How to choose the appropriate word

The point of translation is not the obscure new words and complicated structure, but the actual word which should be used for those simple-like sentences, especially those common words, like slowly, etc.

Let us have a look at the following examples:

1)      Slowly she took the letter out of the envelope and unfolded it.


2)      Only slowly have they begun to realize their mistake.


3)      For some people hope dies slowly.


The word “slowly” in these three sentences are all translated into “慢慢地”, but the translations are not so good. Some people think that every English word has the corresponding meaning or word in target language (Chinese here). The word “Slow” has the meaning of “慢”, and then the “Slowly” is translated into “慢慢地”. It is not correct not considering the actual context and the text background.

On the surface, the first translation is not wrong. Because the word “slowly” do has the meaning of “慢”. The definition in a dictionary is “moves along or does something without much speed (以不快的速度移动或做某事)”. There are many different expressions for the same meaning. During translation, so we should choose the appropriate word according to the context. For example:

He spoke slowly. — 他慢条斯理地说。

He is slow of speech. — 他口齿不伶俐。

The police were slow in coming. — 警察姗姗来迟。

We enjoyed a slow Sunday at home. — 我们在家里悠闲地度过了一个星期天。

He waved his hand slowly in contempt. — 他懒洋洋地挥了挥手,一副不屑一顾的样子。

So we can translate the word into “不慌不忙地”. That is “她不慌不忙地从信封里抽出信来,展开。”

If the word is not chosen correctly for the first translation, the second translation is the problem of understanding. There is another definition for this word “slowly”— takes a long time, especially more time that is usual or expected (比通常或意料的需要更多时间).  For example:

He is slow in making up his mind. — 他要花很长的时间才能下决心(他总是下不了决心)。

Slow help is no help. — 过了很长时间才来的帮助算不上帮助(不及时的帮助等于没有帮助)。

The crowd was breaking up very slowly. — 人群迟迟不肯散去。

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty. — 不轻易发怒的人胜过勇士。

So the translation for the word is “慢” rather than “过了很长时间才……”. Thus, the translation for second sentence should be “他们过了很长时间才开始认识自己的错误。” or “在相当长的时间里他们没有认识到自己的错误。” (to be continued)


Words translated by CCJK


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