The Linguist

The Linguist 56,6 – December 2017/January 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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If I rack my brains for the perfect word, I am not helping the end client and I am not helping myself DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018 The Linguist 23 FEATURES For example, without context this sentence seems a little unnatural in Chinese: 我觉得, 哪一种车,就雪铁龙比较适合自己 (literally: 'I think, what kind of car, snow iron dragon suitable for myself'). Knowing that the survey is about cars is helpful: the middle clause may seem strange, but I make the assumption that the original question was either 'What kind of car suits you best?' or 'What kind of car matches your personality?'. The important part is knowing that Snow- Iron-Dragon is the Chinese brand name for Citroën. My translation is therefore 'For what kind of car, I think a Citroën would be best for me.' There is no need to quibble about exactly what the emphasis of the original question was (whether 'suits me best', 'fits my personality' or something similar) because the key information is there and it is clear. Another technique is adopting an informal style. The register of the responses is very informal – respondents will choose casual words and probably sound like they are talking to a friend. In this kind of text, it is fine to use contractions and to use a style that would be frowned upon in a reputable newspaper. I rarely need to use a dictionary because the terms aren't technical, and I find myself starting sentences with 'and' or 'because' when it fits the tone. As long as the tone is consistent and reflects the original text, this is easy to do. For example: 'After I ate it for the first time, and then when I ate it in Shenyang, I was so, well, that chocolate taste, I just felt like I couldn't hold myself back any longer.' The message comes across clearly and it is easy to tell that the respondent has a positive response towards the brand. I didn't add anything that wasn't present in the source text. Chinese problems There are a few problems that only come up in specific language pairs. When translating from Chinese to English, it can be hard to spot a brand name because there are no spaces between words, there are no markers for pronouns and characters have multiple meanings. Most Western companies choose a Chinese brand name for the Chinese market, which might not be familiar to me. The name might sound vaguely like the English name, but unless I have seen it before I will not be able to guess it. In such cases, I do a quick internet search of the characters that I suspect to be a brand name and add the word 品牌 ('brand') to avoid erroneous hits. One of the hits will be the company's official website, or a website that includes both the English name and the Chinese name. Sometimes an image search works well, because the results will include the brand's logo. When I get multiple hits of an English- language logo after searching for those characters, I know I've found the right brand. Another thing to be aware of is the potential for the source text to be very wordy. The target text does not need to be quite as wordy. A classic example is the word 很 ('very'). Grammatically, it must be used before an adjective in Chinese, so if a respondent uses 很 alone, it is does not signal anything in particular. On the other hand, use of 非常 ('extremely') is a conscious choice, so I will make sure to write 'very' or 'really' in that case. Some respondents put the word 'brand' after every mention of a brand name. That is not necessary in English, so, for example, 'I buy Adidas brand clothes occasionally' can be shortened to 'I buy Adidas clothes occasionally'. And, of course, some respondents use filler words like 然后 ('and then'), which can be removed in most cases. Controversial tips So here comes the controversial part. Since survey responses can be impromptu and are not academic, I think that punctuation is less important in this text type. This is especially the case if the feedback was given orally. I will also reduce '!!!' to '!' to save space and make the text easier to read. If the respondent hesitates and there is an ellipsis pause (e.g. 'In terms of price, well… I wish it were cheaper') I might remove it, depending on the situation. Significantly rewriting the text is a bad idea because it would be a waste of time. The end client is using this text internally – it is not going to be published in a book or online. The client is not poring over each individual sentence, but trying to get an overall picture of how hundreds of people connect with their brand. If I rack my brains for the perfect word or try to make unclear sentence phrases into beautiful, cogent arguments, I am not helping the end client and I am not helping myself. My ability to guess correctly is limited, so I always need to make sure that I am not making an inappropriate assumption. Sometimes I am unable to confirm whether or not a word or phrase is a product name. For example, 游泳裤 in the sentence 我很喜 欢速比都的游泳裤 could refer to Speedo Aquashorts (short and form fitting) or their swim shorts (slightly longer and loose). When I am not sure, I avoid the brand-specific term because I do not have enough time to ask the client and wait for their response. Fortunately there is a function on the platform to leave a comment, so I can at least flag the issue before turning in the translation. At the end of the day, the client is looking for authenticity and enough clarity to extract information quickly. If I can accomplish that easily, I can make £70-£80 in just a few hours. I consider that a win-win situation. This method of translation is not suitable for all text types, but it can be effective for things that are published internally. If you have come across similar texts or have your own tips to share, contact WIN-WIN SITUATION Sometimes clients want a cheap, efficient overview, not a detailed translation suitable for publication

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