Different ways of expression between English and Chinese
Recently, I have been fascinated with English novels. Actually, I spent a lot of time reading famous literary works when I was a college student. At that time, reading was a way to spend spare time. Immersed in the world of heroes or heroines, I always forgot my own world. I have to admit it is a really wonderful feeling, for I can experience all kinds of life, peaceful or exciting. It’s really amazing.
However, five years later after graduation, I find a different state of mind in reading. No longer obsessed with interesting plots, I turned to appreciate the words, phrases or sentences that are elaborately chose by authors. It’s equally marvelous.
Such a change may be the result of my commitment to an excellent English translator. To become a qualified translator, I should, in the first place, have a thorough understanding about the native and target languages, and the most effective way is to read extensively.
The novel I am so crazy about is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Besides the romantic story between Scarlet and Rhett, I am also deeply impressed by the difference ways of expression between Chinese and English.
Read Also: Some tips to Traditional Chinese Translation
As we know, Chinese and English belong to two completely different language families. English is an Indo-European language, but Chinese a Sino-Tibetan language.
To translate Chinese into English, one must thoroughly understand and grasp the different ways of expression between English and Chinese. Taking Gone with the Wind for example, I’d like to share some difference between the two with you.
Firstly, English pays more attention to static expression, while Chinese dynamic expression. Putting it specifically, English often adopts nouns (or transformed from verbs), phrases, adjective and so on instead of verbs, flexible and variable in grammar but compact in structure and logistically strong.
Chinese is inclined to use verbs, short in sentence and loose in structure, but powerful and dynamic. Therefore, we can try to translate English and Chinese link-verb structure into dynamic or verbs in Chinese, for example:
1) Gerald was on excellent terms with all his neighbors in the Country. 杰拉尔德同县里所有的邻居都相处得很好。
In this sentence, it’s hard to literally translate the link verb, so we borrow a verb in Chinese, which makes the translation quite smooth and easily understood.
2) Scarlett came back to earth with a jerk, at the sound of the word “marry”. 思嘉听到“结婚”这个字眼，便猛地从幻想中回到现实里来。
In English, verbs are seldom used together, but it’s common in Chinese. In this sentence, “at the sound of” equals to the verb “hear” as far as its Chinese meaning is concerned.
3) By contrast with his own miserable existence, they were well-fed, well-clothed and looked after in sickness and old age. 以他自己的穷困生活做对比，他们确认是吃得好 ，穿得好，并且病了有人照顾，老了有人供养。
Well-fed and well-clothed are adjective words here, but they are translated into verbs, which can express the Chinese meaning more vividly.
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Secondly, English puts more stress on objects, but Chinese human beings. No matter whether it is the subject or other element, English highlights the object and emphasizes objective facts.
On the contrary, Chinese always takes “people” as the subject. So we should consider replacing the subject which is in the form of an object in English into a “person” in Chinese, for example:
1) Scarlett’s conscience smote her at this last, for it had been months since she had been to church. 思嘉对母亲的这一吩咐感到十分内疚，因为她已经好几个月不上教堂去了。
In this sentence, the subject is Scarlett’s conscience, but it is replaced by a person (Scarlett) in the Chinese edition.
2) The sight of Tom Slattery dawdling on his neighbors’ porches, begging cotton seed for planting or a side of bacon to “tide him over”, was a familiar one. 人们常看到汤姆斯莱特里在邻居家的走廊上赖着不走，向人家讨棉花籽儿下种，或者要一块腌肉去“对付一顿”。
Here, the subject “sight” is replaced by people in translation.
3) His arrival was always amid a bedlam of bounds barking and small black children shouting as they raced to meet him. 他每次来时，总要引起一群乱吠乱跳的猎狗和叫喊着的黑孩子跑去迎接他。
In English, “his arrival” serves as subject, but in Chinese, “he” is the subject.
Thirdly, English tends to ellipsis, but Chinese repetition. English sentence is formed according to a certain rule, so its structure is much clear. However, it’s also customary to apply ellipsis in English.
On the one hand, it is for conciseness. On the other hand, English is well structured, and the omission of some elements wouldn’t affect its meaning. It commonly exists in parallel structures and can be classified into nominal ellipsis, verbal ellipsis and clausal ellipsis, for example
1) She learned that his compliments were always two edged and his tenderest expressions open to suspicion. 她了解到他的奉承总有两层截然相反的涵义，他表现出来的最温柔的感情也是值得怀疑的。
Here, the link verb “were” is omitted between “expressions” and “open”.
Fourthly, English sentence is long and complex, but Chinese short and concise. English sentence emphasizes hypotaxis, so it can be extended infinitely via comas, conjunctions, preposition and clauses, etc.. It likes a tree. Along its root, we can find all details included. As for Chinese, usually one sentence only contains one meaning, and it seems independent from others. Sometimes, it’s hard to find out the logistics among them.
In addition, there are many other differences between English and Chinese, such as, the preference of passive invoice in English and active invoice in Chinese, the application of abstract words in English and concrete words in Chinese and so forth. We should attach more attention to it in our future work and study.
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