When translating materials, I usually make some minor mistakes, many of which, mostly, are caused by carelessness and can be avoided if I spend more time to understand them.

By listing several mistakes that might be ignored by new translators, this article is aimed to arouse new translators’ attention on what is seemingly insignificant but actually vital to the whole text, and help them further refine their translation.


Most new translators might ignore the function of tense, and think that the tense of the original text needn’t to be embodied in the translating text. This is a misunderstanding. The tense of the original text may as well be reflected in our translating text when we translating, in that tense is conducive to reveal the changing process of a thing.

E.g. English prose is elaborate rather than simple, it was not always so.

Version 1: 英国散文的特点是刻意雕琢,而不是简介,但也并非总是如此。

Version 2: 现今英语散文华巧而欠简朴,过去却并非总是如此。

By comparing those two Chinese versions above, it is not difficult for us to find that their difference lies in the ways to address tense in translation. In the first Chinese version, the present tense “is” and the past tense “was” cannot be tracked, so readers are not able to know the English prose’s, in fact, has some changes from the past to the present, if they have no English version on hand;

while in the second Chinese version, the expression — “现在” and “过去” delivers the meanings of the original text in an effective way, which will not cause readers’ misunderstanding.

2. Polysemy

Polsemy means that a word has at least two different meanings. As a result, when we encounter polysemys, we need to pay more attention, in order to make the translation be more accurate.

E.g. We are fully aware that you receive many surveys and questionnaires. This is not simply another opinion poll.

Version 1: 我们深知您收到过许多调查与问卷。但这张调查并不仅是其中的一个民意调查。

Version 2: 我们深知您收到过许多调查与问卷。但此次问卷并非简单的民意调查。

In the first version, the translator regard “not simply” as a whole and misunderstand it as “不仅仅”, which is not in accordance with context; While in the second version, the translator sees the word “simply” as a separate unit, and translate is as “简单的”, which is more accurate and more adaptive to the whole text. Hence, when we are confronted with polysemy as “simply”, we should be more careful.

What I have discussed in the previous paragraphs are actual cases that I have encountered in the translating process. Though those two problems seem to be too trivial to mention, they could exert negative influence on the whole translating text, and, sometimes, would even impact translators’ career due to those inadvertent mistakes.

So, be more careful and more responsible for the translation.

Read Also: Some Notes for E-C Translation (2)