I study linguistics and I use both Chinese and English. This makes me sensitive to the meaning of texts between two languages. Therefore I sometimes do some translation works. In fact, all multilingual contents on this website are all manually translated by myself.

To be frank, before entering college, I was having a bad time with Language and Literature, as a subject taught in high school. I used to fail all exams on this subject. This made me lose my confidence on my skill level of language expressing and writing. After entering college, I found out that it was not my lack of skill causing me to fail the exams, I just simply couldn't get along with that exam-specified mode of language usage. That's why I couldn't get a good grade on exams. As long as I'm expressing for deliver real ideas/information, and I know what and to whom I am expressing, I can use language just well as others. Now that I only write & translate what I like, I'm not having those troubles ever again. (I even give speeches and teach lectures sometimes!)

I like a concept called "localization". It is a style of translation, which aims to let the readers take the information in a way that fits into their culture background. I also like the Skopos theory, which is a theory of translation that deals with the problems said in the previous paragraph. The translated texts don't necessarily be accuate by literal, but should pass the same idea and transit smoothly between paragraphs. That means sometimes adjusting the content's order is necessary to fit the target language's usual usage. This actually contradicts with some guidelines proposed by a Chinese translator Yan Fu (严复), which claims that translations should hold:

  • Faithfulness (that translations should be faithful in literal, should not add/omit original meanings)
  • Expressiveness (that translations should be able to accurately deliver the meanings)
  • Elegance (that translations should not be rude or explicit)

I would only respect the expressiveness.

Consider the first paragraph from Wikipedia's entry of Computer:

A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations (computation) automatically. Modern digital electronic computers can perform generic sets of operations known as programs. These programs enable computers to perform a wide range of tasks. A computer system is a nominally complete computer that includes the hardware, operating system (main software), and peripheral equipment needed and used for full operation.

To translate this by a manner that is friendly to the native users of Mandarin Chinese, the translated texts would be: (I'd have to re-translate back to English for y'all non-multilingual readers, English grammars don't hold here)

计算机,广义上是用来自动执行某种数字或逻辑运算的机器。 在现代数字计算机中,人们可以将任意运算过程翻译成一套计算机能够识别并执行的通用编码,称为「程序」。 这样,只需要输入不同程序就可以让计算机执行不同的任务了。 一套完整的计算机系统包括必要的硬件、其上运行的操作系统程序;视需求有时还包括边缘视觉设备等配件。

Computer, in general is used-to-automatically-perform-some-digital-or-logical-computation machine. In modern digital computer, people can translate any computational procedure into a set of computer-can-recognise general encoding, called "program". This way, only need to input different program just can let computer perform different task. A set of complete computer system include necessary hardware, on-it-running operating system software; regarding requirement sometimes include peripheral visual machinery equipments.

It's not "faithful" to the original paragraph, but the whole meaning stays the same, and we can say that the translated paragraph is interchangable with the original. Now this is how reader-friendly translation should be done.



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