Chinese translation agency offers the following information:
There are some basic principles for each profession, which is often referred to the fundamentals. General speaking, the fundamentals in translation cover five major aspects:
(1) Fundamentals in attitude -
This aspect involves three issues: the orientation (to understand the purpose and the subjects of translation service), the motivation (to further study and research diligently to do the job effectively and efficiently), and attitude (to have the scientific spirit, cautious style, willingness to study, and the perseverance to pursue the best answer so as to keep making progress). A translator is expected to endure hardship before entering the profession. A translator should never be conceited with a little achievement, otherwise, the efforts will be in vain. Only by working diligently and by making breakthroughs can a translator achieve higher status.
(2) Fundamentals in foreign language-
Needless to say, a translator should have good command of foreign languages. There are two reasons. First, advanced proficiency in a foreign language is inevitable for efficient work in translation. Some translators hold the idea that only good command of Mandarin is necessary. After all, the shortage in English proficiency and knowledge about the language could be compensated by referring to the dictionary. Yet, this notion displays their ignorance about the essence of translation. Here is an example.
The source text is
“Sie (die Gro?en) werfen Schatten auf unsere Zeit und noch weit darüber hinaus.”
It was interpreted by a novice translator as “They (the great people) impacted our generation, and far more than that.” With preliminary examination on the translated sentence, we might not find it problematic. The translator comprehended the literal meaning and correctly explained the original text. However, after pondering over the case, we can realize that the translator lacks a profound understanding of the text. That is to say, the translator only expressed the “denotation” of the text but not the “connotation” of it, which is “and their legacy would be passed down to generation after generation”.
A better version is:
“They (the great people) have impact on our era, and their legacy would be passed down to generation after generation.”
Though the lexical meaning could be found in the dictionary, good translation could only be achieved with profound understanding of the text as well as the context. Note: A good translator could understand the underlying meaning of the text by relying on the dictionary. The ability is gained through accumulated experience.
Second, fundamentals in foreign languages include a large vocabulary, grammar knowledge, reading comprehension, and context analysis. A translator who has a large vocabulary as well as good knowledge about the semantic features of each word could translate the text more accurately and more efficiently. Without adequate knowledge about the grammatical rules, such as the subjunctive moods, a translator might encounter a lot of difficulties and make a lot of mistakes. Reading comprehension is essential for a translator to get the “gist” of the original text. Context analysis means the ability to understand the meaning of lexical and syntactical components of the original text and the connection between them, so as to complete the task of translation.
(3) Fundamentals in Chinese-
The importance of Chinese proficiency is self-evident. My point here is that most of us do not have adequate knowledge about the fundamentals of Chinese. Sometimes, our Chinese proficiency would not be at par with our foreign language proficiency. Some people would consider this ridiculous; we have been learning Chinese for more than ten years or even for decades— isn’t that enough for the translation work? Well, here is an example.
The original text is
“Puschkin war, wie Goethe, ein Nationaldichter seines Volkes, geh?rt wieGoethe der Weltliteratur an.”
A draft version of Chinese translation was rendered as “Pushkin, like Goethe, is a national poet of the people, and he belongs to the World literature, just like Goethe.” Here, my comment is that the meaning of “a national poet of the people” and “belong to the world literature” is quite ambiguous. It is obvious that the translation is paradoxical and unclear. It is considered that a lack of good command of Chinese would be the major cause of the problem.
Here is a revision:
Pushkin, like Goethe, is a national poet of his country as well as a prominent author of world literature.
Translators without a good command of Chinese would encounter difficulties in translating and conveying the meaning appropriately. They may face some problems, including: (1) being unable to organize the sentence properly, (2) missing essential components in the sentence, (3) adopting inappropriate phrasing, (4) failing to be loyal to the original text or mistranslating, and (5) making long and insipid sentences. General speaking, fundamentals of Chinese include vocabulary size, grammatical knowledge, lexical knowledge, syntactical competence, literary competence (including the understanding of classical literature), and so on.
(4) Fundamentals of knowledge fields-
It is no exaggeration to say that a translator has to know something about everything. An author can focus on a professional field, and his lexical choice could, to some extent, display “specialty”. However, it is unlikely that a translator only encounters texts created by a specific author or works of a professional field. So, the nature of this profession requires that a translator should gain knowledge from all fields. Here is an example.
The original (German) text is
“Als Kreuz für den Park hatte auch die “Schutzgemeinschaft Gro?er Tiergarten” die Love-Parade gesehen und versucht, die Veranstaltung zu verhindern.”
Analysis: This sentence is an excerpt from an article in the 17th issue of a weekly journal, Stern. The article is about a French photographer who took pictures of Europe from the sky and then held an exhibition named “The bird’s-eye view of Europe, the wondrous view of the land”.
Let us focus on the phrase “Love-Parade” first. Actually, it refers to the German philanthropic event which has been held in summer over the past few years. More than a million people have participated in Love-Parade. There is a different theme each year: ‘animal protection’ in 2001 and ‘peace’ in 2002. Since the terminal stop of the parade is the green bushes of the Berlin Zoo, it is referred to by some German media as “the Crusaders in the Green.” Without the ‘background knowledge,’ a translator could not translate the sentence accurately if any target text is produced. German people have diversified opinions about this ‘Love-Parade’. Some people think the parade itself is damaging the environment even though the theme is ‘environmental protection’. This is suggested in the source text. The sentence could be translated as:
“The (German) ‘Zoo Protection Association’ saw ‘Love-Parade,’ which is just like a ‘Crusaders in the zoo,’ and tried to prevent it from happening.”
It should be noted that a translator should have basic knowledge in various fields, especially politics, economics, culture, history, geography, literature, music, local customs, daily routines, etc. To accurately translate the sentence above, more knowledge about Germany (including the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic) and knowledge about our home country would definitely be helpful. Limited knowledge would cause some problems, such as: (1) difficulties in reading comprehension—a translator may only know the denotation of the text but not the underlying meaning of it; (2) difficulties in proper phrasing—a translator who doesn’t know the convention expression of a term may just transfer the source text into Chinese disregarding the actual meaning; (3) difficulties in organizing the sentence—a translator may produce ‘Chinese Pidgin English’; (4) difficulties in using polished language—a translator may understand the meaning of the source text but unable to convey the semantic meaning with the target language properly; it is like suffering in silence.
(5) Fundamentals in techniques-
It is evident that translation is a profession that requires a lot of techniques. However, people hold different views about what “translation techniques” are. In our perspective, translation techniques are the general principles to deal with the problems that we encounter while translating a text. These principles derive from the translator’s accumulated experience and profound understanding of the translation theories. Translation techniques are the ‘secret’ for a translator to translate the source text accurately into the target language. These techniques are essential for a translator to survive in the industry. Here is an example. The original text is:
“Aus ganz Europa kamen die Menschen ... ”
Chinese translation of the sentence was rendered as ① People come from all across Europe… and ② People are from different European countries… With preliminary examination, translation ① seems to be adequately precise, and it is a grammatical sentence. However, a careful inspection reveals a problem: the phrase meaning ‘come from all across Europe’ is not semantically concrete enough, and it is not a conventional expression. Translation ② has some changes in the wording and ‘paraphrases’ the original sentence. It presents the semantic meaning in a better way, having a “refreshing” effect.
Considering the five fundamentals mentioned above, we can compare translation to riding a bicycle. The translator is like a cyclist. “Fundamentals in attitude” keeps him sober, be aware of the destination, and less likely to have an accident. “Fundamentals in German and Chinese” is like the front and back wheels of the bike; both are essential. “Fundamentals in knowledge fields” is similar to familiarity of the traffic rules, which helps a cyclist to reach the destination fast and safe. “Fundamentals in techniques” is like the skill of riding a bike— acquiring it takes some time, but mastering it helps a lot.
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