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The Spirit of Translation

Bear in mind: translation is for helping communication. I did not really know what translation meant to people until one day my brother in law asked me to translate several letters for him when he needed to talk about something technical with a foreigner. I took translation as my job and did everything as I was told to, such as observe the style guide of the company and follow the clients’ instructions, which, of course, is necessary. But when I was doing translation for my brother, what I concerned most was how to convey the meaning in the best way. To do that, I have to translate the English to readable Chinese. With that principle in mind, I think I could translate much better. My brother write a letter in Chinese and asked me to translate it in English. As you can imagine, he wrote the letter in a Chinese way, which means a lot of greeting which is necessary and meaningless in Chinese. When I translate those, I did not translate literally, instead, I just summed up the key points and wrote the main idea in my words. Just think about this scenario, someone (not your client) asks you to translate something for him, would you translate them to something unreadable? Of course not. You would try to explain the things you understand in the easiest way. That’s an obvious principle, right? But if all the translators understand this, why would there still be translation that is awkward and difficult to understand? They translate an article word by word, sentence by sentence, regardless the connection between them. I think It would help if translators remember the purpose of translation: help communication. It means it would not help if you do not write understandable sentence. So do not write any Chinese sentence that even Chinese people can not understand when doing English to Chinese translation and try to write authentic English when doing Chinese to English translation.

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