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,
David

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