Friday, 21 August 2009

Timing of Translations

There is some part of my body that makes me work slower the further I am away from a deadline or the more comfortable I am.

A job that really should have been an hour took two hours for the first section, and then as it was getting late, 20 minutes for the rest. I find I actually work best when it's getting late and I've got some kind of primal urge to do the job quickly and get home. I also find that the quality seems to be best at that time of night. During the day on the other hand, I find that I keep getting distracted and wanting to watch Youtube videos and so on. It means that sometimes when proof-reading, I notice that I had missed a whole paragraph or line.

This is a pretty well known phenomena I guess. I remember that my old manager at a bank I used to work for told me to always book meetings for 430 or later, because everyone will go there and get straight down to business, with no time wasting. It works every time!

I'm sure there's a science to work timing that could be extremely helpful.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Translation Tools - Wenlin Computer Dictionary

The device I use the most when translating is probably Wenlin. It's basically a piece of software that works like a dictionary. There are some very strong advantages to Wenlin that make it ideal for translation, and for learning of Chinese. It's made as a general dictionary so it doens't help me translating technical Chinese but it's really good for more general documents.


You can search buy radical, number of strokes, pinyin, and character frequency. Another really useful feature is being able to look for a character by clicking on components and selecting "show characters containing this component". So for example you can get a list of all the characters containing "Cloud" by clicking on "cloud". It's really useful if you know part of a character but not the entire thing.


Some of the words are just wrong. It has "to censor" translated wongly as "to supervise" for exmaple in my version. There is also a serious lack of even very slightly technical terms, although it does OK with older Chinese.

Overall, it's a really great thing to have for anyone, but it's not cheap. The cost seems to vary depending on the reseller, but in Beijing I saw it for more than 1,000RMB. You can visit the website to read up no it. You can check out the details on their website:

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Paper Dictionary Review Part 2

Another resource that I frequently use is:

中山 汉语医学词典 Yatsen Chinese-English Medical Dictionary published by 外语教学与研究出版社 in Beijing.

As a technical Chinese to English translator, I definitely need a medical dictionary. As far as I'm aware this is the only one still currently in print. By the way, if you're new to the area be aware! There are millions of English -Chinese dictionaries, but only a handful of Chinese - English. If you buy one on the internet always remember that YOUR mother tonge should be the second word. So I'm a native English speaker, translate into English, and thus use Chinese - English dictionaries. An English to Chinese translator would use English - Chinese.

The dictionary is sorted in order of pinyin. However, the pinyin of the characters isn't written. This can be a pain if you are looking for a word and open to a page where you don't know the pinyin for the first character you see. I think that this shows they obviously made the dictionary more for Chinese native speakers, as even for extremely skilled translators, it's a bit of a pain not to have the pinyin equivalents for the terms. It has the English phonetic pronunciation.


A clear and easy to read style with a pretty large font. There seems to be a pretty good range of words, and several terms that I've looked for have been in there. However, it's far from perfect and I've found some terms that I've never been able to confirm elsewhere.


No pinyin as I said above. It does have pinyin for the headings, but not for the actual terms. If they're needed for the headings then surely they're needed for the terms, and vice versa? Poor quality paper means it's easy to rip and spilled drinks make the pages totally unusable. Considering that the book is for people writing INTO English there is very little English. All the terms like "see page 8" are written entirely in Chinese, as are the foreward, and instructions for use etc. It's not a huge problem, but it would be helpful.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Translation Resources - Classified Encylopedic Dictionary

From time to time, I plan to talk abut some of the paper resources I use for my translation.

One of the paper dictionaries I use most is a Taiwanese resource "Chinese-English Classified Encyclopedic Dictionary". It's published by "万人出版社" which is a Taiwanese publishing house.

This dictionary is divided into 20 sections, each of which is divided into many other sections (e.g Section 13 = science, part 1 = philosophy etc).


It has a really useful section on Industry which is perfect for scientific or technical Chinese to English translations. In particular, I often use part 5 of the industry section "Power" as I frequently translate power related things, other useful parts include Petroleum, Chemicals, and Metallurgy.


Each section only has 200 terms at most, so it is very unlikely that my exact term will be there. I can think of only one occasion where it has had the exact term I was looking for, from at least 100 uses. Another disadvantage is the complete lack of any kind of pinyin or bopomofo index, so you have to find terms by stroke order which I suspect most non-native Chinese speakers find difficult.


It makes a good place to start, and can come in useful for a whole range of translation subjects. So it's certainly worth tracking down. However, there is no ISBN number and it was last published in 1996 so it is very hard to find. My copy cost 700NTD (which is around 10GBP or so).

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Hilarious Translations

I came across a translation that was obviously done by a non-native English speaker. These are usually a good source for laughs, and this was no exception. I wish I could post the whole thing but I don't want to break any confidentiality agreements with my clients.

Some funny things I've come across recently are:

a new staff member who uses the English name 'Dopey' - because he's her favorite dwarf!
A kind of candy with a caption "guaranteed oral pleasure"
"because of the economic crisis" translated as "because of MY economic crisis"
an angry text message which wanted to say "pay your rent!" but said in "to quick of payment for rent agreements pleases"

I could list more but it's almost too easy.

My next posts are going to be more technical and hopefully more instructional, as I'm going to try to turn this blog to a learning resource. So stay tuned!