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Thread: Translating wuxia

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    Senior Member junny's Avatar
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    Default Translating wuxia

    Hi guys, just wanted to have a thread where translators can gather and share insight on translation techniques/strategies, if any, and the difficulties you encountered. Reason I'm asking and curious is because I'm currently doing a course on translation and the theories I'm studying are pretty useless where translating wuxia is concerned. So I'm interested to know how you guys manage, from major cases where something is virtually untranslatable from Chinese to English, to the more technical stuff such as whether to preserve terms in pinyin or go with an English equivalent that may (perhaps) be clumsier.

    Any insight is appreciated. I'm thinking most of us are translating from the original Chinese, but if you're translating into English from another language other than Chinese, then you're also welcome to share. If you're not translating but have read the translations here and the official ones, do share your thoughts on what you think worked and did not work, and any suggestions you may have for improvement.


    To start, one of my difficulties has always been how to translate sound. Chinese employs a fair amount of sound words that do not translate well into English. An example is this fragment:

    突听“砰”的一声,隔壁的房门被撞开。”拍”的一声,一条东西被重重地摔在地上

    I could of course reconstruct that as:

    "suddenly heard a bang as the neighbouring room's door was yanked open, and then something being slammed heavily on the ground".

    But that would lose the aural effect of the sound words, and that bit of rhythm in the sentence. Thoughts?
    Last edited by junny; 12-14-10 at 11:08 PM.
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    Senior Member fastclock's Avatar
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    Well, I am a crude translator, but one thing I can think of is to use an English word that represents the full sound effects. (onomatopoeia)

    Snap, crackle, pop, Crash, Bang, Thump, Screech, Wail, Boom, Crack, Slosh, Slap, Thud, Trickle, Splat, Spit, Spatter, Swish, Rustle, Rip, Tear, Roar, Thunder, Crackle, Cackle, Moan, Rattle, Drip, Crunch, Munch, Cough, Sigh, Hum, Hiss, Howl, Chirp, Tweet, Bark, Miaow, Moo, Baa, Caw...

    word like "qiang" might be translated by "swish" or something like that.
    "peng" probably has a lot more possibilities.

    Personally, I would like to minimize pinyin words, except for names of person or some places.

    fastclock - Wuxia Stories

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    Senior Member junny's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input!

    Yeah, onomatopoeia is very useful, although I'm very bad at finding sound equivalents. And for me it's still very hard to incorporate an English sound word into the sentence without thinking it sounds all kinds of odd.

    Pinyin-wise, I also do that for names and places, and also certain objects that would benefit from having a footnote to elaborate on meaning, significance, etc.
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    Senior Member athlonkmf's Avatar
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    Not a translator, but I've read several translations and noticed some things.
    1) Sometimes I really wonder what the translator intended audience should be. A lot of translations leaves several words untranslated. Names should not be translated perse (Trinket, Doublet anyone?), but leaving phrases like "gege" untranslated gives the translation an "unfinished" feeling. Or makes one feel that the translation is not intended to non-chinese speakers.
    2) Even more times, translations are too literal. I've often read the phrase "half a day" as in "they were silent for half a day, before they..." I understand that that's the original words of the writer, but one should know that he actually meant "a moment" and not really "half a day" (12 hours). It just feels weird..
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    Quote Originally Posted by athlonkmf View Post
    Not a translator, but I've read several translations and noticed some things.
    1) Sometimes I really wonder what the translator intended audience should be. A lot of translations leaves several words untranslated. Names should not be translated perse (Trinket, Doublet anyone?), but leaving phrases like "gege" untranslated gives the translation an "unfinished" feeling. Or makes one feel that the translation is not intended to non-chinese speakers.
    2) Even more times, translations are too literal. I've often read the phrase "half a day" as in "they were silent for half a day, before they..." I understand that that's the original words of the writer, but one should know that he actually meant "a moment" and not really "half a day" (12 hours). It just feels weird..
    I find leaving the gege honourific in with accompanying footnotes more authentic which otherwise loses meaning and feel when translated. Just like in the Godfather where the words are left as is, don, mafia, caporegime.
    Not sure about the intended audience thing. It's translated into English, people who read English can read it.

    My big gripe is when Wu Xia skills are translated. Grand Reversal Shift or whatever doesn't fit any way you put it, just the Chinese name with a footnote into the translation does perfectly.
    Great Dipper Formation sounds like a swimming move. I like distinctly Chinese terms to be kept in Chinese.

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    Senior Member junny's Avatar
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    athlonkmf and Banh Mi, many thanks for sharing! I've edited my first post to also include readers - can't believe I forgot about that

    I believe what athlonkmf meant by intended audience is the type of reader that the translator thinks will be reading the translation. For example, not everyone who's reading a wuxia translation has encountered wuxia before, or some understand a little Chinese but are more comfortable reading things in English, or some are fluent in Chinese but want to know what wuxia in English feels like. To be honest, it's hard to gauge the type of reader that would possibly read your translation and adjust to that.

    I am also in favour of adding footnotes to explain certain terms, wordplay on characters, etc. I feel that preserves some of the richness of the original Chinese text and also allows the translator to elaborate on concepts and information that would have been lost in a more straightforward word-for-word equivalent. But some people don't like to stop and read footnotes, and I suppose it's much easier remembering something like "Star shifting technique" than "Dou zhuan xing yi", as sometimes pinyin trips people up.

    That said, I've seen Qiu Chuji's Taoist name 长春 translated as "Juventus", rather than "Perpetual Spring". I was pretty amused, because to me, "Juventus" is the name of a football club in Italy, but I understand the reason for it as "iuventus" is the Latin word for "youth" and you can draw the connections there.
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    Junior Member overjoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athlonkmf View Post
    Not a translator, but I've read several translations and noticed some things.
    1) Sometimes I really wonder what the translator intended audience should be. A lot of translations leaves several words untranslated. Names should not be translated perse (Trinket, Doublet anyone?), but leaving phrases like "gege" untranslated gives the translation an "unfinished" feeling. Or makes one feel that the translation is not intended to non-chinese speakers.
    2) Even more times, translations are too literal. I've often read the phrase "half a day" as in "they were silent for half a day, before they..." I understand that that's the original words of the writer, but one should know that he actually meant "a moment" and not really "half a day" (12 hours). It just feels weird..
    Hey guys,

    I appreciate the work that goes into translating. I have read some of Junny's translation and I thought they were pretty good. I actually like the phrase like "half a day", maybe because i have a chinese background but it adds to the felt of the story. Basically it means that they waited for a long while but.. to me "long while" doesn't do it for me.

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    Senior Member athlonkmf's Avatar
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    Even though I have a chinese background, I'd like to get my friends into wuxia stories too.
    But they get detached from the story due to the usage of the phrases I said. And as said, I do feel it's kinda weird to "look at each other for half a day"
    Names of places and persons should never be translated though. Even moves. But footnotes really slows the reader, especially if they come a dozen pages further.

    Maybe it'd be better to have them next to the word like "Dou zhuan xing yi (Star shifting technique)"
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    Senior Member Grundle's Avatar
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    Let me offer my viewpoints both as a reader and a translator.

    As a Reader

    I started reading Wuxia in 2001. I am not Chinese and at the time I knew nothing about their culture. The only thing I had going for me is that I am a voracious reader, and suddenly I had found a fantastic new genre to entertain myself. I do remember many times being thrown off by phrases such as "half a day". One thing I did like about most Wuxia translators is that they would translate a fighter's title e.g. "Sword God" but leave their names in the Pin Yin. I don't particularly like the Minford method, and I would be horrified if someone tried to "Englishfy" the names...for example (Duan Yu -> Daniel).

    From the translations that I have read, I don't think these little idiosyncrasies should be enough to scare someone off from reading the work. The vast majority of what is written is understandable by the context alone so the reader doesn't ever get lost. My only concern as a reader is that it is understandable and enjoyable. Translators spend countless hours doing this for free so I try not to nitpick too much.

    As a Translator

    I am fluent in two languages and proficient in a third, but none of them are Chinese. I often donate time as an interpreter at medical clinics, so I am not new to interpreting or translating materials. One thing I have noticed is that the very culture of another people is carried within their language. When we translate we have to bear this in mind. For someone like me, who really doesn't speak Chinese, things become a bit more complicated. I may be skipping over some very cultural idioms without realizing it, and in the process the story loses some flavor when it is read in English -- well this is unavoidable when an amateur non-speaker does the work.

    Let us look at the flip-side though. The translator also has to consider the culture that he is translating into. In English translating "for half a day" is inappropriate. We don't think like that, so it has to be rendered as something understandable by the average English speaker. So then the translator has to make a decision for every phrase. Is there an equivalent in the language I can use? When I interpret at the clinic, the patient may speak some English, but I have to make sure that he understands exactly what is being communicated. Not the exact words, but the exact idea. This is important for their health and diagnosis.

    Sometimes there is a cultural idea, or practice that is completely alien to us. At that point you leave it as is, because now we are discovering something new but oftentimes it will take many more words in English to describe it and capture the meaning. A great example is foxs' use of gege and gong-gong. Honorific palace titles for Eunuchs is a very specific cultural idea, so these really don't have any English equivalent. I certainly agree with his decision, because any attempt to render it into English would start to sound stupid. I am still trying to decide on how to describe terms of endearment such as "Guo'er". To me it sounds cute and we don't really do it in English.

    Some things are obvious to Chinese and totally missed by English speakers. It took me several years to realize that people in Wuxia novels would sit according to rank and status. That is still a strange practice to me. As a translator I really try to make it English readable. I do not consider if my reader speaks English but is Chinese or any such nonsense like that. My approach has always been to make great literature available to a group of people who, without my help, would never have had the opportunity to read it.
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    Grundle your not chines ? where you from ? what languages you speek ?

    how can translate chines text without speeking chines ???

    (obviously by chines I mean mandarin--- kantoneas) donbt mind my spelling... just translate past it please.
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    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default My 2 cents

    I hope nobody would think that I am being defensive, but I’d like to share a little bit about the rationale behind my approach in translating wuxia.

    To me, wuxia is indeed a genre on its own. Both my wife and I love to read, but no matter how hard I try, I just couldn't get her to be interested in wuxia, while like me, she is also of Chinese descent. My point is, it really does not matter whether you are Chinese or not, if you love wuxia, you'll read it; if you don't, you won't. I don't think it has anything to do with 'targeted audience' of specific story. Athlon, perhaps I can recommend your friends to start with John Minford’s Deer and Cauldron or Graham Shaw’s Book and Sword.

    Every story will have its own cultural background. When I read a story, I am also reading about the culture in which the story is taking place. Whether it is a romantic novel, historical novel, sci-fi, etc. it is not uncommon to find non-English words, e.g. French's Monsieur, Mademoiselle, German's Herr Doktor, Fraulein, Spanish's Senor(ita), Amigo, Gringo, Italian’s Capo, Japanese's -san or -chan (in addressing someone, for example, Yamato-San or Toto-chan), kata, katana, Native American's squaw, Indian's Guru or I, even exclamation like ‘mamma mia!’ or 'oh la la!'. Some of these words have their English equivalent or counterpart, some do not. Why not replace everything with English? [Could you imagine instead of crying 'Aiyo!', Wei Xiaobao was crying out, 'Mamma Mia!' ]My guess is that the author or translator wanted to maintain its original 'cultural' background. As a reader, although I commend John Minford's attempt to 'westernize' the Deer and the Cauldron (some people say that his intended audience was westerners), being a wuxia lover, I found his approach not to my liking. I feel like the cultural aspect of the story is lost. The same feeling I got when I watched the movie Geisha. It's a Japanese story, supposedly happened in Japan, with mostly Japanese (or Chinese actors), but everybody spoke English. Huh?!? (I know it's not a good example, I was just saying ...) But I also realize that perhaps I am in the minority here.

    As for the 'accuracy' of 'half-a-day' ... Have you ever heard the expression 'a picture worth a thousand words', or 'I have told you a million times ...'? Or (another ridiculous example of mine), it's Christmas season, and I often heard the song 'Do you know what I know', which has this line: 'a child, a child shivers in the cold, let us bring him silver and gold'. The first time I heard this song, I also went, 'Huh?!?' I remember my own baby; when he is cold, why would I want to give him silver and gold? I believe a warm blanket will be more appropriate. My point is, again, this is cultural background. When I read something like this, I consider the phrase as part of the culture. As Overjoy said, 'long while' just does not have the same feeling. This is a novel, not a scientific publication. Would I really care if it was exactly 12 hours or merely minutes? In Deer and Cauldron, I keep units of measurement in their original form (with the exception of sichen, since we know there are 24 hours in a day, and 12 sichen, so 1 sichen= 2 hours). My reason is also 'cultural', the same reason some authors/translators retain the unit 'stone' in English literature. (Would I care if someone weighs 12 stones and not 76.20351816 kilogram?)

    Another point: during ROCH, someone mentioned that 'Emperor Duan' (Southern Emperor, Reverend One Lamp, Yideng Dashi) was technically a Duke, since China had an Emperor and Dali was not an empire. But the original term was Duan Huangye and not Duan Gongye. My point is: this is a novel, not a historical document, would I really care if in the strictest sense it is not historically accurate?

    I could go on and on ... but I think I have bored you enough. Sorry about that. Just want to commend on Junny for starting this thread. This is a great place for us to simply chat about this niche world of wuxia translation.

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    Senior Member sniffles's Avatar
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    As a reader with dreams of someday being able to write a translation, I hope I can offer a little perspective from both the audience and the translator side of the issue.

    It's certainly true as foxs says (好久不见!) that non-English titles and slang are often used in English. But the difference between those and Chinese honorifics and relationship terms is that most Western readers won't be familiar with terms like gege or xiongdi. If you do choose to use such terms untranslated, do you include footnotes or a glossary to explain them? Most readers who are reading for entertainment aren't going to enjoy that. And some words like gege actually sound a bit silly to an average English speaker. That type of sound repetition sounds a bit like baby talk to English speakers.

    Other cultural references like 半个天 are also a challenge. I remember the first time I read a literal translation of that as "half a day" in one of the wuxia translations here. I was confused. Why was this character thinking about something for half a day? I didn't actually assume he was thinking for 12 hours, but I did assume that it meant a very long time. more than an hour. It didn't make sense in the context of the story that the action would stop for such a long time as the character thought. It actually made the thinking character seem foolish. Writers who use phrases like "a picture is worth a thousand words" are directing their words at other English speakers who will know what that means. I suspect that most English speakers will find "half a day" confusing, as I did, and may not appreciate the cultural context, especially if it isn't explained.

    This is just my own personal preference, but I really dislike personal names being translated. I understand that Chinese names are actual words that can be used in common speech, unlike most Western names that have lost their original meaning. But some of them sound very odd in translation, like the example foxs gives of translating Xiaobao as "Trinket". I also like to see place names in pinyin, though occasionally translating those is worthwhile because they can be more memorable in a familiar language. Before I started studying the Chinese language, I found it hard to remember many of the pinyin names I read in wuxia translations.

    The above observation also applies to names of martial arts techniques. Big Dipper Formation may not be the most elegant interpretation of the Chinese name, but it's much easier for an English-speaking reader to relate to and remember than a pinyin phrase that has no meaning to the reader without a footnote.

    Really the decision making process has to be informed by your target audience. Are you translating for people who can speak Chinese but can't read it, or are you translating for Westerners? I would personally like to see wuxia fiction made more accessible to Westerners. I think we're missing out on a lot of good reading material because it hasn't been translated into a language we can read. But I feel that to make it enjoyable for Westerners to read, some of the cultural details may have to be sacrificed where they might impede making the story accessible to the reader. The published English translation of 雪山飞狐 is a good case in point. The translator, Olivia Mok, made some really inexplicable choices, and it hurts the story in my opinion.

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    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Sniffles! Yes, long time no see. Welcome back (at least in the translation forum). Thanks for your comment. Point well-taken. I only feel it's a pity that the nuances will be lost forever; when someone called you Gege, the relationship is not the same as when he/she called you Xiongdi. The word Brother just does not carry the same meaning. Yes, I do leave footnote the first time the word appears, although I can also see that too much information in such a short period of time (when a westerner starts reading wuxia) can be overwhelming, and I don't want to add footnote every time the word appears, especially with the current forum format. I am only thinking: if we do not start introducing these Chinese honorifics and relationship terms, when will the Western readers ever get used to them? Same thing with 'half a day' or other cultural references.

    Anyway, since Deer and Cauldron for Western readers is already available, I don't want to reinvent the wheel, otherwise my work will look very much alike existing work and perhaps someone will sue me. I will try my best to follow your suggestion for next time (if there is 'next time')

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    Senior Member junny's Avatar
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    I'm loving all the input here so far, thanks all for sharing! It is indeed difficult trying to balance retaining the bulk of the cultural elements in the original and also ensuring the reader is not struggling to make sense of the whole thing. I think the example of "thinking half a day" is a case of the phrase being taken too literally, though admittedly sometimes it's hard to differentiate whether something is really what it is - most times it's a difficult judgment call.

    foxs, I definitely do see your point about xiongdi vs gege. Perhaps use "pal" for "xiongdi"? It is a bit informal... I think also that the non-English words you mentioned (capo, mademoiselle, senor etc) have all over time become accepted usage such that most people are familiar with them - they're all Romance/Germanic languages that have similar grammatical structures/roots. Chinese however is like the other side of the world - it had to take Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in 2000 to get people remotely excited about wuxia.

    sniffles, I'm curious to know your thoughts on Olivia Mok's translation of 雪山飞狐, and what you felt were the inexplicable choices that hurt the translation. I have skimmed some pages and was frankly rather appalled that she translated the names of the characters - she had 田归农 as Pastoral Tian and 胡一刀 as Gully Hu, for example. and I cringed at that. I do see what she was trying to do - for people not familiar with wuxia, it's much easier remembering "Pastoral Tian" rather than "Tian Guinong", and of course anyone who can translate Jin Yong has my admiration. Still, I think it was because I could read the text in Chinese that it was sort of an "automatic cringe" at the names.
    Last edited by junny; 12-18-10 at 03:55 PM.
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    Senior Member athlonkmf's Avatar
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    Of course, in the end, it's the translator's choice and also their good right too. Also, for japanese manga, westerners got used to the honorific san, sama, sensei and such. Maybe after a few decades it could be the same for wuxia too. Nevertheless, the translators usually won't translate some phrases literally if they don't make sense translated...
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    Junny, you are absolutely right. And so are you, Sniffles and Athlon. It is a matter of getting the western readers to get used to these terms. But as I said earlier, if we don't start now, then who is going to start? I wish there is an 'Idiot's guide to wuxia' or 'Wuxia for dummies'. I am thinking of starting a thread with a compilation of wuxia terms, but I wish there is a way that everybody can edit (much like wikipedia), but I don't know if I would ever get the time to do that.

    Athlon, you are not talking about 'half a day', are you? I was not born and raised as an English speaker (not a Chinese speaker either), but to me, 'half a day' makes sense, much like 'a thousand words' or 'telling you a million times'. In my opinion, fiction writers tend to use hyperbole a lot. Perhaps just like you, my background is technical, but in reading (and translating) fictions, I threw all 'technicality' to the wind. When I encountered difficult passage that I am not able to translate, I usually translate it literally (albeit not making any sense) with a footnote, explaining and apologizing for my limitation.

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    Senior Member sniffles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by junny View Post
    sniffles, I'm curious to know your thoughts on Olivia Mok's translation of 雪山飞狐, and what you felt were the inexplicable choices that hurt the translation. I have skimmed some pages and was frankly rather appalled that she translated the names of the characters - she had 田归农 as Pastoral Tian and 胡一刀 as Gully Hu, for example. and I cringed at that. I do see what she was trying to do - for people not familiar with wuxia, it's much easier remembering "Pastoral Tian" rather than "Tian Guinong", and of course anyone who can translate Jin Yong has my admiration. Still, I think it was because I could read the text in Chinese that it was sort of an "automatic cringe" at the names.
    I can start with the English title: Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain. Why "volant"? It's a French word. Why not just call him Flying Fox? Why "Jadeite Eyrie"? Why "myrmidons"?

    I can see your point about the names. Most English readers would have no idea how to pronounce Guinong. "Pastoral" is an odd translation, but how else would one translate 归农? It would sound even sillier to call him "Back to agriculture" or "return to the rural countryside". But English readers often face character names that they may not be familiar with.

    I actually prefer the John Minford translation of The Book and the Sword for it's handling of names. He gave a short explanation of pronunciation, along with a cast of characters and glossary of terms. While the novel still does lose some of its cultural context when he translates terms like 大师兄 as "brother-in-arms", overall I feel he handled it well.

    I tend to vacillate between the opinions I expressed previously and agreeing with foxs. Maybe translating place names and names of martial maneuvers is more accessible for some readers, but why not introduce them to some of these terms and get them accustomed to them? Athlon has a good point that readers of manga and watchers of anime have accustomed themselves to many Japanese names and words. Look at the popularity of Naruto, which uses all the characters' original Japanese names even in the English dub. I know plenty of young people who can pronounce words like "sharingan" and "hokage" as a result of watching that series. Maybe I'm selling my fellow English-speakers short by assuming people won't read wuxia literature if it uses too many Chinese words.

    Really the main thing I'd like to see in wuxia translations is a consistent approach. Part of the difficulty I've found in reading translations here is that they're often not done entirely by one person, and each translator has a different opinion on how certain elements should be handled. Whether you interpret 半个天 literally as "half a day" or translate it as "for a little while", it should ideally be translated the same way every time it's used throughout the entire novel. If a translator doesn't agree with the way a previous translator presented something, they should provide an explanation so readers will know there's been a change in approach.
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    Senior Member athlonkmf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by foxs View Post
    Junny, you are absolutely right. And so are you, Sniffles and Athlon. It is a matter of getting the western readers to get used to these terms. But as I said earlier, if we don't start now, then who is going to start? I wish there is an 'Idiot's guide to wuxia' or 'Wuxia for dummies'. I am thinking of starting a thread with a compilation of wuxia terms, but I wish there is a way that everybody can edit (much like wikipedia), but I don't know if I would ever get the time to do that.

    Athlon, you are not talking about 'half a day', are you? I was not born and raised as an English speaker (not a Chinese speaker either), but to me, 'half a day' makes sense, much like 'a thousand words' or 'telling you a million times'. In my opinion, fiction writers tend to use hyperbole a lot. Perhaps just like you, my background is technical, but in reading (and translating) fictions, I threw all 'technicality' to the wind. When I encountered difficult passage that I am not able to translate, I usually translate it literally (albeit not making any sense) with a footnote, explaining and apologizing for my limitation.

    No, not specifically 'half a day' although it's that phrase that comes up a lot, if used consistently it's understandable in context. There are more. Like last time i've been reading ode to the gallantry and one pair of husband and wife are calling each other senior brother in arms or something. I know she meant sze hing, but also feel that that's a bit too cultural to translate. Of course... In Japanese manga we often see onee-San being untranslated, and that might be a better choice. Just use sze-hing
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    My 2c:

    First and foremost, whenever possible, the original meaning should be preserved, along with the feel. I believe in doing so using the closest equivalent term that sounds correct, but more importantly, has the right feel; in other words, I believe that translating the meaning takes precedence over translating the words. For this reason, I never translate phrases like '想了半天' as 'pondered for half a day', but would use the equivalent of 'pondered for quite some time'. Not only is the second translation more readable, it's also more accurate; in this context, 半天 does not literally mean 半一个天 in Chinese, but 'half a day' literally means '12 hours' in English. Thus, although 'half a day' is word-for-word accurate, part of the meaning is lost and it becomes less readable.

    To draw a counterpoint, using foxs example of 'told you a million times', how would you translate: "I've told you a million times, don't play with him!" if you were to translate that into Chinese, would you really translate it as "我跟你说了一百万次,不要跟他玩儿!"? I think a more meaningful and more readable (if less word-for-word accurate) translation would be, "我跟你说了多少次,不要跟他们玩儿!" Similarly, I would translate "你放屁!" as "You're full of s.hit!" rather than "You are farting!", and "吹牛大王" as "a huge braggart" rather than the "king of blowing cows". Whenever there is an idiom, I try to find an equivalent English idiom to capture the feel; ie, I would translate . Only when there is clever wordplay/word games involved do I sometimes translate more word-for-word directly.

    Names I never translate. Translated names just sound terrible in English; there's nothing less immersion breaking that a Chinese swordsman named Simon. Titles I generally do translate, and if a person is generally referred to by their title rather than their name, I'll translate as well.

    Moves I generally translate; "Luoying Shenjian Zhang" means absolutely nothing to the reader, and nobody likes to constantly check their footnotes to remember what this move or that move means, especially if they don't speak any Chinese at all.

    Overall, my rule of thumb is following these three priorities, in descending order: Meaning, readability, word-for-word accuracy.

    Titles generally give me the most trouble, simply because in many cases, there is no way translate them in a readable way, or even one which conveys the full meaning; there just aren't enough equivalent titles in English to cover all of the various (and elaborate) Chinese forms of address.
    Blademaster. Hero. General. He was the best there ever was.
    Butcher. Murderer. Traitor. All that he loved, he had destroyed.
    Matheius Randas.
    That Merciless Blade - Legend of the Arctic Wolf.

  20. #20
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    I beg to differ, at least on one account. You see, as I mentioned earlier, neither English nor Chinese was my first language, i.e. I had to learn the language before I could use it. It always fascinates me to learn different expression people use to describe simple phrase. 'Fit as a fiddle', 'sick as a dog' ... Although I do not play fiddle, I've been around fiddles for quite a while when I was in the orchestra, yet I cannot tell whether a certain fiddle is fit or not (all I can tell is whether it is in tune or not). I used to own several dogs, but I have never seen them sick. So to me, those expressions are amusing, albeit do not make any sense.

    Back to wuxia translation: I find ‘bashful flower obstructing the moon’ is more fascinating than a simple 'beautiful', same thing with ‘sweeping away a thousand army’ against 'total annihilation'. And I want to share these expressions in their original language to my readers. Who knows? Perhaps like me, they'd like to know too.

    Do you think I am a freak for being fascinated by those expressions? Or actually nobody cares so I might as well use the simplified, common English expressions? But then again, in the special case of Deer and Cauldron, Minford has already done that. And the main reason I re-translate the story is precisely that. An spcnet member was kind enough to send me an electronic copy of his work, but comparing his work with Jin Yong's original, I found most, if not all, of these 'special expressions' are lost. I mean, come on, 'By my plight and troth!'? (The original was 'A real man gave his words, a team of four horses cannot chase it'.)

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