Monday, January 2, 2012

Administrative Updates--2011 - 2012 Winter Issue


Dear CLD members:

Hope this finds you well again in the holiday season.  I want to provide further updates of the activities and recent developments in our Division.  I hope to keep our members informed and engaged so they know what's going on and how to contribute to our growth in their own way.

Congratulations on a Successful Conference

As announced in my recent broadcast message, we had a very successful ATA's Annual Conference in Boston and 75 CLD members attended the Conference.  I want to thank again all the attendees for their time and participation.  I want to thank specifically our Division Distinguished Speaker, Mr. Bok Kow Tsim, who gave us a very detailed presentation of the translation work at the United Nations.  All our speakers were well organized and impressive in their presentations.  If you missed the Boston Conference and want to get a feel of it or subscribe to its econference, here is the link to ATA's website:

Shortly after the Boston Conference, I emailed our Leadership Council members and our Nominating Committee members about what we achieved at the Conference.  It's important to note that it was a team effort and we need to keep it up at our next or any future ATA conference. 

To that end and to energize our Division's larger role, here again are the members of the CLD Leadership Council and their functions:

Mr. Bin Liu: Administrator, serving as the principal representative of the Division. 
Mr. Di Wu: Acting Assistant Administrator, serving as the Chair of our Division's Chinese to English Certification Workgroup.
Ms. Katie Spillane: CLD Newsletter Editor, responsible for the solicitation, compilation and editing of our Division's newsletter and/or other digital or print publications.
Ms. Evelyn Yang Garland: CLD Newsletter Layout Editor, responsible for the format and design of our Newsletter and/or Division image projection.
Ms. Liping Zhao: Administrative Coordinator, responsible for our Division's clerical work as well as the function of Conference Participation and Presentation.
Mr. Huilin Gao: Webmaster for CLD's soon-to-be-developed website.

Mr, Todd Cornell announced his resignation as CLD's Assistant Administrator shortly after the Boston Conference.  In accordance with ATA's Division Governing Policy, Mr. Di Wu was appointed the Acting Assistant Administrator for the remainder of the 2010-2012 term.

Mr. Wu will assist me in running the general affairs of the Division, and will assume the duties in my absence. We will welcome your continued cooperation and support.  We especially would like to seek more volunteers to work on our Chinese to English Certification Workgroup.  If you feel as strongly as we do that Chinese to English Certification is a worthy goal for our members, please step out and offer your valuable service.  To join this Workgroup, please contact Mr. Wu at your earliest convenience at I want to thank you in advance for your volunteerism and selfless contributions.

To facilitate the election of our next Administrator and Assistant Administrator at ATA's Annual Conference in San Diego, we have formed a Nominating Committee.  We now have three voting members who volunteered to serve on the Nominating Committee and here are their names and contact info:

Ms. Hua (Barbara) Robinson
Ms. Xiaolei Kerr
Mr. Xianjun (Edward) Liu

Ms. Robinson will be the Chair of the Nominating Committee.  If you would like to run for the position of Division Administrator or Assistant Division Administrator for the 2012 - 2014 term, please don't hesitate to contact our Nominating Committee members listed above.  You can also recommend qualified candidates to the Nominating Committee for consideration.  Per ATA's Division Governing Policy, "[p]reference shall be given to candidates with previous involvement in the activities of the Division’s Leadership Council."

Other Division News

The Chinese Language Division has experienced growth during the past few months.  Based on the ATA's Division count that I received on November 16, 2011, our membership stands at 814.  I saw many new faces at the Boston Conference, which is a sign of the fresh strength we are drawing to our Division.  We need to promote more our image and further enhance our standing.  I encourage each member to spread the word among your friends and colleagues so they will join our ranks.

In late July, on my trip back to China, I visited the Headquarters of the Translators Association of China in Beijing.  I met with Ms. Changqi Huang, Assistant to President, Mr. Yonggang Jiang, Executive Deputy Secretary General and later Mr. Youyi Huang, President of TAC.  I had an extensive discussion with Ms. Huang and Mr. Jiang.  I learned a lot about TAC's membership, services and training programs.  I was truly impressed with the scale and impact of some of their organized events.  I touched upon the possibility of dual membership between our organizations and I raised the prospect of ATA offering its English to Chinese Certification Exam in China.  TAC was very open to either idea and we agreed to explore this and other areas of cooperation further in the near future.

On August 1, 2011, at the venue of FIT's Congress in San Francisco, Ms. Evelyn Yang Garland, one of our Leadership Council members, coordinated a successful networking dinner with the delegation of the Translators Association of China headed by Mr. Yonggang Jiang and Ms. Changqi Huang.  They picked up the above topics and a few more.  (For details, please read the relevant article in the Newsletter.)  Here I want to congratulate Ms. Garland for her tremendous effort and success.  She demonstrated to all of us that with a strong unwavering public spirit and plenty of good hustling, each of us can lead and achieve a lot of things.  Apparently, Ms. Garland did just that.  Earlier in spring, she coordinated the Translation Company Division's Annual Conference in Washington, DC.  At the Boston Conference, she was appointed TCD's Acting Assistant Administrator.  I want to applaud Ms. Garland on her multi-tasking skills and cross-divisional achievements.

In closing, let me welcome all the new members to our Division as well as all the new members to our working committees.  Thank you all for your hard work and team spirit.  We look forward to another year of good work and good growth.

Bin Liu, ATA Chinese Language Division Administrator (2010-2012)
English to Chinese Translator

ATA Annual Conference 2011: Bok Kow Tsim (Distinguished Speaker) and Yian Yang (Speaker)

ATA Annual Conference 2011: CLD Dinner

A Message from the Nominating Committee

Dear Fellow CLD Members:

I am honored to become a member of CLD’s Nominating Committee joined by Mr. Edward Liu from Toronto. 

ATA membership dues allow us to join different divisions. How can you get the most out of your association and division, to make your membership worthwhile?  

The best way is to get involved. Your participation will help to shape our profession and our perspective. Volunteering is very much the essence of American culture, a culture we all come to embrace. It is also one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences you can ever have, especially when working with talented and like-minded fellow volunteers.  

Edward, Xiaolei and I are confident that the Nominating Committee will identify and present highly qualified leadership candidates to the membership for the 2012 CLD elections. We will update you on our progress in the next newsletter.

Hua (Barbara) Robinson
Nominating Committee Chair

Year in Review--2011 Winter Issue

Notes from the 2011 Division Meeting

On Friday, October 28th, members of the Chinese Language Division (CLD) gathered in Boston during the 52nd Annual Conference of the American Translators Association.

CLD Administrator Bin Liu updated the group on the achievements of the CLD since the most recent annual meeting in Denver. He noted that interest in Chinese translation is increasing, as reflected in a greater number and increased quality of Chinese presentations at the ATA annual conference this year. He also reported that the Chinese translation industry is maturing in several ways. These changes include additional requirements for more rigorous language support as manifest in an expanding marketplace for Chinese translation and interpretation products and services.

Specific to the CLD, Bin Liu cited five notable achievements in the past year:

First, he thanked the CLD members for their efforts to prepare and deliver high-quality Chinese presentations throughout the Boston conference. He noted that this year’s series of presentations included both translation and interpretation topics of timely interest to the CLD and the broader ATA community.

Second, he stated that communications had improved, stemming largely from the creation of a CLD listserv and the revival of the CLD newsletter. He described the CLD listserv as an important forum for sharing information efficiently among division members. In addition, he noted that Spring and Summer editions of the multilingual CLD newsletter have been published and that the next steps in the communications initiative involve coordinating with an experienced web developer and multimedia expert to provide ready access to such resources.

Third, he cited greater engagement and potential enhanced cooperation with professional translator counterparts from China. He introduced Ma Yuanxi to report on relevant developments that occurred during the 19th World Congress of the International Federation of Translators (FIT) in San Francisco in August. Ma Yuanxi reported that several ATA leaders and CLD members attended the FIT conference and met with colleagues from the Translators Association of China (TAC), including Huang Changqi, assistant to the president of TAC (and who was also elected as a FIT council member), and Jiang Yonggang, TAC vice-chairman. At an informal dinner, it was agreed that ATA and TAC should pursue cross-membership arrangements and strive to cooperate in the execution and delivery of translation projects. In this regard, the TAC representatives offered to invite CLD members to attend TAC’s 10th anniversary celebration in Beijing in August 2012, to include participating in joint panel sessions. Bin Liu displayed a porcelain plate presented to the CLD on behalf of TAC as a tangible expression of gratitude and anticipation of future engagement.

Fourth, he reported that he attended the ATA division leader summit in April in Alexandria, Virginia. At this event, he received guidance from ATA on the creation of a new Governing Policy for Divisions, which he described as common division by-laws on leveraging online capabilities (such as listservs, Facebook, instant messaging, and Skype), organizing division leadership councils (in addition to formally-elected officers), and forming nomination committees. He then noted that the leading members of the CLD would need to help synchronize the efforts of the core leadership council staff.

Fifth, he cited progress in the effort to create an ATA Chinese-English certification test. He invited Di Wu as the Chair of the newly-formed Chinese-English Certification Examination Committee to describe the process. Di Wu described the immediate tasks as involving organizational and passage selection challenges. He noted that a passage committee task force is being formed to identify six Chinese passages (three for practice and three for the examination) for the certification process. Among the six passages will be two representative examples each from general fields of subjects - the science, technology and medical disciplines; and the business, financial and legal domains. He noted that when the candidate passages are identified, assessed, and approved by ATA, the Chinese-English Certification Examination can be fielded, perhaps to be in place within one year.

As is our custom, the CLD members enjoyed a lively group dinner following the division’s annual meeting. At a local Chinese restaurant, about 25 participants engaged in informal networking and discussions on a wide array of topics related to shared professional Chinese translation and interpretation challenges and opportunities.

Rusty Shughart
Chinese to English Translator

来源: 中国翻译协会

        201181日,中国译协代表团部分成员应邀与美国译协华语分会部分参会代表举行了联谊晚餐。此次活动受到美国译协的高度重视,美国译协现任会长Nicholas Hartmann,美国译协前会长、国际译联副主席优瑞(Jiri Stejskal,美国译协理事会成员、国际译联翻译技术委员会主席Alan Melby等亲自出席联谊活动,美国译协候任主席Dorothee Racette专门发来了贺信。她在信中指出:“没有中国参与的国际商业是不可想象的。各行各业几乎都与中国建立了深厚的联系,并进行了巨额的国际投资。如果没有合格的语言工作者帮助双方进行良好的交流,这一切都不可能发生。美国译协华语分会的活动日益活跃反映了汉语的重要性与日俱增。”她认为,在市场上对高质量中文翻译的需求前所未有高涨的情况下,举行此次联谊活动适逢其时。她表示美国译协愿直接或通过华语分会与中国译协开展更为深入的合作。






Letter from then ATA President-Elect to participants of ATA CLD-TAC joint dinner at the FIT World Congress in August, 2011--

2011 FIT World Congress in San Francisco
Letter of Congratulations

Dear executive leaders of the Translators Association of China, dear honorary guests, and dear members of the ATA Chinese Language Division,

Welcome to San Francisco and many thanks for your kind invitation to attend your dinner. Though the honor of having you as our guests far surpasses any contributions I could make to the discussion of your language combination, I am pleased that the FIT World Congress organized by our association has provided an opportunity for you to gather and exchange information. Unfortunately, other obligations prevent me from attending your dinner in person, but I offer this simple letter of congratulations instead. 

The technological advances of our times are making our world smaller and bringing us closer together. As translators and interpreters, we play a particularly important role in this process. In my letter I would like to briefly address the following three topics:

The importance of international cooperation among translators
The economics of business with China
The advances of the Chinese Language Division within the ATA

Modern advancements in computer technology are accelerating the speed of communication, and what would have seemed impossible just a decade ago has now become reality. The business of translation has truly become global and we find ourselves at the forefront of modern business, in which international cooperation is increasingly vital. The cooperation of translators across borders and oceans is an encouraging sign of developments yet to come.

Modern business is unthinkable without China. Virtually every industry has established profound ties with China and enormous investments are being made on an international scale. None of this can happen without proper communication with the help of qualified linguists, who build the bridge that is necessary to make business transactions a success for both sides.

The Chinese Language Division of the American Translators Association is reflecting the growing importance of Chinese in the growth and breadth of its activities. Thanks to the leadership of this Division, we will offer our largest Chinese program ever at the upcoming Annual Conference of our Association in Boston and efforts to offer translator certification from Chinese to English are sure to lead to success in the near future.

In summary, your meeting here in San Francisco is very opportune, as the need for qualified translations in this field has never been greater. The economic outlook for our field is currently excellent, and the expectations and need for high-quality Chinese translations and interpreting are very high.

Once again, I extend to you my regrets for not being able to speak to you in person today. However, the members of our association and I welcome this opportunity to enter into even more profound professional dialogue with you in the future.

President-elect, American Translators Association

Letter from ATA CLD Administrator to participants of ATA CLD-TAC joint dinner at the FIT World Congress in August, 2011--

Dear colleagues from China:

It's with great pleasure that I welcome you to San Francisco, to attend the first-ever FIT Congress in the U.S. It's a wonderful opportunity for the members of the Chinese Language Division of the ATA to meet and mingle with you and share our common experiences and expectations. Even though I can't be at the Conference in person, I still remember the historically significant panel presented by the Translators Association of China at ATA's 50th Annual Conference in New York City. We all admire your active and valuable participation and contribution to ATA and FIT.

As China stands up tall among the nations of the world, translators working with the Chinese language assume a new mission: not only will they help introduce foreign trade and foreign cultures to China, but they will also need to introduce China to the world. We are at that juncture where material and cultural exchanges are truly bilateral and bidirectional. We are given a rare and precious opportunity to translate and interpret for the rest of the world Chinese traditions and values, Chinese language and culture, and Chinese best practices and ideals.

As linguistic middlemen and cultural ambassadors, translators from America and translators from China have a lot to collaborate on and many worthy goals to strive for. It is the wish of the Chinese Language Division of the ATA to remain engaged with colleagues from China, open up minds and thoughts, and work out basic strategies of collaboration between our members and our organizations. We hope to be the bridge that will lead somewhere. We hope to start that conversation now.

Thank you and cheers to you all!

Bin Liu
Administrator of the Chinese Language Division (2010-2012)
American Translators Association

Professional Perspectives--2011 Winter Issue


As a continuation of a presentation given at the 2010 ATA conference in Denver, we continue our discussion of “Nuts and Bolts in Chinese<>English translation”this time dealing with some other “nuts and bolts”. The parts of speech are an important component of English grammar, which used to be very strict in their application. But nowadays, they seem to be used more and more interchangeably. Adjectives and their attributive forms and functions seem to have broadened and become more flexible. We will also go on exploring the world of idioms and proverbs, which have always fascinated us as translators.

There used to be very strict grammatical rules regarding the use of words in different parts of speech. For example, very seldom could you use a noun as a verb. When I was learning English, the teacher would certainly mark a sentence like this, “Those buildings near completion,as incorrect. The teacher would correct it to read, “Those buildings will be completed soon,” or “Those building are nearly completed.” But now, we have “U.S.-led assault nears goal in Libya” used in a newspaper. Some people say it is journalese. However, this phenomenon does not only appear in newspapers or magazines, but also in many kinds of articles, even government official documents.

There are more examples as follows, most of which I encountered in my translations, and quite a number I found it hard to render into Chinese

Most of the examples here are nouns or adjectives used as verbs as well as nouns used as adjectives
At China's New Museum, History toes Party line.
A Harlem transplant documents her own experiences.
Brooks and Leslie staggered to the family car that night, blood pouring from their wounds, and made it to the home of a local doctor with Brooks clocking 100mph.
The successive snowstorms have been grounding flights and snarling traffic.

Here are some examples of nouns that, while generally used as abstract nouns, are being used as countable nouns:
While Egyptians have cheered the military for pledging to oversee a transition to democracy, rights groups accuse it of involvement in recent disappearances and
While many traditional tourist sites are open for business again, new destinations are emerging as must-sees for politically and historically-minded travelers ...

It seems we also have similar phenomenon in the Chinese language. The following is a conversation where we have the Chinese term “意思being used as different parts of speech and expressing different meanings (意思). How would you translate the meaning of each of the word “meaning” in this passage (如何翻译每個意思的意思)?  It is a challenge.



We hope you will try to translate it, as a pastime at least. My attempt is as follows as 抛砖引玉 (cast a brick to attract jade):

I notice more and more flexible or “liberal” usage of adjectives and attributive phrases piled up before nouns. When I first became aware of this phenomenon, it was in phrases like “the September 14 members meeting” or “the JW Marriot banquet hall wedding”, with time and place put in front of the event, which did not seem to affect much the translation into Chinese. In fact, it seems more close to the way Chinese would express the idea. I have been wondering when I translate such language, whether there is a different connotation between using the attribute before the noun and using it after the word being modified as attributive phrases or clauses. Consider the following examples:
 [Such image is] ... typical associated with a down-on-his-luck country singer.
To immerse students in our programs' off the beaten path locations and unique subject matter....
The April alumni association members-only contest is open!
Within minutes, the stranger […] on a daylong booze and coke fueled bender, had pulled a handgun from his belt
As a Jurist turned practicing attorney, he ...

Is this a trend or is it just a fleeting novelty? Is written English moving more towards the spoken form? Does this make translation easier?

To continue the theme of our presentation from the year prior, we will take a deeper dive into the world of idioms and proverbs and techniques in translating them from Chinese into English and vice versa.

First, we looked at idioms that are identical in both English and Chinese. 

Add fuel to the fire     火上加油
Can’t see the forest for its trees          见木不见林
Great minds think alike           英雄所见略同
Kill two birds with one stone             一箭双雕
Like father like son     有其父必有其子

Second, here are some examples of idioms that convey the same meanings but are expressed differently in English and Chinese

A rolling stone gathers no moss          流水不腐,户枢不蠹
Between a rock and a hard place        进退两难
Birds of a feather flock together        物以类聚
Needle in a haystack   大海捞针
Penny wise, dollar foolish                   捡芝麻丢西瓜
3.2       Chinese to English Translation of Idioms

Many of the Chinese idioms are very straight forward, and require only a very direct translation.

多才多艺        Multi-talented
飞黄腾达        Successful
大公无私        Selfless 
不同凡响        Outstanding

Other idioms require more description:

破釜沉舟        Cutoff all means of retreat
釜底抽薪        Take a drastic measure to deal with a situation 

In regards to idioms steeped in historical contexts unfamiliar to most non-Chinese speakers, the best a translator can do is to convey the general meaning in a concise way:

毛遂自荐        To volunteer one’s service
初出茅庐        At the beginning of one’s career
大意失荆州    Suffer a setback due to carelessness

3.3 English to Chinese Translation of Idioms

There are many colorful and interesting idioms in the English language as well. Quite often they have connotations deeper than what the words imply, which could present a challenge for English to Chinese translators who might not be familiar with some everyday English phrases. Some of the examples are listed below.

To have a chip on one’s shoulder
This does not mean someone has a potato chip on his/her shoulder, instead it means “angry about something that happened in the past.” Therefore, one possible Chinese translation could be 耿耿于怀.

To have an ax to grind
A term that is not translated literally, it means having a dispute to take up with someone or, to have an ulterior motive. Therefore, the Chinese translation would be 别有用心 but not 磨刀霍霍.

Call it a wash
This phrase has nothing to do with laundry, instead it means “no loss, no gain, about even.” Therefore, the best Chinese translation is 差不多.

Cat got your tongue
Another term that it is not translated literally, it means have nothing to say, so the Chinese translation would be 哑口无言.

Yuanxi Ma
English<> Chinese Translator and Interpreter

Di Wu
Chinese <> English Translator and Interpreter

Chinese Sensitivities in Language and Visual Choices: Summary
As a summary of the presentation given in Boston, I would simply note that there are three spheres of awareness that translators working with the Chinese language need to keep in mind.
First, translators need to understand their clients. Be sure to ask yourself: Is your audience from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore or Malaysia? Are they overseas Chinese living in US? Each population needs to be approached with subtlety and awareness of context.
Secondly, translators need to understand their clients’ needs. Which of the two standard sets of Chinese characters – traditional and simplified Chinese – will be used for translation? Be sure to know!
Finally, translators need to remain alert to potential taboos. Like any other culture, Chinese culture contains certain customs and taboos. What are they? Color, number, custom, writing patterns, sense and sensibility, all must be carefully considered.
Last but not least, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all the attendees in the room: thank you for making the session a happy and successful event.

Hua (Barbara) Robinson
English to Chinese Translator and Interpreter

I am excited to present translation in the gaming field because I truly enjoy multimedia and games. It is with great enthusiasm that I share what I know to help others find their way in this growing and changing field. 
As the gaming industry has grown, so too has the need for gaming translators. However, gaming translation has a substantial number of issues that are different from simple localization or technical writing projects. Gaming translation is a mix of fiction, technology, and specialized vocabulary. Translating a game represents a big investment for a gaming company. Effective translation ensures that the game will be as much of a hit in one culture as it is in another.
Games are much like fiction novels - they just function at a more interactive level and apply more technical language. For example, games usually include a dialogue between two characters - the translator must take care in use proper verb tenses.  However, understanding the culture of where the game was created is an even larger and more important issue.  Understanding the culture from which the game was developed will help a translator to understand the culture of the game and thus to interpret the game accurately. Popular game developing countries include China, Japan, England, United States, and South Korea.  Games from Japan might differ in style and content than games from England or the United States, reflecting the cultural influences that are part of the developers’ ideas and expressions. For example, Microsoft Xbox first launched in Asia about 10 years ago. However, when developed, Xbox carried a heavy American game style and culture (e.g. football games and first-person shooting games). Xbox sales and reputation in Asia were really low and the developers truly wanted to be accepted by Asian gamers. However, to be accepted by a new culture is not easy -  whether in the real or virtual world. Microsoft tried to launch games popular in America but didn’t translate them into Japanese.  Sales remained very low. Since Kinect came out, making use of motion detector technology and less translation sales have soared.
First, knowing the many different types of gaming styles will help translators understand how the games are played and thus how the translations will fit.  More common gaming styles include: RPG (Role-Playing Games), STG (Shooting Game), FPS (First-Person Shooting game), MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game), RTS (Real-Time Strategy game), ACT (ACTion game), AVG (Adventure Game), SLG (Simulation Game), SPG (Sports Game), PZG (Puzzle Game), TBG (TaBle Game), and ETC (et cetera) that everything else not included in the genre listed above.
There are also different gaming platforms to consider. Examples are: Facebook (popular right now), consoles, handhelds, CDs.  Some are online and require payment and purchases so you may find translations for payment methods. Some are stand-alone arcade machines and require coin operation instructions.
Common gaming terms will also help you understand what needs to be translated and why. Some common terms and acronyms include GUI (Graphical User Interface), Beta, Bug, EXP or XP, FPS (Frame Per Second), HP (Hit Point), Lag, Mana, MP (Mana Point), NPC (Non-Player Character), Patch, Co-op (Cooperative gameplay).

To translate a game well, you have to get some hands on experience. If this is not possible, then ask for pictures or screenshots of the game to give you a feel for the game’s story and setting.  Translation projects often come in bits and pieces of the whole game story. It can be challenging to know which part of the game you are translating. For example, without a picture or clarification, the word “change” can have many meanings. Does this mean “change” clothes? Or does this mean “change” such as loose coins? Because gaming translations often come with long lists of one-word translations, CAT does not always work well. The words need a context.   
Furthermore, if the gaming project is shared between more than one translator, there is a large chance for inconsistent translations for common words and phrases. In my experience, the best way to address this issue is to ask to play the game. If that’s not possible, or if there isn’t time to play, ask for screen shots. If neither of these options are available, know that your schedule will be consumed with a lot of clarifications and verifications from the PM, which can be time consuming and delay completion of the project.

Most gaming translation files come in Excel format. If you are not familiar with Excel, learning some of the basics can save a lot of time. Learn how to sort columns and rows and how to find and replace words. Also helpful is knowing how to use the comment feature. This makes for a convenient way to communicate about specific text with the PM and/or developers. 
Also relevant is coding used by the developer. Translation projects sometimes come with unique, special coding. It is always important to not remove or change any coding as this will create errors in the game layout. And, if a code is changed, debugging is not easy to find and fix. Even deleting a blank space can make a difference in the final code. It can be difficult to determine what part of the code is and what needs to be translated. It would be helpful to know a little bit about HTML and Java, simply to understand how coding works. Common formatting problems, include spacing and length of words. For example, the developer of Power Trucks/Hero of Robots required that translation keep to a minimum spacing counting, as there was only so much white space allowed on the game cards. This meant that I had to reinvent the context and find shorter, sometimes simpler ways of stating the content.

Localization plays a large role in how a game can be played.  In fact, if a translation is poorly done, gamers are more likely to choose the original foreign language version in order to keep the “undestroyed” content.  Some games have been destroyed by bad translations.
Translation of the introduction of the game is a very important part. Making the language of the content easy to understand is often the game's biggest selling point. The translator must get the feel of the game, as that sense of the purpose and scope can have a huge effect on the quality of the translation, and, thus, affect the impact of the translation on the gamers. 
Gaming developers have spent considerable sums on translations, many of them ineffective and poor versions of their product. Whether the translation problems are a result of errors in syntax or in choosing the wrong vocabulary, the result is low sales and eventually a loss of business for the translator. The key is to understand the purpose and audience for the game, and to retain as much of the beauty of the original language as possible. Without such efforts, translators will create games that have a mechanical and geometric feel rather than the exciting content and adventurous feel of the original.

Huilin Gao
English to Chinese Translator

Translating Chinese Plants and Animals

The translation of plants and animals represents an area that most people do not specialize in, but that tends to appear in a wide variety of translations. It represents a cross between the world of science and culture, and can be found in fields such as science, culture, marketing, tourism, non-fiction, fiction, art, antiques, agriculture, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

These translations often poses a challenge to translators, because the words used are unfamiliar, and the plants or animals often exist only in one culture, or exist in different varieties in the two cultures. For example, look at the following classical Tang poem:


Most readers will be very familiar with all of the words used in the poem except for the plant here: 蔷薇

Another problem translators face is the lack of good resources for translating plant and animal names. This year The Oxford Chinese Dictionary came out, and for the most part it is an indispensible resource. But, it is less helpful when it comes to plant names. For example, here are two plant names in this dictionary:
guì <> 1) (肉桂) cassia 2) (月桂) laurel 3) (桂花) sweet-scented osmanthus
蕺菜 jícài <> [植物] cordate houttuynia

In the first case we may not know which of the three definitions to pick, and in the second case just inserting the scientific name into a translation is not appropriate.

Another great dictionary, the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary, presents a similar problem:

N. 1) cassia bark tree 2) laurel; bay tree 3) sweet-scented osmanthus 4) short name for Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 5) Surname

There is a lack of useful information for non-specialists, and we are faced with extremes when it comes to names, as we either have too many or too few to choose from. According to National Geographic, of the 1.05 million plant names used in English, there are 300,000 unique species. There are 314 synonyms for the English oak, 29 for the common daisy, and 18 for the giant sequoia. For example, the papaya is also called the pawpaw, but it is different from the Asimina genus of plants that is native to North America and also called prairie banana, Indiana (Hoosier) banana, West Virginia banana, Kansas banana, Kentucky banana, Michigan banana, Missouri Banana, the poor man's banana, Ozark banana, and Banango.
One online dictionary gives “pawpaw” for 木瓜, but the native Chinese 木瓜 is a quince, and 番木瓜 is the papaya we are most familiar with.

There is an overwhelming variety of plant and animal names in Chinese as well. One modern dictionary lists 105 characters that have the "fish" radical: 鱿 鲿

The Kangxi Dictionary, written two to three hundred years ago lists 1,094 characters with the "fish" radical. Fortunately, some of these are variations of one another, and not all represent different types of fish. For example, just means "lots of fish."

If we look at a line from China's most famous poem, the first poem of the Book of Odes, we find a plant name: 参差荇菜,左右流之。窈窕淑女,寤寐求之。 But translations from leading scholars and dictionaries give a long list of possibilities: fringed water-lily, yellow floating-heart, water fringe, floating-heart, water lily, banana-plant, watercress, water mallow, duckweed. Are any of these more correct than others? How do we choose?

Here are some guidelines you can use as a translator:
Identify the word as a plant or animal
Determine whether the species is real or mythical
If it is real, find the scientific name
Look at subject matter, style, and tone of original to decide on a translation
If you need a common name, derive it from the scientific name or the original word itself

It is usually easy to spot the plant or animal. Most of the time it is as simple as noticing the plant or animal radical. For modern texts we have divisions between 动物 and 植物, and for classical texts we have different divisions. For example, the Erya lists the categories 草、木、虫、鱼、鸟、兽、畜.

Once you locate the scientific name of a plant or animal, you may decide the scientific name is most appropriate given the context and subject matter, or you may want to keep searching for a common name to use. Scientific names list the genus and species (among other things). Italicize the name and capitalize the first letter: 水仙 Narcissus tazetta

Scientific names are standardized, and you can find them in these standards:
International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (for scientific classification)
International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (for commerce)
International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (for scientific classification)

You may also decide just to use the family, genus, or species name, or you may want to use a combination of scientific names and common names to both identify the plant or animal and let readers know what it is: Buprestis beetle.

There is no international standardization of common names. For names used in a general sense don’t capitalize: oak, camellias For a specific species, then capitalize: Red River Gum, Lemon-scented Gum

When no common names exist, we may need to make our own. We can use pinyin to differentiate between different plants. Joseph Needham uses the example of oranges when he translates 真柑, 生枝柑, 木柑, 黄鞠, 荔枝鞠, and 朱栾 as true gan orange, fresh branch gan orange, woody gan orange, yellow ju orange, lychee ju orange, and vermillion luan orange, respectively.

We may decide not to use pinyin if we think that information is not useful to the reader, but this can also present a challenge. For example, it is hard to come up with different English versions of and , which are both usually written as plum. Looking at the genus (under our friend 蔷薇科) may help: trees and shrubs which include plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and almonds. Be aware that synonyms may have very different feeling in English. Examples include:
·         Grasshopper / locust
·         Water bug / cockroach
·         艾叶青 artemisia, wormwood, mugwort, sagebrush, sagewort
·         12 animals of the zodiac: 鼠牛虎兔蛇马羊猴鸡狗猪龙

There are plants and animals that have particular significance in China such as pandas, bamboo, willows, crickets, and flowers, and there are many English books that cover each of these subjects. China also has what may possibly be the world's first book on entomology, The Book of Crickets 《促织经》 by Jia Sidao [] 贾似道.

Different subjects also have their own naming conventions. For example, with antiques, non-italicized pinyin is used:
·         黄花梨椅子 is "huanghuali chair" instead of "yellow flowering pear chair”
·         紫檀家具 is "zitan furniture" instead of "purple sandalwood furniture"

Animal husbandry is another subject with its own conventions. In the following excerpt from a scientific article 荷兰奶牛 is referred to as "Chinese Holsteins" or "dairy Holstein cattle:
“The dairy Holstein cattle with known pedigree from Xuzhou Dairy Farm were used. The 279 cows, born in 1999-2000, were daughters of 25 sires. Mean number of daughters per sire was 11; each of the sire group contained no less than six cows. Cows were fed ad libitum with a complete ration of artificially dried grass, corn silage and concentrates.”

TCM is a huge subject that deserves a separate presentation. I thank my friend and TCM translator Henry Buchtel for the following introduction to this area. In general, if the original uses standardized herb names, just look up the translation. If it is an older text or uses local terms, this may pose difficulties. There has been much progress made in standardization recently, which has helped. The growing region should also be kept in mind, as this can affect the medicine's function. In general pinyin and Latin is used, but sometimes common names are used as well. Translation memory can be a great help, as the scientific names can be difficult to remember.

Also keep in mind there are many different ways to write about plants and animals in both languages. Chinese has a great variety of measure words:
·         只:鼠虎兔猴鸡狗
·         条:龙蛇
·         匹:马
·         头:牛羊猪
·         棵:树白菜
·         根棵茎株挑簇蔸墩片:草

But English has an even greater variety of measure words for groups of animals and for animal adjectives:

Sleuth/ sloth
Bear meat
Chick, peep
Hen, pullet
Rooster, cock
Flock, brood, peep
Female turtle
Male turtle
Bale, dule
Turtle meat

Sometimes you may come across mythical plants and animals. These are fun as in many situations you have free reign to come up with your own translation because, apart from dragons and phoenixes, there are very few overlaps between the mythical worlds of the East and West. If there is not an overlap, don’t try to force one. Good sources for mythical plants and animals are 《庄子》, 《山海经》, and 《西游记》.

You can look at how different translators handle these words to find inspiration:
Strassberg: Rupi-Fish, Luo-Fish, Cinnabar-Trees, Slippery-Fish 滑鱼
Birell: cinnamon trees , praymore 祝余, lost-mulberry 迷谷, live-lively 狌狌
Sterckx: prodigies or hybrids, sometimes no clear boundaries between them and animals/humans, it was the duty of the sages to explain them to us

I think we still have a long way to go in terms of good tools to use for Chinese to English translators of plant and animal names. I propose a resource that would read something like this:
·         , gé, kudzu, kudzu vine, Pueraria lobata, cloth-plant, creepers, (dolichos), Its fibers were used to make hemp cloth used for summer clothing and to make shoes 葛履. Its young leaves and powdered roots were used in cooking. Its flowers were said to reduce the effects of alcohol. It was used as a metaphor for convoluted situations or people who lack restraint in their speech. Current name 葛藤.

I know I have presented a lot of information, but try not to be overwhelmed, and in the end, sometimes it is best to just not overthink it. I think this translation of our Tang poem by Arthur Cooper does just fine using the word “rose” for 蔷薇:


Long since I turned
to my East Ranges:
  How many times
have their roses bloomed?
  Have their white clouds
risen and vanished
  And their bright moon
set among strangers?

Plant databases
《中国植物志》 "FloraRepublicae Popularis Sinicae" (FRPS)
This is a very detailed database in both Chinese and English and shows pdf scans of the hardcover edition.

gives the name in Chinese only and provides a full description in English.

From the Taiwan Ministry of Education, seems to be aimed at children, but is still useful. Gives common English names and a description in Chinese.

 A good English-only database of plant names.

This is a very detailed English-only database of plants that gives scientific names, common names, descriptions, and much more. From the website: Plants For A Future is a resource centre for rare and unusual plants, particularly those which have edible, medicinal or other uses.

Animal databases
This is a huge English only database that covers both plants and animals, very useful.

This web project includes vernacular names and descriptions.

Chinese-English Dictionary of Chinese Medicine  CD Version

Jeffery Keller
Chinese to English Translator and Interpreter