Language is composed of different words in a specific rule with limited compatibility among words, for example, some kind of verb can only occur with certain subjects or objects, some adjectives can only be used to modify certain nouns. As translation mainly consists of two phases: to understand the original text and to express the meaning in the target language, translators not only need to figure out what the collocation in the original text means, but also need to select appropriate collocation words during translation, which requires solid mastery of two languages and proficiency in customary collocation in these two languages. For instance, in Chinese, we could say “人老了” but could not say “年纪老了”. Thus the translation of “He was old and weak” should be “他年纪大了，身体衰弱” instead of “他年纪老了，身体衰弱”.
Different collocation should be employed even for the same word when it is used in different contexts. Let’s look at the translation of “shabby” below.
He lives in a shabby house.
She is a shabby old woman.
In this case, “shabby” in these two sentences actually expresses the same meaning. However, the noun it modifies determines what collocation shall be used, “房屋” shall be collocated with “简陋” instead of “衣衫褴褛”. Similarly, “人” shall be collocated with “衣衫褴褛” rather than “简陋”.
Different collocation should be used even for the same word in the same sentence. Let’s look at this example. “They were friendly to me and my opinion”. In this sentence, “friendly” modifies both “me” and “my opinion”. The appropriate translation shall be “他们对我很友好，对我的看法表示支持”. We can’t say “对我支持” and “对看法友好”. Below is another example. “She once again demonstrated to us her great knowledge, experience and wisdom”. In this sentence, “great” is used to modify “knowledge”, “experience” and “wisdom” at the same time. However, we can hardly find a word to collocate with “学识”, “经验” and “智慧” at the same time in Chinese. The appropriate translation shall be “她再次向我们展示了她渊博的学识、丰富的经验和无穷的智慧”. “渊博” is collocated with “学识”, “丰富” is collocated with “经验” and “无穷” is collocated with “智慧”.
Collocation is a difficult issue in translation. In the understanding stage, we should correctly determine the collocative meaning of words and during the expression stage we should select appropriate collocation words, which requires desirable mastery of both the original language and the target language. Consequently, we need to accumulate typical collocation during daily life. What’s more, internet can also be used to solve such collocation issues.