讀者來函

:::

1995 / 4月



美國李其曙

編輯先生:

由於貴刊的中文文章旁都附有英文翻譯,我常將閱讀貴刊視為我中英文翻譯的學術研究之一部分而深覺樂在其中。首先我必須對貴刊的譯者致上誠摯的謝意,感謝諸位為讀者提供了如此流暢動人的英文文章。

不過當我比較中英文時,我發現到有些譯法並未忠實地傳達原文意義。第一種毛病是,光就英文來看,文句並無不妥,內容也十分合理,但一旦與原文相較,我們便發現其意義實與原文大相逕庭。這類錯誤可以「憂國憂民或危言聳聽?」(一九九四年十二月,第十九卷第十二期,第四十七頁)一文為代表。文中提到:「現在檯面上所能想得到的人」,英文譯為“a lot of people who are around now”(許多現在在這兒的人),這一句話在英文中是用爛了的成語,卻用來一筆帶過中文中兩個辭彙的意義,第一個辭彙是「檯面上的人」,這樣一句中文的口語說法,字面上來看指的是「台上的人」,實則暗喻公眾人物或官員。另一個辭彙是「現在所能想得到的」,合起來整個的意思是“all those public figures and officials you can name now”(所有你能想得到的公眾人物和官員)。由此可見此句譯成英文時,不僅人物的範圍受了侷限,連人物的身分也掩蓋了。這種過分簡化的翻譯,顯然將原作者對一旦受到「攻擊」時,哪些人會最先溜之大吉的預測扭曲了。在翻譯此類高敏感的政治性議題時,為避免引發不必要的誤會,正確性是最重要的。

另一種類型的翻譯毛病並不如第一類問題那樣容易造成誤會,這類的翻譯儘管在英文文法上無懈可擊,其內容卻使讀者猶如鴨子聽雷,茫然不知所云。這類的問題之所以發生,也同樣由於翻譯者對中文的了解不夠透徹。就拿「『一九九五閏八月』現象」(一九九四年十二月,第十九卷第十二期,第四十四頁)一文來說吧,中文說:「美國從來沒有和另一個核武國家在戰場上兵戎相見過」,英文是這樣翻譯的:“…the US has never let its forces look across the battlefield at the soldiers of another nuclear power.”中文所謂「在戰場上兵戎相見」,其實就是「打仗」、「開戰」的一種委婉說法,譯者未能理解這一點,而就中文字面上的意義將之一五一十地譯成英文,結果這樣一個委婉巧妙的句子,由於譯者的不經心竟成了一串與中文一字不差但卻毫無意義的英文字。

我所提到的這些棘手擾人的問題再一次證實了對於原始文字的透徹了解是做好翻譯的基礎。不過無論如何,由於光華致力於翔實介紹許多中國文化中獨一無二的特色,翻譯光華確實是件辛苦艱難的工作。我寫這封信並非想否定貴刊的英文翻譯水準,相反地,我希望我微薄的意見能使貴刊翻譯們原已十分出色的中英文溝通工作更臻完美。

光華英文翻譯部按:

非常感謝李先生來函指正,更高興得知我們的翻譯受到讀者如此的重視,由於作業時間有限,實難盡善盡美,在這裡向讀者致歉,我們也會更嚴謹的核稿,只有經過讀者明亮的眼睛監督,我們才能不斷地進步。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR


Dear Editor,

As your magazine comes with the English translation of its Chinese texts, I enjoy reading it as part of my academic pursuit in Chinese-English translation. I must first extend sincere thanks to your translators for presenting the reader with highly readable English texts.

In my bilingual reading, however, I noticed some improperly translated expressions that apparently failed to bring out the original meaning. In the first category, the English text reads all right and makes sense by itself. But when it is compared with the Chinese original, we found that the meaning is not at all what is carried in the source language. A typical case that exemplifies this category of improper translation can be singled out from "Patriot or Scaremonger?" (p.47, Vol. 19, No. 12, December 1994). In this case, “現在檯面上所能想得到的人”runs in the original, but is rendered as "a lot of people who are around now." Here too common a clich--"a lot of people who are around now"--has substituted for two units of meaning in Chinese. One is “檯面上的人”a Chinese colloquialism that literally refers to those "on the stage," but metaphorically public figures or officials. The other unit of meaning is “現在所能想得到的”--all those you can name now. The exact meaning of the Chinese expression is "all those public figures and officials you can name now." So the English translation not only limits the scope of people in question but, even worse, conceals their identity. This oversimplified translation has obviously distorted the Chinese author's idea when he is predicting who are the first to leave Taiwan in case of "an attack." In translating accounts on sensitive political topics, accuracy is above all required to avoid misunderstanding.

The second category of improper translation, although not as much misleading as the first one because its grammatically unassailable English makes no sense to the reader, also resulted from the translator's inability to comprehend the Chinese expressions. To illustrate this category, let's take a look at a sentence from "The Turmoil Over T-Day" (p. 44, Vol. 19, No. 12, December 1994). While the Chinese text reads

” 美國從來沒有和另一個核武國家在戰場 上 兵戎 相見 過

In the Chinese text, “ 在戰兵戎相見”is a euphemistic way of saying "to fight a battle or war against each other." Failing to see this, the translator just took the words at their face value and put them literally into English. In consequence, the euphemism is unwittingly copied only to render its English equivalent a meaningless sequence of words.

These tricky points I raised for discussion once again convince us that a good understanding of the original language is the basis for good translation. But at any measure, the translation of Sinorama is a strenuously demanding task given the magazine's faithful and detailed dedication to some unique features of Chinese culture. I am not denying the quality of the English translation of your magazine. On the contrary, I just want to add my bit to what has already been done excellently by your translators bridging the gap between Chinese and English.

Sincerely, Qishu Li, America

(Original letter in English)

Translators' Note: We would like to thank Mr. Li for his meticulous and thoughtful observations on our translations, although we disagree with his conclusion in the second case. It is a pleasure to discover serious and careful attention is paid to our work. We regretfully admit that, particularly due to constraints in time, occasional mistranslations are inevitable. We will work even harder to produce accurate translations, for only under the tutelage of our readers can our magazine continue to improve.

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