Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Japanese Place Names in Chinese

Quite some time ago, I was proofreading a Chinese technical document that had been translated into English. The translation was generally pretty good which was a real surprise.

I noticed that the translator had taken the names of some Japanese cities (which are normally written in Chinese characters anyway) and assumed they were cities in China. Chinese city names are usually translated just by writing the pinyin (alphabetic script) of the Chinese characters.

I only noticed because one of the listed cities was Osaka, and I am very familiar with that city in Chinese since I keep meaning to go there to work.

If I hadn't noticed Osaka I probably would also have approved of the other cities being translated just into the pinyin, luckily when I saw Osaka I did some searching and found that the other cities (towns) were also in Japan.

I guess the lesson there is to always do a search for place names, even if they look like they could be in China somewhere.

I also once worked with a terrible Taiwanese company (like most Taiwanese translation companies are). They had taken the names of some places in Argentina and just translated the names into Chinese pinyin. That's a different matter entirely.

Take care,

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Holiday????

Well, one of the things about being a translator, is that you have to be good at foreign languages, which normally means living abroad.

By now, I'm already used to having no kind of christmas holiday, today I'm trying to tidy up my accounts, and I still had to go to work.

Luckily I guess I'll get most of Chinese New Year off though.

I've actually found there seems to be slightly more work around than usual at the moment, I guess because no one else wants to do it. It would be interesting to see how a years work works out per month, I think I'm pretty evenly distributed throughout the year.

Happy christmas,

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


I just translated a document which had questions of the form:

how much does it prevent you:

prevents a lot
prevents a little

In Chinese this is perfectly OK, but obviously it's not appropriate in English. I normally just add a subject to the verb, so for example something like: prevents me a lot.

But sometimes you don't get the initial line in the text, so you just get given:

prevents a lot
prevents a little

Here you've no idea whether it refers to me, him, her or whatever. So in this case I would either change the form to a noun: very preventative, quite preventative. Or perhaps use a similar verb which does not require an object.

This is something which experience is helping me deal with much quicker. I remember in the past I would look at things like this for ages before I thought of a solution!