RSS feed

Valerie Pellatt and Eric T. Liu (2010).
Thinking Chinese Translation: a course in translation method: Chinese to English.

London/New York: Routledge, 230 pp. £24.99   ISBN: 978-0-415-47419-1.

The book is the latest issue of Thinking Translation series that focuses on the subject of Chinese-English translation by scholars and translators who are not native speakers of Chinese. It aims at highlighting the unique characteristics of Chinese to English translation. The topic is timely and relevant to the current trend in translation.

Broad range of translation subject has been analysed and discussed in fourteen chapters. It includes translating technical and scientific texts; traditional Chinese medicine translation; translating for legal and business purposes etc. The authors stress their observation in the introduction that although translation trainers and trainees often seek expertise outside the literary sphere, literary translation still provides rich training ground. Two chapters therefore have been devoted to poetic and literary translation. There is also a degree of innovation by the authors for introducing two case studies, in which a translator and an author's working relation and collaboration has been revealed; the discussion about paratextual features is equally fascinating.

Original and detailed research is evident throughout the book, and authors' emphasis on some of the previously less researched areas is clearly presented. For instance, in chapter two: Formal Schema, extensive analysis and discussion have been carried out about punctuation. According to the authors, "whereas English punctuation marks take up a letter space, and simply join themselves to a word, every Chinese punctuation mark takes up a full typographical character a language that does not rely on morphological inflection it may play a very important role in expressing meaning.[...]" (29) To explore this further, the authors look closely in each of the six distinct punctuation marks, e.g. colon, separation dot, sequence comma, clause comma, full stop and question marks. They also use five selected examples to illustrate how these punctuation marks in Chinese behave differently to contribute significant meaning to the texts, although some of them just look like their English counterparts. These research evidences strongly support authors' belief that punctuation marks are important for understanding the source text, and translators need to pay more attention to it. 

"Translating the nation" (chapter 9) is a remarkable result of authors' efforts to demonstrate the characteristics of Chinese English translation. As they state in the beginning of the chapter, "we will explore the way in which a nation uses the language of its ideological and policy statements to present a certain image to its citizens and to the people of other nations. That image is usually presented to the outside world through translation. [...]" (108) In order to achieve this, the authors firstly analyse the aspects that largely influence the translation of official discourse and statements, such as: the official awareness for different audiences, China's ideology and power, Chinese system for commissioning the translation, and the choice of lexis in Chinese language etc. They then compare three official translation versions with theirs to suggest that sometimes the official version is very explicit, mentioning mental enrichment overtly. On the other hand, the authors' version tends to leave readers to infer more for themselves. Finally, the authors analyse the linguistic features of Chinese official discourse, e.g. formality and courtesy, inclusiveness and positive tone, providing readers a comprehensive understanding and cultural background knowledge that is essential in Chinese English translation.

The postscript voices authors' intention to encourage students thinking independently. They hope by not prescribing translation strategy but guiding students through examples and analyses, this can lead students to relevance and purpose. Whilst extensive references on translation, language and literature have been used in the book, the authors point out fields such as humour and drama, scientific research, great classics of Chinese philosophy and history are yet to be covered in a future publication.

Yinghong Huang, City University, London.