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Blending Language Learning with Translation Teaching: A New Perspective on the Teachability of Chinese Translation

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Part of the New Frontiers in Translation Studies book series (NFTS)

Abstract

Over the past fifty years or so, a gargantuan number of textbooks on English–Chinese (hereinafter “E–C”) translation has been published. There are usually two major approaches. One of them is to explain how translation can be done on a word-class and linguistic-level basis. Another is to put on display a repertoire of translation methods and techniques in the hope that users are fully equipped for translation tasks at various linguistic levels and in different text types. Some of these works include Loh (1959), Sun and Jin (1977), Chen (1996), and Liu (1997; 2006). Nonetheless, both strategies, to a large extent, rest on the assumption that readers have such a firm grasp of the Chinese language that they are able to stand against the interference of the source language in the translation process. As Poon rightly points out, there are no translation techniques independent of language competence (2000, 53). With reference to the universals of translation, this chapter argues that translation as an activity represents resistance against normalization and simplification. Thorough language proficiency training before translation training being costly, if not out of the question, it is argued that incorporating the defining characteristics of the Chinese language in an E–C translation textbook or course syllabus along with the aforementioned methods may enhance, if not maximize, the teaching effectiveness. There are three major parts in the ensuing pages. The first outlines the history of textbooks on E–C translation, highlighting their two major approaches and the desideratum in the future development of textbooks with regard to E–C translation. The next argues how translation may be seen as resistance to normalization and simplification, which lead to the so-called “translation-ese.” Part Three elucidates the major defining characteristics of the Chinese language, namely, yìhé 意合 (parataxis), linearity, dynamism, an emphasis on such dimensions as concreteness, humans and human relationships, holism and a sense of balance, and how Chinese culture has played its part in shaping them. This chapter is significant in pushing back the frontiers of teaching E–C translation, setting the scene for further discussion on the delicate balance between language teaching and teaching translation. It is original in highlighting the importance of developing students’ awareness of the defining characteristics of the Chinese language in order to enhance their language sensitivity with a view to producing unaffected written Chinese. It further contributes to the academic discourse through presenting these characteristics in a systematic manner and placing them in the context of Chinese culture.

Keywords

  • Language learning
  • Translation teaching
  • Translation competence
  • Bilingual competence
  • Defining features
  • Teachability

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The other two are Gōngfū zài shī wài: Fānyì ǒu tán功夫在詩外:翻譯偶談 (1996) and Translation: As Good As It Gets譯道探微 (2001).

  2. 2.

    See Cheung (2011a) for a full biographical account of Tsai as a translator.

  3. 3.

    Cheung (2011b) mentions an example of severe Europeanized Chinese in Tung Chiao’s Chinese translation of James Gray’s John Steinbeck (2).

  4. 4.

    The remaining four competences subordinate to transfer competence and strategic competence are communicative competence, extralinguistic competence, instrumental-professional competence, and psycho-physiological competence (see PACTE GROUP 2017, 36).

  5. 5.

    See Chesterman (2004, 2010) for a full set of these patterns unique in translated texts.

  6. 6.

    This example will be revisited below in Sect. 4, for the Chinese politeness principle should also be taken into consideration.

  7. 7.

    The comparative morphological concreteness of English in Indo-European languages is best encapsulated in Ames’s analysis of D.C. Lau’s choice of words in translating Chinese philosophical works (1992, xiv–xviii).

  8. 8.

    Much as there are indeed three deer in this example, the number “three” is often a symbol of “many” in Chinese” and is sometimes not meant to be taken literally.

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Cheung, Yk. (2021). Blending Language Learning with Translation Teaching: A New Perspective on the Teachability of Chinese Translation. In: Moratto, R., Woesler, M. (eds) Diverse Voices in Chinese Translation and Interpreting. New Frontiers in Translation Studies. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4283-5_18

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