The Choice of Word in Translation
The choice of word, just as its name implies, is the choice and use of word, which is the first t o be affected in translation. No matter in English or in Chinese, polysemy is quite common to see. Moreover, English and Chinese languages have great differences in cultural backgrounds, words may have opposite connotation, and social customs varies according to many aspects. If you want to translate English to Chinese smoothly, you should pay special attention to these differences, and vice verse. Translators must think about the meaning carefully, and find the corresponding expression in target language.
The connotation of words always means its emotion, stylistic meaning and figurative meaning, etc. Different cultural backgrounds cause different social attitudes; people in different cultures may have different recognition in one thing. If you do not take these aspects into account, apply the thoughts and pattern of target language, you are probably to cause misunderstanding.
Thus, some words with the same literal meaning may have different association and adjustment in different languages. For example, the word of “dog”, even through dog is considered as a lovely pet in both China and West countries, it has different complimentary. In Chinese, words and phrases with “dog” are usually pejorative, such as 走狗, 癞皮狗, 狗腿子. While in English, most of such phrases are meliorative, except those affected by loanwords. Such as “to work like a dog” mean one who is word hard, and “a lucky dog” means one who is lucky.
In addition to these, some words mean different than their literal meaning. Here are some examples: “restroom” means toilet rather than lounge; “adult books” means pornographic book rather than booked used by adult; “dry goods” means textiles, not dried goods; “sweet water” means fresh water, not water with sweet flavor.
Thus it can be seen that words and expressions in English and Chinese may indicate inconsistent concepts, or some words may connote special emotional meaning. Thus, we can not understand one word just as a word, but to put it into certain context and cultural background. And then, choose the best word with the same connotation in the target language, to achieve equivalence in literal meaning as well as implied meaning.
In translation, we should pay special attention to collocation of words. Such as play, in English, we say, play basketball, play football, play games. While in Chinese, we use different verbs in such phrases: 打篮球, 踢足球, 玩游戏. Another example is the word “wear”. In English we say wear clothes, wear hat, wear a tie. But in Chinese, we say 穿衣服, 戴帽子, 系领带.
When translate from Chinese to English, one thing I want to emphasis here is: avoid using long words or uncommon words or phrases. In English vocabulary, there are plenty of synonyms, such as empty and vacant, home house and room, clothes and clothing, etc. Some of these words are not common to see. If you can use a simple and easy word to express what you want to express, do not use complicate one.
For example, we should better say “In China, the new term begins on Sep.1st and ends on Jan.15th.” rather than “In China, the new term commences on Sep.1st and terminates on Jan.15th.”
In one word, if you want to be smooth and fluent in translation, the choice of word is very important. We must choose the correct word according to the theme of the article, its style and target readers, to make translation appropriate and concise.
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