Picture is an important component of article. Delicate pictures can make sufficient illustration and supplement, adding the touch that brings a work of art to life.
When translating picture captions, there are two mistakes translators always make: 1) translate without having a glance of the picture, making the translation not suitable to the actual picture; 2) translate without context, making the translation not suitable to the body text; 3) translate with too many words, which is too long to composing.
So, the first point we should pay attention to is: first see the picture, then translate! Please remember to refer to source pdf file or website link or any other kind of picture.
Do not take it for granted. During translation, we still have some rules to follow.
1) Do not translate the obvious meaning.
Pictures are very intuition. Readers can know the meaning clear at the first sight. Some obvious elements, such as male or female, it is not necessary to indicate in our translation.
Original translation: Chinese women soldiers
Sometimes we can encounter with 三位中国女兵, and translate it into “three Chinese women soldiers”. Actually, it is obvious to see how many and male or female. So we can translate it into “PLA soldiers” simply.
2) Accurate information is the key point.
“神州 7 号”于 2008 年 9 月 25 日发射升空，三名航天员进入太空。9 月27 日，翟志刚顺利出舱，实现太空行走，这是中国首次空间出舱活动。
Original translation: Shenzhou VII was launched on September 25, 2008, when three astronauts stepped out of the spaceship. On September 27, Zhai Zhigang stepped outside the spacecraft and completed a spacewalk, performing China’s maiden spacewalk, making China the third country in the world to master the key technology to put a man into space.
In fact, this translation makes a mistake in understanding “三名航天员进入太空”. Here, 进入太空 means traveling in spacecraft. Only one of them stepped outside. So, the correct translation should be as follows:
Shenzhen VII was launched on September 25, 2008, with three astronauts on board. On September 27, Zhai Zhigang came out of the spacecraft and completed China’s maiden spacewalk.
3) To convey the most information with the least words.
The caption of picture should be simply and clear, in order to save space and stress the key point. It is recognized to use nouns as pre-attribute, or use abbreviation, omit definite Article, use prepositions, to minimize words.
2009 年 1 月 30 日，国务院总理温家宝在位于比利时布鲁塞尔的欧盟总部与欧盟委员会主席巴罗佐举行会谈。
Original translation: January 30, 2009, Premier Wen Jiabao (L) of the State Council holding talks with Jose Manuel Barroso (R), President of the European Commission in Brussels, in Belgium, at the headquarters of the European Union.
Corrected translation: January 30, 2009, Premier Wen Jiabao (L) met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
4) Make the connotation clear.
Original translation: An elder man leaning to use the Internet
Although the meaning is correct, it is fairly straightforward. The translation should stress the point of “elder man can be fashion”.
Corrected translation: The Internet, no longer just a privilege of the young
Original translation: Traditional candied haw-berries being sold at a fair
Corrected translation: Traditional candied haw-berries have always made children’s mouths water