tirsdag 10. mars 2009

Languages, translations

During the year when Coco was studying Law in Oslo, there had been many occasions where her and classmates would be discussion politics and the difference of policies in different countries. Most of the time she remain silent because she can't join into the conversation. It is not that she knows nothing about the subject, but she has major trouble putting out her knowledge in English. Especially when it comes to names and places.

Based on my experience from talking to Coco and reading newspaper from HK, I find it very annoying to be forced to absorbed my knowledge in Chinese, even if it is a person or place in the foreign country. Is it so hard to write the name in local language so that someone who knows the letters can figure out the pronounciation themselves?

The following names really deserve some extra consideration, I pay special attention to English and Spanish translation because I am more familiar with them:

Charles: 查理斯 还是 查爾斯 好呢?
Shakespeare: Shakes = 沙士? 那SARS又是什么?
Virginia: 不知道什么时候变成 弗吉尼亚
Waterloo: 究竟是 滑铁卢 还是 窝打老 呢?
Gascoigne: 加斯居尼, I once tried to pronounce the name based on Chinese to a friend, and ended up being laughed at (Ga-see-coigne)
Juventus: 祖雲達斯, J in Italian prounce Y, I am surprise they can't find one single person who can suggest that at the beginning.
Mallorca: 馬略卡 This team didn't really came into the picture until late 90s, but....
double L in Spanish pronounce y. So this is actually Mayorca
Villareal: 维拉利爾 Same as above. Should be Viyareal, in fact, I don't see how real (pronounce re-AL)can be translated to 利爾.
Rául: 鲁爾 The name pronounced ra-OOL, I really don't understand where they got that name from.

I havn't even added the complication of multiple Chinese translation of names due to Mandarin and Cantonese. Here are a few:

Nigeria: 尼日尼亚, 奈及利亚
Bush: 布殊, 布希
Tiger Woods: 活士, 伍兹


Besides foreign language to Chinese, I also find it very difficult for people to master the pronounciation of Chinese names when written in letters. Try the following....

Cao Cao
Jiang Zemin
Zhao Zilong

I once knew someone from high school, his name is Timothy Cao. Since he is ABC I wasn't 100% sure if he knows how to pronounce his last name, but whenever he introduce himself he would pronounce his last name as KO (kay-oh). Honestly, with english pronounciation, the first thing I think about would be "Cow". So much for pinyin.

I think for the world to achieve globalization, besides the flow of money, the flow of information is also very important and a way to improve it is to really work on some of the translations.

7 kommentarer:

市場維京人 sa...

淨係香港、台灣、同埋內地嘅中文翻譯已經好唔同,煩死!

laulong sa...

Very interesting !

The problem is hard to solve. As Viking said, even in China, you can find the great differences between PTH and Cantonese !

Ask God to fix it, may work, because there is only one God !

Desertfox sa...

Laulong,
I think we should leave God out of this one. He is busy and this is a small issue.

How about a centralized agency responsible for translations? At least we will have some consistency as long as the quality of translations are up to par.

Basically there are a few things I dislike

- Treating all latin-based languages like English.
- Inconsistency with translations
- Poorly done translations

eric sa...

我估冇一個西人喺會能夠正確的讀Cao Cao(曹操)嘅。

送多個粵/國語翻譯:
碧咸/贝克汉姆

eric sa...

"How about a centralized agency responsible for translations?"

很難,一定會政治化。

kaylee sa...

This has always been a pain the arse for translators.

Temporarily, the (only) solution is to translate the terms according to the language of the target reader, i.e. mainland translation/PTH pinyin for mainlanders, hk translation for hk ppl, etc. There are also some "standard" dictionaries of place names, special terms, etc.(still, they're edited in terms of specific locations), which can be cited for proper translation work.

For place names, I'm not sure whether there're any standards provided by the UN, but here's a thought. :-)

Nonetheless, as a translator, I totally agree that there should be some sort of "centralized agency" responsible for translation of common terms/names, that will save us a LOT of energy. ;-)

Desertfox sa...

I think the ultimate goal of name translation is to allow the readers to pronounce the name with their local language and yet it is still understandable by others.

It is okay to have different translations for Mandarin and Cantonese as long as each dialect can produce the same sound. Just like the case of Beckham, you acheive similar pronounciation with each dialect's translation. In this case I think it is okay.