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English translations don't do justice to 'untranslatable' Chinese concepts [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2013-9-2 21:41:45 |Display all floors
Junzi in Chinese has a far richer and more nuanced meaning than its common English translation as "gentleman," just as shengren has different connotations from its English translation as "sage." Hence, the author calls for the use of Chinese concepts as part of a new global language.

I have been working very hard lately. I have restored the shengren 圣人 to East Asia and to world history, and empowered two billion East Asians by green-lightening more of their precious terminologies for worldwide recognition.

It wasn't easy. I am despised by an army of undiscerning academic highbrows, and ridiculed by semi-educated and vengeful "China-experts" whose era of translating Chinese into Western categories has now come to an end. The public is ready for non-European vocabularies.

For 3,000 years the Chinese owned the concept of daxue 大学, yet no Chinaman ever came of the idea — let alone succeeded — to elevate this word permanently into the English language. What to think of such cultural passivity?

Yes, I am fearless and indifferent to convention and limitation. If there are shengren and junzi 君子 in the world, let them be known. And if there is a tianxia 天下 or a datong 大同, we shall restore them to the global lexicon, too.

More and more writers have irreversibly lightened up to the fact that each culture had purpose and design. Europe never invented rujia 儒家; China did. Americans didn't trailblaze the concepts of dharma, karma or yoga; India did. The wisdom of the East is immortalized in its vocabularies and must be liberated from European language imperialism once and for all.

When commentators ask me: "What is that, tianren heyi 天人合一?" I passionately reply: "Glad to hear that you don't know."

Some people say this is madness! Or, maybe we just took the Takarabune and sailed a hundred years ahead of the establishment. I painfully remember, from my young days in Bockum-Hovel in the old German city of Hamm, when my grand grandmother — may her soul rest in peace — used to warn me, and she meant well: "Do you ever mingle with mongoloids!"

Bias against foreign terms

We are still not past anti-foreignism, my dear friends.

On the contrary, these days we are experiencing another: an unprecedented Anglo-Saxon bias against foreign terms: The New York Times, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, Science magazine — the greater part of the Western "mass muscle" — is coercing their authors to hold back on non-English words or eliminate them from their submissions.

The aim: to keep their ever-so-global papers pure, "readable" and appropriate for the species.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you read Persian or Russian thought in print in Western media? The likely answer is: You never did.

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Post time 2013-9-2 21:43:29 |Display all floors
Likewise, to this day, even with China rising, Western media remain virtually Chinese-free, and this isn't even a metaphor.

In the age of conquest, Europeans could make a colored man and his livelihood disappear — and get away with it. They could also omit — or shall we say erase — any of his words, or simply substitute a European term for it.

Even today the shrewd and narrow-minded — especially the academics — still get away with (European) biblical or philosophical translations of Chinese key terms all the time.

I ask, is such practice really necessary, ethical or even legal anymore in this 21st century of knowledge, information, and intellectual property rights? Can we really disown, say, Japanese sake and sushi any way we want, perhaps calling them "rice wine and fish" even though sake and sushi are their names?

Let there be tens of thousands of Eastern key words filling our European imaginations to the brim.

It will give us plenty of opportunity to finally learn something new.

Who cares no single human being can possibly remember all languages? That's complementary to the fact that we are so many language speakers; because that's ultimately what we do: we are constantly scanning the world and creating new thought, and branding our innovations by putting unique names to them.

Asia is the other mother lode of all human creativity. Make it count!

I've said many times that we couldn't do it before, that we couldn't tolerate too many Asian words and categories in Europe (we couldn't even tuck in French, imagine that), simply because in the old days we lacked vision, patience, and the infinite memory capacity of today's machines. Those so-called European "modern men" only cared for those categories most familiar to them.

End irresponsible translations

This is about to change.

Now that we've mastered all the sciences, we must make a science out of the humanities — the last and sorry dimension that is still at fault, that is still dominated by opinion, speculation, ignorance, personal preference, faith and fashion and wise-cracks, and, sometimes, even outright despotism. We must end irresponsible translations of foreign key terminologies and we must work overtime to find the "untranslatable" words in each language.

The day will come when we are going to treat all vocabularies of the world's languages as the colored bricks in a box that was handed down to us by all those who came before us. Let us build the fairest construction the world has ever seen — the global language.

Thorsten Pattberg is a research fellow at The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University. Shanghai Daily condensed the article.

Source: Shanghai Daily

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Post time 2013-9-2 21:49:47 |Display all floors
This post was edited by yasawakic at 2013-9-2 21:53

There is a word that you will surely won"t find hard to translate:


arrogance because any language don"t do justice to ANY OTHER LANGUAGE, that's the first phrase any translator learn: (from italian) "traduttore, traditore"

So yes, "evil language english is so simple that it is unable to translate the so complicate noble culture of china", and that's as stupid as if I say "the stupid language of tuareg of sahara desert don't do justice to the dozens of special word that express different state of "snow" in the arctic language of Inuits...LOL

So what? chinese is to complicate to translate? of course, exactly as english is complicate to translate in chinese or in papuan or in spanish or russian.  Why do you try to make us think chinese is "special" "different" from another language? of course it is, but it is no more different with other than other language or culture. We could write billions of billions of examples..

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Post time 2013-9-3 23:02:16 |Display all floors
in any language translation just cant never get close to as 100%  {:soso_e114:}{:soso_e113:}
a man who uses his hands is a laborer. one who uses his hands and his mind is a craftsman. but he who uses his hands, his mind, and his heart, is an artist...

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Post time 2013-9-4 19:28:26 |Display all floors
seneca Post time: 2013-9-3 17:22
Exactly. Pattsberg should therefore worry about how Chinese translate from English into Chinese.

always something is lost during the process of translation especially when you dont have enough time to think or to come up with the right words  
a man who uses his hands is a laborer. one who uses his hands and his mind is a craftsman. but he who uses his hands, his mind, and his heart, is an artist...

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Post time 2015-9-29 12:20:39 |Display all floors
Wheels were invented thousands of years ago. There is no need to reinvent it. Likewise for language translation. Where there is no exact translation, go in for transliteration, and then use a thousand words to explain separately in a dictionary what that transliteration exactly means. E.g 阎王 for Yamraj, 涅槃 for Nirvana etc. New concepts have to be introduced. Greatness has to be proven, not claimed. The short message is: get up from your armchairs and buck up!

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Post time 2015-10-1 20:22:59 |Display all floors
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