Sunday, July 29, 2012

Administrative Updates--2012 Summer Issue


Dear CLD Members: 

I hope this finds you well in the summer season.  Time flies like an arrow and here we are, greeting you with our 2012 Summer Newsletter.  Once again, I want to commend our newsletter team for their persistent, diligent and timely work. To pull off such a feat once is Olympian performance; to repeat that multiple times takes titanic tenacity.  I want to congratulate both our Editor and Layout Editor for their achievements.

Since summer is here, we are all looking forward to ATA's Annual Conference in October (after the Olympic Games of course).  This year’s conference will be held in San Diego, California from October 24 - 27.  We are expecting to see a big member turnout.  Thanks to the extraordinarily coordinated efforts of our Conference Participation and Presentation Workgroup, headed by Ms Liping Zhao, our members submitted an unusually large number of excellent presentation topics.  In fact, there were so many topics that ATA conference organizers had to decline or put on hold some submissions due to limited time and space. As a result, the ATA offered its Divisions the option of reducing their annual meeting times in exchange for an additional presentation spot. The CLD has chosen to take advantage of this option and, as a result, we will need to conduct our Division Annual Meeting in a fifteen-minute time frame. Thus, if any of you did not get your proposal accepted this time, please don't feel discouraged!  I urge you to share your ideas and experiences with us on other venues and forums.  We need to feel proud of our members for paying earnest attention now to ATA Conference Participation and Presentation.

If you are still mulling over the possibility of attending this year's ATA Conference, here is a good reason for you to go. We will be welcoming Professor Michael Berry from the University of California at Santa Barbara as the CLD Distinguished Speaker. Professor Berry received his Ph. D. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University in 2004. His research interests include modern Chinese literature, Chinese cinema, cultural studies, and translation. He is the author of Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers (Columbia, 2005; Rye Field, 2007; Guangxi Normal University Press, 2008), A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (Columbia, 2008) and Jia Zhangke’s Hometown Trilogy (British Film Institute and Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He is also the translator of several novels, including The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (with Susan Chan Egan) (Columbia, 2008), To Live (Anchor, 2004), Nanjing 1937: A Love Story (Columbia, 2002, Anchor, 2004, Faber & Faber, 2004), and Wild Kids: Two Novels about Growing Up (Columbia, 2000). He will speak to us about Chinese to English literary translation and his personal approaches to the art.  I think his presentation will be highly interesting and informative.

One important item on the agenda for our Division’s Annual Meeting in San Diego will be the election of our new Administrator and Assistant Administrator.  In mid-April, the CLD Nomination Committee actively approached CLD members and tapped their interest in running for these posts.  In mid-May, they were very happy to have pinned down two interested and highly qualified candidates.  The slate of candidates was announced this June in a CLD broadcast.  I was very impressed with our Nomination Committee's sense of responsibility, punctuality and professionalism.  They went about their business seriously, enthusiastically and congenially.  They have guaranteed the continued efforts of the CLD Administration toward higher goals.  I would like to thank the Nomination Committee, Ms Hua Barbara Robison (Chair), Ms Xiaolei Kerr, and Mr. Edward Liu, one more time for their excellent work.

Our Chinese to English Certification Exam Workgroup is also making strides with their daunting and meticulous work.  Mr Di Wu, our Acting Division Assistant Administrator, attended the Language Chair Meeting in Alexandria in the second weekend of April.  He is happy to report that the 2012 version of the passage submission form is simplified.  That said, he continues leading our efforts to complete the required exam passages and hopes to get them approved by the ATA's Certification Program as early as possible. Thank you, Di and all the members of this group, for working quietly in the background.  We look forward to your continued success.

In early June, Ms Evelyn Yang Garland, one of our Leadership Council members, came back from attending a major Interpretation Contest in Beijing.  There, she took the opportunity to meet with members of the Translation Association of China.  Following this visit, Ms. Changqi Huang, Assistant to President of TAC and FIT Council Member wrote me to express TAC’s interest in establishing a translator database. 

After consulting with our Acting Division Assistant Administrator and other Leadership Council members, I responded to Ms Huang with a few questions for clarification.  While congratulating the TAC on their excellent initiative, I wished them success in moving ahead with this important project.  I made it clear that if it does not obligate our Division or TAC in any legal way, and that participation in the database will remain at the option of our individual members once the database is up and running. I also suggested that “a set of rules be stipulated expressly and in advance, so potential clients and our translators would know what they are getting into." 

It's such a privilege to work with CLD members who are self-motivated, independently responsible and cooperative.  I look forward to your continued productivity and contributions to our Division.

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


The Nominating Committee is happy to report that we successfully achieved our mission of nominating candidates for our division’s 2012 election:

Mr. Di Wu as candidate for CLD Administrator
Ms. Liping Zhao as candidate for CLD Assistant Administrator

Both candidate profiles have been submitted to ATA Headquarters and received a confirmation, broadcasted to the CLD membership on June 20, 2012.  This broadcast is reproduced in part below.

The Committee would like to thank Di and Liping for their willingness to lead the Division for the 2012-2014 term. 
The Committee also wishes to express its gratitude to Mr. Bin Liu, current CLD administrator, and Mr. Jamie Padula, ATA Chapter and Division Relations Manager, for their invaluable contributions and guidance.

CLD 2012 Nominating Committee


Mr. Di Wu

My name is Di Wu. I was born and raised in Beijing, China and came to the US in 1986, when I was 15 years old. I worked very hard to overcome the language barrier in high school and won the prestigious Bausch and Lomb scholarship to attend the University of Rochester. After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering, I went to work at Delphi Automotive as an engineer. In 2004, I started teaching Mandarin Chinese evening classes to interested Delphi employees through the company training program. In 2005 I started my freelance translation business. Next year I joined ATA and also become a member of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI), a regional chapter of ATA serving the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. I moved to Washington, DC area in late 2010 to work as a Chinese linguist/staff consultant for ASET International Services.

Due to my engineering background, my forte is in technical translation but I have also translated large volumes of diverse material, from diplomas/certificates to patents to movie subtitles. I am also a certified trainer for “Bridging the Gap” medical interpreter training course. In addition, I have always been active in the translation community. In June 2008 I was elected the president of MATI. During my term, I worked with our board members and volunteers to organize two successful annual conferences in Chicago and Indianapolis, and held numerous educational events, ATA exams, and informal gatherings. After moving to the DC area, I have been actively involved with the National Capital Area Translators Association (NCATA) and served as the co-chair of the programming committee to organize monthly meet ups.

Thanks to the work of our previous administrators, the Chinese Language Division has come a long way. I believe I could apply the valuable experience I have gained from serving MATI and NCATA into the administrator work of CLD. I have attended the last four ATA conferences and met many wonderful colleagues from the CLD. For the past year, I have been leading the committee to implement the Chinese to English certification exam and have made steady progress. I look forward to learning from past CLD administrators as well as carrying on their work.

If I become elected as the administrator of the CLD, I would like to accomplish the following during my term.

- Work together with ATA to make the Chinese to English exam a reality.
- Increase communication and solicit more participation from our members.
- Establish a CLD website and use it as a forum to exchange ideas and experiences in our translation interpreting work.
- Learn from the best practices of other language divisions to serve our members better.

With my youthful enthusiasm and energy, as well as my previous experience with MATI and NCATA, I believe I have a lot to offer to the CLD. I look forward to work with you together and make us a better organization.

Ms. Liping Zhao

First of all, I’d like to thank my fellow ATA colleagues for nominating me as a candidate for the CLD Assistant Administrator position. I was born in Xi’an, a historic city in China and was raised in a linguistically rich environment. My father was a foreign language professor, fluent in English and Russian. He was also a prolific translator, frequented local newspapers with his literary pieces. My brother served as an interpreter for international political and business dignitaries in the 1990s. Jokingly speaking, the foreign language “gene” runs in my family.

My engagement with interpretation and translation started a decade ago when I studied English as my major at Xi’an Institute of Foreign Languages, China. I served as an interpreter and translator for various business and social institutions. In the late 1990s, I came to the US on a merit-based scholarship to continue my graduate study in English at The University of Arizona, where I devoted two additional years in the advanced study of the English language and comparative linguistics. I hold a BA in English, MA in English and a MBA. Besides interpretation/translation, I also had ten years of work experience in corporate accounting and finance, engaged in analytical and management roles. I now specialize in financial and legal interpreting. I am a seminar-level interpreter with the US Dept. of State. I currently serve on the CLD’s Leadership Council Committee and also serve as Chairman of the Board at Xilin Northwest Chinese School in the Chicago area.

If elected, I will work toward the following goals:

- Provide solid and reliable support to CLD Administrator; engage in CLD’s strategic planning for the next two years.

- Continue to reach out and build an interactive relationship with CLD members; understand members’ needs, challenges and seek creative solutions.

- Promote communication between CLD and other ATA functional areas; strengthen CLD’s role in the policy-making process.


Additional candidates may be added to the ballot. Additional candidates must be voting members of the Association.

Deadline for objections to the slate and/or receipt of nominations to add candidates to the slate is August 3 (45 days after publication of slate); each nomination must include a written acceptance letter and candidate statement from the candidate to be added, and sent (mail or fax) to:

Attn: Jamie Padula
225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Fax: +1-703-683-6122

For questions, please contact Jamie Padula, ATA Chapter and Division Relations Manager, by email to


If no further candidates are received, then this is an uncontested election and officers will be declared by acclamation at the Chinese Language Division's annual meeting during ATA's 53rd Annual Conference (October 24-27, 2012 in San Diego, California)
Looking Forward to San Diego


Come October, you and the ATA 53rd Annual Conference will be in San Diego, the eighth largest city in the United States, the land of sunshine, big surf, soft white beaches and miles of coastline offering unobstructed views of the deep blue ocean all the way to Mexico.

If you have time to drive up Coast Highway 101, you will understand why people who have come here don’t want to leave. Besides the tanned surfers crossing the road barefooted, surf boards under their arms, their wetsuits half-open, flapping in the wind, you may also catch a glimpse of dolphins frolicking in the ocean and an occasional whale spouting in the distance.

This city has fresh air – unlike our smoggy neighbor, Los Angeles, to the north. San Diego is also a melting pot, where myriad ethnic communities have settled. At the southern tip of the Golden State, just across the border from Mexico, San Diego is 29% Hispanic, 16% Asian and 45% white. The rest of the population is mix of African-Americans, Native and Alaskan American and Pacific Islander in origin.

It is not known how many Chinese are here, but conservative estimates put them at 50,000. The population is not big enough to support a China Town. However, if you drive up to Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa, about 35 minute from where the Conference will be held, you will find clusters of Chinese restaurants and shops mixed in with Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese eateries. I recommend China Max and Emerald Restaurants. For the super health-conscious, San Diego is also a destination for vegan food and organic produce although you may not find them readily available at eateries around the Hilton.

Food & Shopping Around the Hilton
Now, a little about the Hilton’s immediate neighborhood.
Just across Harbor Drive is the trendy Gaslamp Quarter, so called because of its gas lamps. From the hotel, walk toward Harbor Drive, find the Fifth Avenue pedestrian crossing, and enter the Gaslamp Quarter under its welcoming arch. Once a blighted district full of tattoo parlors, seedy bars, adult businesses and pawn shops, today’s Gaslamp Quarter is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a hub for fine dining, art galleries, bars, dance clubs, Irish pubs and night life.

One restaurant deserves mentioning. That’s Croce’sRestaurant & Jazz Bar at 802 Fifth Avenue, opened by Jim Croce’s widow, Ingrid, as a tribute to her late husband. The Jazz Bar offers live music every night.

Conference goers who like Asian food – alas, there are no really good Chinese restaurants downtown – Rama Thai on 327 Fourth Avenue could be a good place for a sit-down meal. If you want casual fare, try J Wok’s Asian fusion at 744 Market Street, or just walk to Horton Plaza, where you can enter the mall on Fourth Avenue near Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. On the top level of Horton Plaza are sundry fast food shops and a cinema. You can’t miss Horton Plaza’s brightly-colored façade and mismatched levels. It was the centerpiece of a downtown redevelopment project, and has been a shopping destination since.

Next to the Horton Plaza is the Lyceum Theatres, home of the San Diego Repertory Theatre. The theater may not have anything playing at the time of the Conference.

Just next to the Gaslamp Quarter is $474 million Petco Park, home of the Padres. The ballpark opened in 2004 with 42,000 seats. It fueled the redevelopment of the old warehouse district to its east, called East Village, a chic neighborhood.

Not interested in eating and shoppingThen walk the length of Harbor Drive toward the ocean to experience the variety that San Diego has to offer. First, you will see the San Diego Convention Center, a sprawling structure with sails on the roof. Farther west is Seaport Village, a kind of Fisherman’s Wharf with a lovely boardwalk. Farther down, you will see the massive gray USS Midway, which is permanently ‘parked’ here as a museum.

Continue on, and you will come to the entrance to the Coronado ferry pier. The ferry ride is short, but it will give you a taste of being afloat. If you want a more extensive boat tour, take the Hornblower cruise. Still farther down the road is the Maritime Museum on the multi-sailed Star of India, a majestic vessel at Harbor Drive and Broadway at the entrance to downtown San Diego. Now that you have seen this stretch in daylight, come back at night to enjoy the lights and breathe in the smell of the sea swept ashore by the light, year-round ocean breeze. 

If you don’t want to walk, try the red trolley. It stops at the Gaslamp Quarter, the Convention Center and Seaport Village before turning into downtown’s Santa Fe Depot, and then heading into Little Italy.

No matter what you decide to do with your spare time here, I can guarantee that you will enjoy some part of this city and its heritage. Let me extend a hearty welcome to you, and say 迎, 歡迎!

Things to do if you have a car
1. Drive up Coast Highway 101
Take Interstate 5 North, exit Genesee Avenue, and then follow the road, which becomes North Torrey Pines Road. Go up the hill, and then down, and take in the crashing waves of Torrey Pines State Beach below. Follow the road into Del Mar, then veer off to the left when Camino Del Mar forks, so you will continue driving on Highway 101. You will pass through Solana Beach, Encinitas, where Swami’s, a famous surf spot, is located. You will then drive through Carlsbad, and then, just at the border of Carlsbad and its northerly neighbor, Oceanside, turn around and return downtown.

On your way back, stop by the Salk Institute at 10010 North Torrey Pines Road. The Institute was founded by Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine. The façade is a bit weathered now, but the structure was built in such a way that every research office has a view of the ocean to inspire innovation.

Across the street from Salk is UCSD, where the space-ship shaped Geisel Library is an attraction. The library was named after Audrey and Theodor Geisel, creator of Dr. Seuss.

3. The seals of Children’s Pool, La Jolla Cove and La Jolla downtown
Down the hill from UCSD is the Children’s Pool on Coast Boulevard, home of the blubbery pinnipeds that have been the source of consternation and legal battles between seal lovers who want the colony to stay and residents who want them kicked out. The seals have taken over the Children’s Pool, carved out of the ocean by a breakwater commissioned by the late philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps.

The La Jolla Cove nearby is spectacular. Wade into the shallow waters and look for colorful garibaldis and other fish in the underwater park.

La Jolla downtown, within walking distance of the Cove and Children’s Pool, is another shopping destination. La Jolla, Spanish for “The Jewel,” is a fitting name for one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city.

4. San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park
The San Diego Zoo is world famous, and Balboa Park has numerous museums and gardens, one of which is the Japanese Friendship Garden. You can drive up Sixth Avenue from downtown, turn right at Laurel Street, and enter the heart of Balboa Park. The zoo is next to the park, and you can drive there.

5. Hotel Del Coronado
Cross the 2.12-mile San Diego-Coronado Bridge. The red-roofed Hotel Del Coronado, a National Historic Landmark, is on Orange Avenue, the town’s thoroughfare. King Edward VIII was said to have met divorcee Wallis Simpson here.

Go to the Del’s Sun Deck, where there is a bar and outdoor fire pits to keep you warm while you enjoy the beach and the spectacular sunset.

6. Casinos
Native-American operated casinos are scattered all over San Diego County.

7. Tijuana, Mexico
It is just south of San Diego, Tijuana is a popular hangout for many. The wait to cross the border by car, however, is somewhat taxing. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection web site, it takes one to two hours to cross at Otay Mesa and San Ysidro at 4 p.m.

Important dates for the Chinese-Americans of San Diego (source: The Journal of San Diego History)
1860s - 1870s The discovery of gold and labor recruitment brought the Chinese to San Diego. Many ended up as fishermen who lived in shanties along the waterfront. By 1870, the Chinese supplied all the fresh fish in the city.
1881    More Chinese arrive to work on the California Southern Railroad.
1882    Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, cutting off entry into the United States.
1885    The Anti-Chinese Club was formed in San Diego to protest the hiring of Chinese over whites.
1894    The Geary Law required Chinese aliens to register.
1927    The Chinese Mission was built on First Avenue between Market and G Streets, providing a venue for religious and social gatherings.
1943    The Exclusion Act was repealed, but a quota system was put in place.
1987    The San Diego City Council established a Chinese/Asian Thematic District next to the Gaslamp Quarter. The San DiegoChinese Historical Museum at 404 Third Avenue is in the Thematic District.

Angela Lau
Chinese<>English Translator & Interpreter

CLD Offerings*


Michael Berry
Logical Lapses and Trouble with Tenses: Reflections on the Challenges of Chinese>English Literary Translation

Based on the speaker's experience as a literary translator of novel-length fiction, this session will explore the particular challenges one faces in translating Chinese fiction. Topics will include tenses, logical lapses, and Romanization of proper names. Specific examples drawn from a variety of literary texts, including historical fiction, postmodern experimental fiction, and the contemporary satiric novel, will be used.

Gang Li
Tips for Taking ATA’s English>Chinese Certification Exam

The presenter, an ATA English>Chinese exam grader for many years, will provide a brief overview of the grading procedures and exam rules. He will also provide tips on how to prepare for the exam and review some common errors. Attendees are invited to translate a short sample passage. (To request a passage, please contact The speaker will grade some of the returned translations on a first-come, first-served basis. The session will be given in a mixture of English and Chinese.

Yian Yang & Liping Zhao
Exploring Chinese-English Sight Translation Techniques
This session will examine Chinese<>English sight translation. Topics will include common legal terms, converting parts of speech, and detailed discussions on sentence chunking. An interactive approach based on exercises and discussions will be employed. Participants should gain a better understanding of sight translation and the basic skills necessary for linear interpreting, which is the foundation for simultaneous interpreting. Legal and court interpreters will also benefit from attending.

Huilin Gao
Behind the Lines: Telephonic Interpreting

This session will provide an overview of the basics of telephonic interpreting, the industry, and technology requirements and skills. With improvements in technology, telephonic interpreting has become a popular medium. Intended for Chinese<>English speakers, this session will be applicable to both beginners and experienced telephonic interpreters. Participants will gain an understanding of how to work as a stress-free telephonic interpreter.

Yuanxi Ma & Di Wu
Nuts and Bolts in Chinese<>English Translation III: Dealing with Politically- and Legally-Oriented Excerpts and Terms

The speaker will analyze Chinese>English translations of excerpts from legal documents and a convoluted and politically-oriented article to see how differences in structure and expression in the two languages can be handled. The speaker will also discuss a number of terms that are difficult to render from one language to another (e.g., "availability").

Evelyn Yang Garland
Better Technical Translation and Interpreting: Practical Research Techniques

It has never been easier to be a good technical translator or interpreter—as long as you have mastered the research skills to take advantage of the enormous amount of information available today. The speaker will discuss practical research techniques based on her experience with highly complex technical translation and interpreting. How do you translate the name of something from a technical field with which you are unfamiliar? How do you interpret a technical term you have never heard of? Which of several translations should you select for a particular project? Specific examples will be provided.

Zhesheng Cheng
On “Units of Translation” as a Working Concept in Chinese> English Translation

There have been intense debates on the feasibility of "translation units" as a working concept in the practice of translation. Scholars have attempted to define "the units of translation" with various circumscriptions, ranging from words and phrases to clauses and sentences. Some people have even configured "units of translation" as encompassing entire texts or discourses. The speaker will argue that "the unit of translation" should be treated as a dynamic working concept capable of adapting its range to different kinds of texts. Examples will be taken from legal documents, classical Chinese texts, and poetry.

Guo Cheen & Linda Wang   
Translating Classical Chinese Buddhist Texts
The Chinese Buddhist Canon consists of many volumes that fill an entire room. Only a small percentage of texts have been translated into English. We will analyze the history and context for these sacred texts briefly, how they give substance to the translation of classical Chinese (specifically into English), and offer practical methodologies and examples on their various forms, including classical Chinese prose, verses, poems, and commentaries.

*Please note that all offerings are subject to change

Professional Perspectives

Freelance or In-house?

There are many different kinds of translation consumers.  Some companies need translation to reach diverse segments of the US population in order to sell products and services.  Typically, the two largest groups such a company wants to reach are speakers of Spanish and Chinese, with the former taking the lion’s share.  The size of a company is not necessarily an indication of the size of its translation need.  A company might employ a Spanish linguist to manage the entire translation operation while hiring contract linguists to work on other languages if the budget allows.  In many instances, all translation is contracted out to LSPs who, unlike freelance translators, have the means to carry the necessary insurance.  Contract linguists, when they are on the payroll, are asked to review returned translations for accuracy and ensure the translations comply with company standards.  When a budget does not allow for contract linguists, a company may divide the work between two LSPs and ask them to vet each other’s work.  The company may invest in a small number of translation tools to ensure terminological consistency.  The manager of the translation operation is then charged with maintaining the content of the tools, which may contain translation memories and terminologies in four or five different languages.  When the help of contract linguists is not available, the manager may have no choice but to extrapolate from the languages he or she knows to make updates to tool entries that are in languages the manager does not understand.

I don’t know if there are translators who have consistently been well-remunerated for their work.  That species, if it ever existed, has surely become extinct in this era of budget-cutting.  Companies shop around for cost-effective LSPs, while LSPs prioritize the hiring of freelance translators who satisfy their profit margin, not necessarily those capable of doing the work the company requires.  The company’s relationship with its LSPs may not be the typical employer-employee relationship that one may expect.  An LSP may not be reticent if it thinks that the compensation or volume of work it receives from a company is too low.  Sensing that the complaints of the LSP may not be unjustified, and cognizant of the time it requires to properly acclimate translators to house style and regulations, a company may do all it can to placate the LSP.  This can translate into the company doing work that should normally be done by the LSP, such as research for the translation that the LSP is contracted to do.

Chances are that the productive efficacy with which freelance translators go about all aspects of their profession will not find any admirers in the company, where consensus may very well be the order of the day.  My own experience with the corporate world is that creativity is rarely encouraged, except possibly at the highest echelon.  The manager of translation, anxious to preserve consistency across languages, will drill into LSP translators never to stray from the translation memories and translation tool terminologies, both of which are maintained by the very same extrapolating manager.  Being only bilingual, the manager will not be able to realize that files coming back from the LSPs not in Spanish are riddled with errors and read like machine translation.

Having two LSPs vetting each other’s work can be problematic as well.  Since the company most likely will have a grading system in place that punishes bad translation with monetary penalty, LSPs can get defensive and see any honest evaluation as criticism potentially damaging to their bottom line.  It is easy to see how this kind of mindset can lead to acrimonious contention between two LSPs.  A manager of translation and contract linguists who lacks diplomatic skills will have a difficult time.

With this litany of real and perceived negativity, I may seem to be steering freelancers away from in-house positions.  This is not at all the case.  Regular paychecks are nice, even if their duration is limited.  A good point to remember is that a regular paycheck, like everything else in life, has a price. 

Eric Chiang
Chinese <> English Translator and Interpreter

To charge by source word count or by target word count?

In Chinese to English translation, whether to charge by source word count or by target word count is a perennial question with clients and translators here in America.  The answer seems easier when it comes to English to Chinese translation: both clients and translators are willing to go by the source English word count, even it's averaged per page manually on a hard copy.  So why do we have a problem charging by source word count when translating from Chinese into English?

The reason may be two-fold. First, in the earlier days when the bulk of source files existed only on hard copy, it was simply not easy for clients and agencies in the U.S. to count the Chinese characters.  Out of necessity, it was agreed that we would go by the translated English words.  This became the accepted practice even when electronic files became available, because it was never certain if fledging computer programs such as WordPerfect and MS Word counted Chinese or other Asian words correctly. 

Second, it is a truth universally acknowledged that when translating from Chinese into English, the word count contracts quite a bit, sometimes by 40% or more.  This led some agencies to entice potential clients with a value proposition: it pays to go with the English word count rather than Chinese word count.

This proposition worked well until translators (Chinese or American) in Mainland China got into the picture.  Whether they are freelance translators or translation agencies, they charge per source Chinese word.  Seemingly stuck with this UN tenet that all languages were created equal, they would charge only by the word count calculated in the localized Chinese Microsoft Word.  No value proposition would persuade them otherwise.  Why would they translate more and get paid for less?

Now we need to review and re-assess our accepted practice on this side of the globe.  It would actually work in the interest of translators and translation agencies to adopt the policy of charging by the source word count, regardless of whether the direction is from English to Chinese or vice versa.  To do otherwise would seem not only contradictory but also detrimental.  Translators may be particularly vulnerable under the old value proposition, as they may be double-crossed by the agencies.  If they want, they can still build in value by charging less per word.  The method of calculating a Chinese source document is simple: just open it in MS Word, go to Tools>Word count and check the digits after "Words." The words as calculated in the Word count tool include both full Chinese characters and English words. I believe this is a fair and objective method that should be embraced by translators and clients alike.  And where are the clients with the increasing need to have Chinese translated into English?  They are coming in troves from China, expecting you to charge by the source word count. 

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

English Translation of Chinese Dish Names
[Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of the Translation Journal.  It is reprinted here with permission.]

With the opening-up and reform policy in China, Shanghai has attracted a great number of foreign tourists, many of whom are interested in Chinese culture, especially Chinese food. However, it is a big concern that poor translations of the names of Chinese dishes give those visitors a bad impression. What is worse, it is reported that few restaurants provide English menus such that foreign visitors feel embarrassed when they order a certain dish. Before long the Huang Pu District government, required all restaurants to prepare translated menus for the convenience of foreign customers (Zhang 2009). On the one hand, many restaurants are unaware of the importance of translated menus. On the other hand, many translated menus are not accurate or are even incorrect. Therefore, this paper aims to explore English translations of Chinese dish names, focusing on a native English speaker's understanding of the translation of Chinese dish names collected from local restaurants. It discusses the features of Chinese dish names, examines some problems in their English translation, and proposes possible solutions.
Features of Chinese Dish Names

Chinese food has its own profound and extensive culture. Due to the variety of natural ingredients and preparation methods employed, Chinese food enjoys unequaled fame. Each of China’s eight cuisines has its own characteristics. The three essential factors by which Chinese cooking is judged, are "color, aroma, and flavor." These elements are achieved by the ingredients themselves, the mixing of flavors, well-timed cooking, appropriate heat control and presentation. Many dish names are historical in nature. For example, 东坡肉 (Dongpo Rou) is named because Su Dongpo (1037-1101), a famous poet of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) who liked eating this kind of specially-cooked meat.

Translation of Chinese dish names is complicated. The translator should attempt to produce the same effect on the target language readers as is produced by the original on the source language readers. Chinese readers seldom have difficulty in understanding the original name due to a shared cultural background with the writer. However, cultural discrepancies hinder foreign readers from such understanding. Therefore translators should adjust to improve a target-language reader experience. Otherwise, target-language readers are likely to expend the necessary energy, unless they are very highly motivated (Jin and Nida 1984: 102). Moreover, a knowledge of Chinese culinary culture improves translation. Without this knowledge, the dish names may be translated incorrectly, confusing and misguiding readers.

Functional Equivalence Theory

Corresponding with the features of Chinese dish names, Nida's functional equivalence theory is invoked as the theoretic basis for explaining English translation of Chinese dish names. According to Nida (2001), no translation is ever completely equivalent. A number of different translations can in fact represent varying degrees of equivalence. This means that equivalence cannot be understood in its mathematical meaning of identity, but only in terms of proximity, i.e. on the basis of degrees of closeness to functional identity (He 2010: 131). Functional equivalence implies a different degree of adequacy from minimal to maximal effectiveness on the basis of both cognitive and experiential factors. A minimal, realistic definition of functional equivalence means that the readers of a translated text share a similar understanding of the source text with the original readers. Anything less than this degree of equivalence is unacceptable. A maximal definition means the readers of a translated text have the same comprehension as that of the original readers. (Nida 2001: 87). The maximal definition implies a high degree of language-culture correspondence between the source language and the target language (He 2010: 131).

Translating involves four major parameters: source text, translator, reader, and target text. Each involves many variables that may exercise different effects on the act of translating (Nida 2001:131). The source text, for example, demands adequate consideration of style, language, time of writing, and culture. The target text attracts a similar array of considerations. The translator has his or her particular purpose and psychology, a unique and habitual style of writing and other characteristics, while the reader may similarly be classified along various scales such as education level, gender, and age (Nida 2001: 117).

As the carrier of culture, language more or less controls the way people think. A way of speaking may reveal social status, education background, place of residence, gender, etc. (Liu 1999). Translating, i.e., rendering from one language into another, consists of confronting the challenge of restoring the source cultural reality in the target language. Because dynamic equivalence eschews strict adherence to the original text in favor of a more natural rendering in the target language, it is sometimes used when the readability of the translation is more important than the preservation of the original wording. Thus, a dish name might be translated with greater use of dynamic equivalence so that it may read well. The more the source language differs from the target language, the more difficult it may be to understand a literal translation. On the other hand, formal equivalence can sometimes allow readers familiar with the source language to see how meaning was expressed in the original text, preserving untranslated idioms, rhetorical devices, and diction (Nida, 2001).

Previous Studies
Although the work of Wen Yuee (2006) and Cai Hua (2003) explored approaches to dish name translation, no previous studies have investigated the English translations of Chinese dish names from the point of view of the readers, i.e. foreigners.

Case studies allow in-depth understanding replete with meaning for the subject, focusing on process rather than outcome, on discovery rather than confirmation (Burns 2000: 460). In addition, case study allows for the exploration of complicated social units composed of many variables of potential significance (Merriam 1988; Pasters 1995). These insights can be constructed as putative hypotheses thus advancing a field knowledge base (Merriam 1988). Case studies are also descriptive, dynamic, and rely upon naturally occurring data, and are therefore the most appropriate means for studying the reader's experience. The receiver of the translated text provides the most important data. These are relevant to discovering whether the translated text is acceptable to target language readers and suggests avenues for improvement.
Data Collection
Several three-, four- and five-star restaurants have been investigated for data collection. Twelve similar Chinese dish names are shared by the restaurants. Although they have the same Chinese names, their English translation varies. For example, 毛血旺 (Mao Xue Wang) is translated as "Sichuan Style" by the three-star restaurant, "Spicy Harslet" by the four-star restaurant, and "Sautéed Eel with Duck Blood Curd" by the five-star restaurant. Based on this data, an interview was conducted with an American lady who has lived in China for several years. The interviewee was asked to express and explain her opinion regarding the English translations of Chinese dish names.
Data Analysis
First, the data were categorized based on their similar Chinese dish names to facilitate comparison of the English translations. Problems with each translation are identified, analyzed and compared with interview transcripts.

Six dish names were selected from the data collected on the basis that they are representative of typical translations of Chinese dish names.

Three-star restaurant
Four-star restaurant
Five-star restaurant
(Mao Xue Wang)
"Sichuan" Style
Spicy Harslet
Sautéed Eel with Duck Blood Curd
(Shui Zhu Niu Rou)
Sauted Beef in Sauce
Spicy Beef
Poached Sliced Beef in Hot Chili Oil
(Guai Wei Zhu Shou)
Pig's Knuckle

Braised Spicy Pig Feet
(Si Xi Dongpo Rou)
Four Braised Songpo Meats

Braised Dongpo Pork
Gui Hua Bing Tang Ou)

Sweet Lotus with Osmanthus
Steamed Lotus Root Stuffed with Sweet Sticky Rice
(Ba Bao Na Jiang)
Mixed Chicken with PeanutS shrimp Bamboo
Eight Kinds of Food

In the table above, three translations of 毛血旺 (Mao Xue Wang) are shown. The three-star restaurant translation of "Sichuan Style" confuses readers unfamiliar with the taste and ingredients of the dish. "Spicy Harslet", is preferable in that it conveys that edible viscera are the primary ingredients. However, this translation does not specify which organs are used. Perhaps, the five-star restaurant provides the best translation providing the flavor, "spicy," and the exact ingredients in the dish. It may be easier for the English readers to understand.
The translation of 水煮牛肉 (Shui Zhu Niu Rou) highlights another translation method. Comparing "Sautéed Beef in Sauce," with "Poached Sliced Beef in Hot Chili Oil", the former provides the ingredients and cooking method of the dish, while the latter paints a more vivid picture of the food, including the ingredients, the cooking method, and color - the three essential elements of Chinese food. Thus, the second translation makes the dish sound truly appetizing.
怪味猪手 (Guai Wei Zhu Shou) also has two translations: "Pig's knuckle" and "Braised Spicy Pig Feet." The former presents some problems in that it presents the primary ingredient without further description of the essential elements of Chinese food.
四喜坡肉 (Si Xi Dongpo Rou) has two translations: "Four Braised Dongpo Meats" and "Braised Dongpo Pork." "Four Braised" provides little information as we do not know which ingredients are used and by what method they are prepared. This translation fails to provide the basic information a foreign tourist may expect. The second translation provides both, but could be improved with further information regarding color or flavor.
桂花冰糖藕 (Gui Hua Bing Tang Ou), is translated as "Sweet Lotus with Osmanthus" and "Steamed Lotus Root Stuffed with Sweet Sticky Rice." The first translation neglects to describe the method of preparation, leaving the reader confused. The second translation is preferable, providing the materials, cooking method, and flavor.
Finally, 八宝辣 (Ba Bao Na Jiang) has been translated as “Mixed Chicken with Peanuts Shrimp Bamboo” and “Eight Kinds of Food”. The former provides more information, while the latter is too vague and may mislead readers. If the dish turns out not what they expected, they may feel cheated.
Interview Analysis
During the interview, the interviewee emphasized that the translations might be confusing for people who did not know Chinese food very well. She suggested the translation should be direct and clarify what foreigners want to know. She expressed the opinion that in western countries translations of Chinese dishes were more related to what was in the food than translations in China. She noted, however, that some dishes like "Kung Pao Chicken" are also popular in the United States.
When she was asked how she ordered dishes in the absence of an English menu she said, "I either know what I want to order or I can point at the pictures or point at the food of somebody else's table." and "I can use words to describe if I know what I want." She went on to describe an experience when, " they didn't have what I wanted and I didn't actually know what the meat was that they gave me in the end." This shows that an English menu is indeed necessary in Chinese restaurants.
During our conversation, the interviewee emphasized several times that additional information including raw materials and cooking methods should be provided in the English translation of Chinese dish names. Thus we can conclude that when foreigners ask for the menu and order the dishes, they will read the menu for more information regarding what is in the food or how it is cooked. Different methods of preparation conjure different images and flavors. To them, there is a big difference between deep-fried chicken and steamed chicken. They like to know what kind of food they can expect, especially if they are not familiar with Chinese cooking.
Thus, we can draw the following conclusions. First, a translation of dish names should sufficiently describe both cooking methods and raw ingredients. Secondly, the translation should illustrate the three elements of Chinese dishes: color, aroma, and flavor. Finally, including history and the culture gives added flair to the translation of Chinese dish names.
Discussion & Conclusion
Based on the data collected and the interview conducted, we have an improved understanding of the foreign experience of Chinese menu translations. Foreigners prefer to have a clear understanding of what they are eating. Thus, we should strive to make the names of Chinese dishes more clear and better inform foreign visitors. Wherever possible, precise information regarding cooking methods and ingredients should be included.
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Congjun Mu,
English to Chinese Translator