So wrong for a translator to consistently translate a same word in one particular way

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So wrong for a translator to consistently translate a same word in one particular way


It is well-known that the English greeting “How are you?" Is certainly not a request for information concerning a receptor’s health. In fact, anyone who launches into a detailed statement about his or her state of well-being or lack of it, would be almost immediately regarded as needing some psychotherapy. Nevertheless, it is a clear indication of the way native English speakers retain the literal meaning of such well-worn phrases within the peripheries of their minds even when they do use them as phatic expressions.

Similarly, the colloquial Chinese phrase “吃了嗎", meaning literally “have you eaten” or “did you eat”, which is generally no more than an informal greeting among friends, can be a real question, depending on the context.

It would therefore be quite wrong for a translator or editor to assume that certain phatic expressions can be consistently translated in one particular way. One cannot, for example, invariably translate the English “goodbye" by the Chinese “再見". This certainly would not fit a context such as He said goodbye to his dream of succeeding. Sometimes the equivalent of “goodbye" is “再別", though this is really an uncommon Chinese expression which is scarcely used in actual conversation. Conversely, depending upon the degree of informality and other factors, one would have to translate “再見" by many different English expressions, such as “goodbye", “so long", “bye-bye", “cheerio", etc.

For the same reason, it is quite misleading to teach the English phatic expression hello, as it is done in some primers, by equating it to the Chinese “喂". It is true that “喂" is often used at the beginning of a telephone conversation, and in this respect it is similar to hello. But on other occasions it serves as a rather it is similar to hello. But on other occasions it serves as a rather blunt and even impolite way of attracting attention, somewhat similar to English “hey".


Translators and Editors


Cause of Language Change

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Cause of Language Change

Evidence from earlier speech, similarities between related languages and differences between dialects show that languages change over time. It occurs because languages are used by human beings, not machines. Although there are varieties among ethnics, Human beings share common physiological and cognitive characteristics, at the same time members from the same speech community differ slightly in their knowledge as well as their use of language. Members of different ethnics, social classes, professions and generations use language differently (dialect variation), and all speakers use language differently in different situations (register variation).


As children start learning their native language, they are exposed to these variations within their language. Parents (and other adults) tend to use more informal language to children. Children may learn some informal attributions of the language in preference to their formal alternatives, and changes in the language (tending toward greater informality) accumulate over generations. When a later generation acquires an innovation in the language introduced by a previous generations, variations may occur and the language changes.


Language change, though inevitable, is not steady; a language may experience little change for many generations and then undergo dramatic changes in the course of just a few lifetimes. Physiological, cognitive, and social forces motivate change, and most language change can be attributed to articulatory simplification, regularization, and contact between languages.


What is a translation organization?

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What is a translation organization?

Before looking into the nature of specific organizations and the services they offer, it might be a good idea to state the possibly-not-so-obvious and examine what a translation organization actually is.

A basic definition of ‘translation organization’ would of course be simply ”an organized body of translators‘ (association, institute, federation, guild, group, chapter, syndicate, committee, network…).

This covers an extremely wide range of different organizations, from the most informal local gatherings upwards, and so I have chosen to narrow the focus by concentrating chiefly on the national translation organization, with special reference to some of the more interesting cases to be found in Europe.

For reasons of resources and logistics, the national organization is generally best suited to playing the dual role of association and (professional) service provider which today’s translator would appear to demand.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that there are other types of translation organization which may also have a good deal to offer. As a result, this section first runs through the main types of translation organization before going on to discuss the national organization in greater depth.


The humblest translation organizations in terms of geographical scope and membership are the local groups. These are generally small informal gatherings of translators who work in the same area and meet periodically for essentially little more than a coffee and a chat. Owing to their small size, these groups may not be ideal for discussing the minutiae of a particular language pair or subject area and certainly lack the resources and clout to change the world; but they do offer plenty of scope for informal discussion about the latest software packages, sources of information or the merits of various local accountants. These groups can even be a good source of work for freelance translators, with members perhaps preferring to pass work on to someone they know well and trust.

Often equally small, in terms of membership if not in geographical coverage, are the specialist groups. The common factor here is specialization (subject or language) rather than location. These groups often share the informal atmosphere of the local groups, but discussions will normally be oriented more towards the latest trends in a particular industry/country or the merits of a new specialist dictionary or termbank. Visits to factories or conversation evenings in relevant languages may also be arranged.

Spear Translation Company 香港翻譯公司

What makes a good translator?

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What makes a good translator?

What indeed? I started writing this blog by recalling the good (and not so good) students and translators I have known and listing their many qualities and skills. I eventually came to the conclusion that there are, in fact, several personal qualities without which a translator will ultimately remain mediocre. It may seem controversial and drastic to say ‘Don’t even consider a career in translation without them’, but in my opinion the really outstanding translators are those with these qualities and the requisite skills. This is not quite so controversial given the increasing competition at apprentice level in the translation service field.

As such, I have divided my wishlist of qualities and skills into‘innate’ and ‘acquirable’ and have started by listing them (for ease of reference). I then go on to discuss each quality or skill and its relevance to working as a translator.

A good translator is:

Bright and quick on the uptake

To those in the know, this is something of a statement of the obvious. Translation is a very demanding job in that you need to have mastered at least one foreign language and have a good knowledge of several specialist areas. You also need to be able to develop these at apprentice level (whilst learning several new skills), maintain them at professional level, and deal with clients, administration, etc. Translation is a job for intelligent people!

Inquisitive and alert

Translators need an enquiring mind since they must fully understand what is going on in the source text – not just what is being said, but also the argument being put forward, the point being made, the reason why the text was written in the first place. A mediocre translator will translate what is there, not questioning the logic, maybe not noticing that a page has gone astray, and not thinking about the content – merely translating it.

Full of initiative

I can always spot a student with initiative, it’s the very same student who tells me about a forthcoming dictionary, introduces me to a new service provided by the Computing Unit…in fact the selfsame student who (rightly) bothered to check and correct a ‘fact’ in the homework “because it looked a little bit strange”. Initiative is crucial and it means to do things off your own bat, seeing that something is wrong, needs doing etc. and doing something about it yourself rather than waiting for someone else to point it out and tell you how to go about it. It’s a very important quality in translation as it is the mark of someone who will ensure that somethings is right and will get things done.

Gifted with a flair with language

To my mind this is really what separates the wheat from the chaff. Flair is not just the ability to write beautiful flowing prose when translating a holiday brochure, but also to write concise, easy-to-read language for assembly manuals, instruction leaflets and so on. I have deliberately separated “Flair” from “Ability to write well in mother tongue” as the latter comprises several elements (such as grammar and punctuation) which can be acquired.


This quality can be split into linguistic flexibility and flexibility of approach. The former is the ability to write in different styles for different clients and different texts, whereas the latter involves being flexible enough to accept different clients’ requirements, to squeeze in a small job for an important client (despite working flat out on something else), and to be able to fill gaps between assignments with useful work such as glossary compilation. In-house translators (translators hired by and work at a translation company) will need to be able to jump from one assignment to another, drop everything to take on an urgent piece, or take time out from a long-term project to check someone else’s work or take over from a colleague who is unwell.


Translators have to enjoy translating! They need to be able to cope with what can be dull, monotonous work and do it well. They have to get a kick out of taking on a piece, getting on top of it and turning out a well-written translation. We don’t call the shots, the client does, and most of us can’t afford to be that picky that we turn down every piece of work which doesn’t turn us on.

Spear Translation Company

Contemporary Translation Theory and Cognitive Linguistics

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Contemporary Translation Theory and Cognitive Linguistics

This article endeavours to approach translation and translation theory from a cognitive perspective. It is discussed in a way of new cognitive approaches to language and grammar. The paper illustrates how insights gained from cognitive linguistics are directly relevant to the formulation of a cognitive translation theory.

Traditionally,translation theory has been concerned with the translation product and has been largely prescriptive in its nature,having as its central aim the establishment of a set of rules – predominantly syntactic – which could be applied in order to achieve what was often assumed to be the only correct translation. Although it can be argued that this approach to translation was not inappropriate when used in conjunction with biblical translation and translation of the classics, its suitability with regard to modern-day translation is questionable. This normative approach focused on the form of the source text (ST), often aiming to adhere as closely to its surface syntactic form in the formulation of the target text(TT).

There was a perceptible shift in the approach to translation theory in the second half of this century when translation began to have importance as a means of communication, rather than as a scholarly or academic exercise. Technological advances brought an increased need for translation and it was felt that a closer examination and a deeper understanding of the translation activity were required. Influences from other areas of language studies and linguistics were also felt within the field of translation. The notion of equivalence underwent some change, with a gradual shift from the notion of one-to-one equivalence to the consideration of the text’s situation and the aim of equivalent effect, i.e. the transferral of meaning rather than form with the aim of evoking from the IT reader the same or similar effect as that experienced by the ST reader. Structural semantics brought about a concentration on lexical equivalence through the use of componential analysis while text linguistics encouraged a more textual and intertextual approach to translation. There was thus a movement towards focusing on the extra textual and indeed extralinguistic aspects of translation, where significance and importance is attached to the culture of both source-language (SL) and target-language (TL) audiences, the function or purpose of the texts, the communicative situation (Nord, 1991) and the skopos or prospective target situation (Vermeer, 1991).

In spite of these developments,translation theory has remained largely normative, often criticized for advocating translation techniques, methods, at best, approaches to translation. In the past decade,some translation theoreticians have attempted to investigate translation in terms of cognitive activities, seeking to isolate and identify the cognitive processes at work during translation and thus shifting emphasis from the product to the process of the translation activity.

These attempts have generally drawn on data from introspective studies, predominantly employing concurrent verbalization (thinking aloud). Although interesting observations were made in these studies, there has, however, also been some opposition to them and some doubt as to the validity and accuracy of thinking-aloud protocols and the introspective research method (Ericsson & Simon, 1984). More importantly, however, this research has generally not been supported by a theoretical framework which would serve to confirm and elucidate the data supplied by introspective research. This perhaps highlights the need for a linguistic theory which unifies the accumulation of knowledge about language structure in a comprehensive way, a theory which tackles the issue of differences in conceptual structures and conceptual organization between languages, and which considers the importance of these in the consideration of meaning and use of language(s). In view of the insights offered by cognitive linguistics with regard to the crucial nature of conceptualization and cognitive processing for the study of meaning,this paper argues that the interaction of two languages in translation must also be approached from a cognitive linguistics perspective. In this respect, two aspects of cognitive linguistics merit discussion: cognitive grammar and categorization based on prototype theory.

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明代徐光啟和意大利人利馬竇合作,翻譯了歐幾里得的《幾何原理》、《測量法義》等書。清代的林妤(1852.11.8-1924.10.9)和他的合作者以口述筆記的方法翻譯了一百八十四種西方文學作品,達一千字以上。所譯小說中最著名的有《巴黎茶花女遺事》(La Dame aux Camelias)、《黑奴呼天錄》(Uncle Tom’s Cabin)、《块肉餘生述》(David Copperfield)、《王子復仇記》(Hamlet)等、林妤本人不懂外文,因而他的譯作刪減、遺漏、隨意添加之處甚多,但是李妤的翻譯作品對中國讀者了解西方文學作起了很大的作用。

嚴復(1954.1.18-1921.10.27)是中國清末新興資產階段的啟蒙思想家。他從光緒二十四年到宣統三年(公元1898-1911)這三十年間翻譯了不少西方政治經濟學說,如赫胥黎的《天演論》(Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays)、亞當.斯密的《原富》(An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause Of the Wealth of Nations)、孟德斯鳩的《法意》(L’esprit des Lois)、斯賓塞爾的《群學肆言》(On Liberty)、甄克思的《社會通詮》(A History of Polities)等、嚴复每譯一書,都有一定的目的及意義,常借用西方著名資產階級思想家的著作表達自己的思想。仿譯書字裡行間則往往加上了許多接語,發揮自己的見解。嚴復“曾經用過漢晉六朝翻譯佛經的方法”(魯迅《二心集》),在參照古代佛經翻譯經驗的基礎之外,同時結合自己的翻譯技巧,在《天演論》(公元一八九九年出版)卷首的《譯例言》中提出著名的“信、達、雅”翻譯標準。





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從隋代(公元五九零年)到唐代,這段時間是中國翻譯事業高度發達時期。隋代歷史較短,譯者和譯作都很少。比較有名的翻譯家有釋彥琮(俗姓李,趙郡柏人) 。他是譯經史上第一位中國僧人,他一生翻譯了佛經23部100餘卷。在其撰寫的《辨証論》中總結了翻譯經驗,提出了翻譯佛經的八大條件:

1)     誠心受法,志願益人,不憚久時 (誠心熱愛佛法,立志幫助別人,不怕費時長久);

2)     將踐覺場,先牢戒足,不染譏惡 (品行端正,忠實可信,不惹旁人譏疑);

3)     荃曉三藏,義貫兩乘,不苦闇滯 (博覽經典,通達義旨,不存在暗味疑難的問題);

4)     旁涉墳史,工綴典詞,不過魯拙 (涉獵中國經史,兼擅文學,不要過於疏拙);

5)    襟抱平恕。器量虛融,不好專執 (度量寬和,虛心求益,不可武斷固執);

6)     耽於道術,淡於名利,不欲高炫 (深愛道術,淡於名利,不愛出風頭);

7)     要識梵言,乃閑正譯,不墮彼學 (精通梵文,熟悉正確的翻譯方法,不失梵文所載義理);

8)     薄閱蒼雅,粗諳篆隶。不昧此文 (兼通中訓詁之學,不使譯本文字欠準確) 。




1) 補充法 (就是我們常說的增詞法);

2) 省略法 (即我們現在常說的減詞法);

3) 變位法 (即根據需要調整句序或詞序);

4) 分合法 (大致與現在所說分譯法和合譯法相同);

5) 譯名假借法 (即用另一種譯名來改譯常同的專門語術);

6) 代詞還原法 (即把原來的代名詞譯成代名詞所代的名詞)。