Saturday, 9 August 2008

Chinese Sentences Being Over-long

I recently finished a translation of a guarantee handbook. As with documents of this type it was written in very polite, formal Chinese.

One problem which I find often comes up when translating things like that are sentences which literally translated would read as follows:

"if there are any problems with your vehicle, you should take your vehicle to the service centre immediately, so that they can look at your vehicle and make repairs, you should do this if there are any problems with your vehicle. "

That was my own made up example but it's pretty much what I often find.

Typically I would translate that sentence as something like the following:

"If there are any problems with your vehicle, please take it to the service centre immediately"

Unfortunately the project managers or clients always assume I'm being lazy and missing something, or that I've accidentally missed something, or that I'm just a scam artist.

I suppose it's because I was really moved by "Skopos" theory when I was doing my course. The skopos theory basically says that the information in the source text can be viewed as an offer of information, which I can choose to accept or not based on my knowledge of the target text and culture. Under that theory any target text would be a suitable translation, and comparing the texts side-by-side isn't necessarily a good way to judge the translation quality.

I find that the Skopos theory is just a great way to approach these kinds of translations, and frees me up from the "free versus literal" dichotomy.

I don't know what approach other people take towards these long sentences, but I'm beginning to find that Asian-based clients prefer to get something that they can compare phrase by phrase with the source text. I think it's quite sad because by doing that I believe they will always restrict the translator. European clients tend to be a lot more liberal, but perhaps that's because they don't have anyone who can check the source text!

I'll definitely write a lot more on this issue as it seems to be important, and I'm very interested in it!

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