sentences are connected using different tenses, commas and the coordinating conjunction “and”. The Chinese version has a simpler structure. The relationship of the sentences is fully presented semantically. The first three sentences have a parallel relationship, and the last one is the result. 

    B. While in the Chinese document translation, translators will know there are more long sentences in English grammar than in Chinese. Since there are rules in English grammar, many words can be expressed in one long sentence as long as the structure is correct.  By contrast, Chinese grammar is based on human expression. Different meanings have to be expressed in different sentences since every word has meaning. Most English sentences are long and complex, while Chinese sentences are short and simple in structure.

    Example: Interest in historical methods had arisen less from the external challenge that history as an intellectual discipline has to offer and more from internal disputes among historians.

    The original sentence is quite long, made up of 27 words without any punctuation.  It conveys the meaning of the entire sentence through grammar and structure, with the adverbial clause “less from... and more from” to modify the verb “arisen”. In the Chinese sentence, the important phrase“產生興趣” is expressed as an independent clause with two different meanings expressed in different sentences. The sentences are analyzed separately. 

    C. There are more subordinate clauses in English grammar than in Chinese. In English, long modifiers or subordinate clauses can make sentences long and complex, while subordinate clauses connected by clause indicators make the whole sentence complete. In contrast, Chinese grammar has more short sentences with loose structure. Therefore, subordinate clauses in English are often translated using short sentences in Chinese. 

    Example: On the whole, a conclusion can be drawn with a certain degree of confidence, but only if a child is assumed to have had the same attitude towards the test as the other one whom he is compared to, and only if he was not punished due to his lack of relevant information. 
Translation: 總的來說,得出這樣一個結論是有一定程度把握的,但是必須具備兩個條件:能夠假定這個孩子對測試的態度和與他相比的另一個孩子的態度相同;他也沒有因缺乏別的孩子已掌握的有關知識而被扣分。

    The two clauses in English with the words “only if” make the entire sentence complex, but the coordinate conjunctions “but” and “and” make it logical: …能夠得出結論…但是只要…而且只要…. (but only if...and only if…) in Chinese. Although there are no subordinate clauses in Chinese, the version is still clear.

    D. There are more pronouns in English grammar and more nouns in Chinese grammar. In English grammar, there are personal pronouns like ”we, you, he, they”, etc. as well as relative pronouns like” that, which” etc., which are used in long and complex sentences to maintain cohesion and avoid repetition. In Chinese grammar, there are also pronouns, but not as many. Given the loose structure and short sentences, it is semantically clearer to use short sentences in Chinese. 

    Example: There will be television talk shows hosted by robots, and cars with pollution monitors that will disable them when they cause problems.
Translation: 屆時,將出現由機器人主持的電視訪談節目及裝有污染監測器的汽車,一旦這些汽車污染超標(或違規),監測器就會使其停駛。

    E. There are more passive sentences in English grammar than in Chinese, especially in the scientific and technical use of English. Although there are words like“被” “由” etc. that denote a passive state, it is more common to see passive sentences in English. Therefore, when translating, a passive sentence in English is often expressed as an active sentence in Chinese. Here are some Chinese translations of common passive sentence patterns:
It must be pointed out that… 必須指出…
It must be admitted that… 必須承認…
It is imagined that… 人們認為…
It cannot be denied that… 不可否認…
It will be seen from this that… 由此可知…
It should be realized that… 必須認識到…
It is (always) stressed that... 人們(總是)強調…
It may be said without fear of exaggeration that… 可以毫不誇張地說…

    These passive sentences are frequently used in scientific and technical English. Translators should be familiar with these fixed patterns and understand the voice change in translation.
Example: It is imagined by many that the operations of the common mind can be by no means compared with these processes and that they have to be acquired by a sort of special training.

    There are three passive voices in this English sentence; namely, “is imagined, be compared, be acquired” which are all translated in Chinese using the active voice“認為、相比、掌握”.

    There are some passive words in English that should be translated in Chinese to make the Chinese document translation version appear more natural. Example: New sources of energy must be found, and this will take time, but it is not likely to result in any situation that will restore (return; recovery, rehabilitation; recover, recovery) affordable and abundant energy that we have had in the past. Translation: 必須找到新的能源,這需要時間;而過去我們感覺到的那種能源價廉而充足的情況將不大可能再出現了。

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