Chinese to English Literary Translation  文史哲筆譯
National Taiwan Normal University, Master's Program in Translation
Fall 2008
Karen Steffen Chung

Translation is the art of erasing oneself in order to speak in another's voice.
– David Cole, professor, author, and correspondent (b. 1958)

Class routine:
     The main content of this course will be a series of translation practice exercises, starting off very short, then increasing in length and difficulty. The professor will choose most of the texts, but you are also welcome to contribute Chinese texts you'd like to use as class assignments anytime during the semester, though the earlier the better.

     The texts for translation can be downloaded from this page - see links below. You are expected to finish your translation and e-mail it back to the professor at latest by the Monday before the next class. The professor will then compile all the translations and send them out to everyone by e-mail. You are expected to read over your classmates' translations and make corrections and suggestions, so we can all learn from each other. We will go over the texts in class, and the professor will offer suggestions for improvement to each student, along with a model translation for reference. The model translation is by no means to be considered a "standard answer" or the only right way to translate a passage. It will, however, include important points of reference, such as verb forms, nominal number choices, and useful sentence structures and idioms appropriate to the context. Each student is then asked to correct and revise their translations and resubmit them by e-mail, again at the latest by Monday of each week. The professor will usually do some final editing and send the finished translations out again to the whole class, unless the passage is quite long, in which case there will only be a model translation. Other occasional exercises focusing on specific topics in translation may be assigned.

     It is very useful if you have a notebook computer you can bring to class; that way you can do corrections and revisions in class as we go along, and you can also look things up on the Internet as needed.

     Note, however, that you are expected to use physical books as reference works, and not to rely on online dictionaries. While there are some very useful online resources for Chinese and Chinese-to-English, such as the online Yahoo dictionary, they are as yet extremely inadequate, incomplete and often unreliable as well. See below for which references are required for this course. You will find further online reference works here.

     There will be a final exam consisting of an in-class Chinese-to-English translation similar in nature other work done in the class, as a test of the level of your translation skill by the end of the semester. You will be allowed to use any references you choose.

     Your final grade will be based on the quality of your translations and other class work, attendance and punctuality, participation, progress made and attitude, and your final exam.

Indispensable reference works:
     (1) Rodale, J.I., ed. The Synonym Finder. New York: Warner Books, 1978 (originally published by the Rodale Press). Taiwan reprint available at 書林 Bookman Books; paperback version possibly available at Lai Lai 來來 Books; Cave's 敦煌 may also have it.
     (2) 新世紀漢英大辭典 A New Century Chinese-English Dictionary. 外語教學與研究出版社, 2003. Purchase at 秋水堂 (Or: 漢英辭典. 修訂版. 1995. 北京:主編:危東亞; out of print and currently difficult to get).
     (3) A good desktop English-English dictionary, like Webster’s, Merriam-Webster’s, American Heritage, or Random House. The online version of Merriam-Webster’s is available here: Note: English-Chinese dictionaries are useful for many purposes, but don’t trust them blindly; check again in a good English-English dictionary.

Search engine:
     Use Google. You can set it for English, Chinese, Chinese traditional characters, or Taiwan Websites only; each is useful for different purposes.

Online Pinyin tools:
     (1) Convert zhuyin fuhao to Hanyu Pinyin: This tool will convert zhuyin fuhao (better known as bopomofo or bpmf) to Hanyu Pinyin.

     (2) Pinyin tone tool: Type out the Pinyin spellings with numbers for the tones, and this online tool puts in the correct tone markings for you.

     (3) Theron Stanford's Pinyin tone marking tool: Generates Pinyin with tone marks as you type

     (4) Pinyin Annotator: Convert Chinese characters to Pinyin:

Elements of Chinese to English translation:
     (1) Make sure you fully understand the Chinese original, including specialized vocabulary, background, assumptions and associations, idioms, slang, and allusions.
     (2) Word-for-word translation may be helpful for your rough draft, but right from the beginning it is better if you can “hear” a native-speaking English voice in your head expressing the ideas of the Chinese original in a credible and natural way in English. If you speak English well, you will translate well. If your English is based mainly on memorized (or looked-up) vocabulary and grammar rules, your translations may not flow and sound natural. Read your work aloud after you have finished it to catch mistakes and test for naturalness. Listen to your “gut”, the way you would do for Chinese!
     (3) Pay attention to regional differences; decide beforehand whether to use US or British or some other variety of English; it will affect vocabulary, spelling and grammar. The same expression can mean very different things in the two dialects, e.g. to table a motion means ‘to bring up a motion’ in UK English, but ‘to remove from consideration indefinitely’ in US English, just the opposite of the UK meaning; to perform erratically is ‘to play up’ in British English, but ‘to act up’ in US English. In UK English you can say ‘to prevent someone doing something’; in US English you must add a preposition: ‘to prevent someone from doing something’. There are further differences in Canadian, US, South African, and other varieties of English. Inconsistency will confuse the reader.
     (4) When in doubt about a phrase, do a Google search on it to see how common it is, paying attention to where the site is based. If there are very few hits, the phrase may need some revision. The most important thing in translation is knowing when you do not know something. It’s OK not to know something, long as you know you don’t know it, so you can look it up or ask. If you assume you know something, even ignoring the feeling that a usage or idea is a bit odd, you are certain to make many mistakes.
     (5) Use correct Romanization for Chinese personal and place names and special terms. The current standard is Hanyu Pinyin, but different passages may have different requirements.
     (6) Pay attention to register, that is, the correct level of language you are using, and the tone it communicates.
     (7) Get feedback from each other before finalizing your translation.
     (8) Use a spell checker, and a grammar checker too, if you find it helpful.
     (9) Learn and use good format, appropriate to the type of text you are translating.

1. a. Practice texts for translation (Five Short Stories) (9/17/08)
    b. Translations of stories 1-3 by class members
    c. Translations of stories 4 and 5 by class members
    d. Translations of stories 1-5 by Karen Chung (11/01/08)

2. a. Practice text for translation (Bo Yang)
    b. Translations of Bo Yang piece by class members (updated 10/16/08; 10/22/08; 11/01/08)
    c. Translation of Bo Yang piece by Karen Chung (11/1/08)

3. a. Practice text for translation (Shao Xian); 10/23/08
    b. Translations of Shao Xian piece by class members (10/30/08; 11/06/08)
    c. Translation of Shao Xian piece by Karen Chung (1/09/09)

4. a. Practice text for translation: Children’s literature (1) (10/30/08)
    b. Practice text for translation: Children’s literature (2) (11/01/08; 11/13/08)
    c. Translations of Children's literature assignment (1) by class members (11/06/08; 11/13/08)
    d. Translation of Children's literature assignment (1) by Karen Chung (1/09/09)
    e. Translations of Children's literature assignment (2) by class members (11/06/08; 11/13/08; 11/20/08)
    f. Translation of Children's literature assignment (2) by Karen Chung (1/09/09)

5. Practice texts for translation: a. Classical Chinese novels (1): Passages from Hong Lou Meng, ch. 12 and 14;
read entire chapters for context: Ch. 12 source page    Ch. 14 source page (12/04/08)
    b. Translations of Hong Lou Meng, ch. 12 assignment by class members (12/11/08)
    c. Translations of Hong Lou Meng, ch. 14 assignment by class members (12/18/08)
    d. Translation of Hong Lou Meng, ch. 12 and ch. 14 assignments by Karen Chung (1/09/09)
. Classical Chinese novels (2): Excerpt from Xi You Ji, ch. 33 (12/18/08)
    f. Translations of Xi You Ji, ch. 33 by class members (12/25/08; updated 1/08/09)
6. a. Four poems for translation (1/08/09)
    b. Translations of four poems for translation by class members (1/15/09)

7. Final project: Short short story by Ai Ya: "Hongse de Shangxian Yue" (1/09/09) Submit by e-mail no later than January 17.