Translation of Polysemous Lexis

In business English contract, there is much polysemous lexis, which means a word has several meanings itself. However, in specific context, a certain amount of lexis has only one meaning. Therefore, it is difficult to translate them correctly. Furthermore, different understandings lead to different translations. Therefore, Different usage of these words in certain fields should be mastered. Here are some examples explaining the phenomena of polysemous.

Drawback: 缺点,不利条件;退税

Interest: 兴趣,爱好,利息,利益,企业股份

E.g. accounts

A. the CFO was accused of falsifying the company accounts.


B. the company is one of our major accounts, so we should do our best to satisfy their needs.


C. she works in accounts.


D. the newly built company opened an account in HSBS.


As is known to all, many English words have but one single meaning. Therefore, we should know clearly their different meanings as well as usages in different contexts. For example, “accounts” is used in the four sentences listed above and its meanings are totally different in each sentence. They are “账目”,“客户”,“会计部门”,“账户” respectively. Therefore, in business contract translation, the meaning of the lexis should be translated accurately in specific context.

Skills of Long Sentence Translation

Generally, long sentence translation has been regarded as one of the major difficulties in contract translation. When translating contract English, we often meet the situation where English sentences are long while Chinese sentences are relatively short.

This brings us difficulties in translation works. That’s to say, we need to change the form of sentences, making them what they should be. In order to make sure that every aspect is considered and written into a contract, the sentences used in the contract is long and complex.

“Generally speaking, it is normal to see long sentences here and there in a contract. sentences which may run as long as 6-7 lines can be found here and there, greatly outrunning the average length of an English sentence (17 words)”7. Therefore, the following methods should be mastered in translating long sentences.


It is known to all that English sentences used in the contract are long and complex. They usually consist of several compositions in sentences which are not so closely related to each other. However, in Chinese, sentences are relatively short. Sometimes in translation, a long English sentence can be divided into several parts in Chinese.

Therefore, when translating business contract, the method of division is often adopted. First, divide long English sentences into several parts reasonably according to the different meanings of each part. Then translate them on the basis of Chinese ideological order.

E.g. “International counter trade is a practice whereby a supplier commits contractually —as a condition of sale—to reciprocate and undertake certain specified commercial initiatives that compensate and benefit the buyer”8.


As the example listed above, the sentence is long and complex and contains several parts. Thus it is hard for people to translate. Therefore, this kind of sentences should be divided into several parts reasonably according to the different meanings of each part.

The example is divided into three parts in Chinese. In the first part, international counter trade acts as a condition of sale; then, international counter trade means that the supplier commits contractually; at last, International counter trade serves as a practice which is to reciprocate and undertake certain specified commercial initiatives that compensate and benefit the buyer. After the division, translation becomes so easy if we translate them on the basis of Chinese ideological order.

Read Also: Skills of Long Sentence Translation in Business Contract


Generally, the structure of English long sentences is not the same as that of Chinese. From the perspectives of the logic relationships and the time order, English long sentences are made of first conclusions and then reasons, conditions and subjects or attitudes and fact, etc.

However, the Chinese structure is just the opposite side sometimes. Therefore, in English-Chinese translation, the structure should be inversed to convey the original contract faithfully and expressively. That’s to say, the translation of those sentences should start from the back parts and then to the former parts.

E.g. “This may occur if the corporation is capitalized with too little equity capital (owner’s money) as compared to the debt capital (borrowed money), also known as “thin capitalization”, under circumstances amounting to fraud or other improprieties in dealing with creditors”(Translation Business English 38).


From the example, we can know clearly how inversion works in translation. First of all, grasp the overall information of the sentence, and then translate it from the back part to the former part. In the sentence, the last part “under circumstances amounting to fraud or other improprieties in dealing with creditors” is translated as the first part “在相当于诈骗或其他针对债权人的不当行为的情况下”in Chinese.

Meanwhile, the first part “this may occur” is translated as the last part “便会出现这种现象”in Chinese. This inversion method makes the translated contracts conform to the Chinese logical order.

The Sequence Translation

Sequencing translation means translating long sentences according to its original structure and order. It’s a direct way of translation. That’s to say, when the contents are consistent with the Chinese way of thinking in the logic, sequence and structural level, we can use this translation method. Sequence translation is a relatively easy and convenient translation method.

E.g. “The debt problems confronting a number of developing countries have reinforced china’s determination to introduce foreign technology by means of direct investment and concessionary finance rather than by raising substantial sum of money on the international capital market”(Translation Business English 37).


English sentences, which express the same as the way of Chinese expression, can be translated with sequence translation method. The example cited above is such one that translation can start from the beginning to the end without changing structures or orders.

This part mainly introduces the skills for contract translation in the perspectives of lexis and long sentences. As for the translation of the lexis, the method of abbreviation and amplification are proposed.

Meanwhile, the method of polysemous lexis translation is also provided by citing many examples. As for the translation of long sentences, division and inversion methods are employed.

Importantly, the sequence translation is used frequently. From this part, we can learn the skills in translation. Generally speaking, these methods are helpful and often used in contract translation.