Translation Challenge: Tricky Chinglish Passage

My good friend Bo has devised an excellent Chinese passage with a host of tricky Chinese words which may not have direct equivalents in English. See how you go translating it!


Feel free to post your translations in the comments section and I can give you some feedback.

This passage and its translation problems and strategies will be featured in my upcoming e-book How To Avoid Chinglish.

44 Comments to "Translation Challenge: Tricky Chinglish Passage"

  1. xuchen's Gravatar xuchen
    12/07/2011 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

    First time translating. Very interested in your comments! I’m sure I took too many liberties with some of the sentences and no enough with others! Oh well!

    In the footsteps social and economic development, the oppression of “free expression” by the government has finally been lifted and people everywhere have had their spirits lifted and have taken a step towards greater freedom. Both the government and the public should actively grab hold of this century’s opportunity to push forward science and technology, particularly trying to improve and spread scientific understanding in underdeveloped areas. Foreign language studies also need to be tackled and improved greatly. Globalization is rampant in the 21st century; it really is the global-village. Without a doubt it is now a basic requirement for one to speak fluently and have authentic language skills if they are to make their way onto the international stage. The appearance of the internet and social networks have brought about boundless joys to many people’s lives and made speedily learning a foreign language easier. The process of learning a foreign language has been made easier by the non-stop introduction of new language learning software. These products have brought language learning to the student’s fingertips and have allowed learners of all different countries to enjoy high quality learning resources without ever leaving their homes. The youth of today should become familiar with these new technologies; otherwise they’ll be left behind by their competition.

  2. 12/07/2011 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

    As society continues to grow and evolve, new avenues are opening up in previously absolute goverment restriction of “public speech.” The government and the people alike should take advantage of this critical opportunity, especially to garuntee access to technological education in developing communities.

    But for foreign language education, time is even more of the essence. The 21st century is the age of globalization; the age of the global village. Having true fluency in a second language is without a doubt a must-have if you want to take the international stage.

    With the emergence of the internet, there’s now access to endless forms of entertainment — and modern language study is becoming easy as pie. An array of language study software with engaging user interfaces makes the whole process of learning a language easier and more convenient. The best study materials from all over the world can be found without setting foot beyond your doorstep. As a young person in these modern times, we had better put this technology to good use, or else we’ll wind up cast out.

  3. v's Gravatar v
    12/07/2011 - 11:52 pm | Permalink

    With the blooming economy, comes the once restricted freedom of engaging in public debate, people feel motivated for such a step toward a more open society. Both the government and its people should seize this opportunity that this unique era has offered us to improve our society with the help of technology. Providing the tools and resources to improve education in rural and less-developed urban areas is one of the priorities. Another is the learning of foreign languages. 21 century is the age of globalization, the age of global village. Being able to communicate correctly and fluently in a foreign language is no doubt one of the basic requirements for people who want to enter the international arena. The creation of Internet has not only given immense entertainment to people but also made learning foreign languages much more convenient. Many and various computer software in the market enable learners to pick up a language easily and quickly. Learners even can have the privilege to enjoy the best teaching resources from all around the world without stepping outside their doors. Young people should learn and master their computer and internet skills for these skills have become crucial factors in deciding whether they are competitive in the jobs market.

  4. Bathrobe's Gravatar Bathrobe
    14/07/2011 - 1:39 am | Permalink

    I played around with it a bit to come up with this mixture of literal and idiosyncratic phrasing. I wouldn’ t necessarily submit it to a translation agency 🙂

    As a result of social and economic development, “public discourse” once banned by the government has become acceptable, bringing about a liberation in people’s thinking. It is incumbent on both the government and the general public to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the times to utilise the benefits of science and spread a knowledge of science and education, particularly in less privileged areas. It is even more important to gain a practical grasp of foreign languages. The 21st century is the century of globalisation and the global village. Fluency in a foreign language will indubitably become a sine qua non for those wishing to play a role in an internationalised world. With the emergence of the Internet, countless forms of entertainment have become accessible to the public, making it quick and convenient to learn a foreign language. The availability of many kinds of foreign language software makes this even easier. People can gain access to sophisticated language resources from around the world without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Young people of the new era need to become familiar with information technology or run the risk of being left behind.

  5. Bathrobe's Gravatar Bathrobe
    14/07/2011 - 1:56 am | Permalink

    Oops, “spread a knowledge of science and education” seems to have garbled the original.

  6. John's Gravatar John
    18/07/2011 - 9:52 am | Permalink

    How does this sound?

    Along with social and economic development, “public speech” once banned by the government has been now been embraced, which is a step toward liberating of the spirit. Whether it be the government or the public, all should seize the opportunities of this time, promoting the advantages of technology, and in less developed areas is technology-based education important. This is particularly true for foreign language education. The 21st century is one of globalization where we have become a global village. And speaking a foreign language fluently is without a doubt essential to stepping onto the international stage. The advent of the Internet has made learning language more convenient, as well as given us unlimited entertainment. The variety of language-learning software has made the process of acquiring a foreign language much easier, allowing one to tap into excellent teaching resources without even leaving home. The new generation of young people must become adept at information technology, or else be left out of society.

  7. John's Gravatar John
    18/07/2011 - 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the tips. This is a great idea!

  8. Bathrobe's Gravatar Bathrobe
    19/07/2011 - 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m not terribly happy with my own rendition above (normally I would sleep on any translation before trotting it out for public inspection). I did find that the ‘Chinglish’ elements made the text rather challenging, not only in the sense of inspiring avoidance behaviour, but also in the sense of forcing the translator to get creative.
    I would identify the following as “Chinglish triggers”:
    随着 ‘With’ is the kneejerk translation, but it’s fine because ‘with’ is even more over-used in English.
    社会经济 Sometimes it just means ‘economy’, but here it clearly means both ‘economy’ and ‘society’.
    发展 ‘Development’ is a flavourless word in English and overusing it doesn’t add much zing to your prose.
    公共言论 A bit hard to translate. 言论 can refer, among other things, to ‘freedom of speech’.
    精神 Ugh. ‘Spiritual pollution’ is hopelessly awkward and draws sniggers from foreigners. One of the biggest problems, I suspect, is the identification in the West of ‘spiritual’ with rather lofty aspects of Christianity or other religions. It sounds particularly bad (fuddy duddy or hypocritical) when the supposedly godless Communist party starts using this word. Avoid it like the plague.
    无论…公众都 ‘No matter, both, whether…’ might fit the bill, but stiff locutions like 无论 are usually avoided in English. Try and find a way of making it softer, even invisible.
    充分抓住 ‘Grasp’ or ‘grab’ might work occasionally, but usually it’s better finding a different way of saying it. ‘Take’ the opportunity is probably just as good.
    机遇 ‘Opportunity’ works ok.
    发挥 Lots of ways of saying it, but there is no single word that captures the exact nuance of this versatile word.
    优势 Again lots of equivalents, but some of them are dangerous in use (especially ‘superiority’).
    落后地区 ‘Backward’ is a no-no.
    普及 ‘Spread’ works, but only just, and translators really should cast around for more suitable equivalents.
    切实抓好 Our old friend 抓 — twice in one passage.
    走向国际舞台 ‘The world stage’ or ‘international stage’ works ok in English, but you start to get wary when you find yourself running into it much more than you could ever would ‘world stage’ in English.
    出现 English has several possibilities that could be used. ‘Advent’, ’emergence’, etc.
    带来了(无限的乐趣) A versatile expression in Chinese that works ok in English, up to a point. The blog-owner is right in recommending avoidance.
    各种 ‘All kinds of’ is kind of boring in English.
    相继面世 This almost looks like a ready-made translation for the ubiquitous English word ‘available’ 🙂
    优秀 Lots of wonderful words can be used to translate this. Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t use ‘superior’.
    作为(新时代的青年人) ‘As….’ works, but getting stuck with one rendition of this expression will really start to cramp your style.
    熟练掌握 Another candidate for ‘grasp’. Think of other ways to say it.
    淘汰 One of those words that don’t quite have a foolproof equivalent in English. Smacks of evolutionary theory, which, despite its wide acceptance, isn’t regarded as a terribly subtle model for expressing one’s thoughts about society.

  9. 27/07/2011 - 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Ooh, I’m giving it a shot.

    As society and the economy progressed, what was once prohibited by the government–an open forum of public opinion–was given the green light, and another stride was made toward completing the people’s inner liberation. Their differences aside, the government and the public should seize the opportunity of the day, reap the benefits of technological advances, and furthermore, make science and technology education accessible for less-developed communities. Foreign language education, above all, is key. The 21st century is an age of globalization and a time of the global village. Fluency in a variety of foreign languages as a people is doubtless a prerequisite to entering the international stage. The emergence of the Internet has not only brought limitless entertainment to people’s lives, but also made language learning in modern days much more convenient and fast-paced. The constantly-increasing variety of language learning software kits out there greatly simplifies the process into a relaxing experience, and people need not even step outside to enjoy the wealth of excellent learning resources from around the world. And so the youth of our age must attain proficiency in the field of information technology or risk losing out in this dog-eat-dog world.

  10. Bathrobe's Gravatar Bathrobe
    27/08/2011 - 8:53 am | Permalink

    Nice to have a final version for reference.

    In fact, this passage has its inherent problems, particularly in the coherence of the message. It lurches from ‘freedom of spirit’ to an earnest exhortation to use this new freedom for things that are politically acceptable, ending with an injunction to become familiar with technology. This is going to sound disjointed whatever language it is translated into. Is this a real passage or totally a made up example?

    Regarding the reference version:
    “public opinion that was previously prohibited by the government has been lifted” seems a little awkward. I think the problem lies with the verb ‘lifted’. It is obviously the prohibition that was lifted, not public opinion, and this probably needs to be rephrased.

    ‘storming the international arena’ seems rather overdone for a bland and clichéd expression. I don’t think it means anything more than joining the trend to globalisation and getting a job that involves interacting in this globalised world.

    ‘dog-eat-dog’ is too negative. I really do think that the passage is emphasising the urgency of getting au fait with technology, not criticising the world we live in. In fact, ‘dog-eat-dog’ defeats the tone of the passage, which is overwhelmingly positive about taking advantage of the times to get out there and do something. This is particularly so when earlier in the passage there is a glowing reference to ‘minds being set free’.

    As I said, though, the passage has coherency problems. To go from ‘spiritual liberation’ to a strict insistence on using technology to serve society (educating people in underdeveloped areas), quickly followed by a passage on foreign language education for a globalised world, and finally a recommendation to become familiar with technology or else, is going to be hard to accommodate in any translation. Apart from ‘dog-eat-dog’, I think carlgene’s reference translation handles this about as smoothly as seems possible in the circumstances.

  11. Bathrobe's Gravatar Bathrobe
    27/08/2011 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    Actually, not ‘getting a job that involves interacting in this globalised world’; more ‘playing a role in this globalised world’.

  12. Bao's Gravatar Bao
    08/09/2011 - 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Here’s my belated entry. I translated the original without peeking first and then made a few changes after reading the excellent comments you all made:

    As our society and economy continue to develop, the government’s earlier prohibitions on free expression have been largely lifted, allowing greater freedom of thought. The government and the public should seize the opportunity to increase their technological advantages, with a focus on increasing technical knowledge in underdeveloped areas. The twenty-first century is one of globalization and the global village. A high level of fluency in a foreign language is without doubt becoming a basic requirement for entry to the international arena. The advent of the internet brings every kind of amusement to our fingertips, at the same time making it easier and more convenient to quickly learn a modern foreign language. Every kind of foreign language learning software is now available, becoming more and more user-friendly. Now you can get access to the best learning resources without leaving the comforts of home. Today’s young people should master information technology if they want to remain relevant in today’s world.

  13. daofeishi's Gravatar daofeishi
    12/09/2011 - 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Here is my attempt:

    As the socio-economic landscape has changed, public discussion, previously under governmental prohibition, has gained acceptance, and the people can now reap the benefits of a more liberal social discourse. Politicians and civilians alike should seize upon the opportunity that these times offer us to bring about an advancement in science and technology, and to use scientific knowledge and education to improve the conditions in less developed areas. We must also focus our attention on foreign languages. The 21st century is a globalized century, and fluency in foreign languages is undoubtedly a key to entering the international arena. The appearance of the internet has provided us with boundless entertainment, and has made language learning easier than it has ever been before. Various kinds of language acquisition software, available at our fingertips, has made studying less of a chore, and has made excellent resources available within the confines of our own homes. As the youth of a new generation, we must familiarize ourselves with information technology or risk becoming bystanders to our own changing society.

  14. 10/10/2011 - 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Frankly, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to translate this passage because it is completely disjointed and worse still, the style is bad; it sounds so much same to me as the Chinese edition of China Daily, which is heavily tainted with clichés, redundancy, vacuousness, and communism.

  15. 红胡子's Gravatar 红胡子
    05/05/2012 - 12:46 am | Permalink

    With the development of the social economy, the ‘Public speaking rights’ which was once forbidden by government is now admitted, people are further liberated in mental. Both the government and the public should take the opportunity of time, take advantage of science and technology, and especially spread knowledge of science and education to the undeveloped areas. The foreign language education should be valued. The 21th century is an internationalized century, an earth village century. It is a basic requirement for people who intend the international opportunity to speak English fluently and accurately. The appearance of Internet takes lots of fun to people’s life, and makes the study of foreign language more convenient. The process of learning foreign languages has become easier to handle by the appearance of various kinds of software on foreign language studying, which can even help people get the resource all over the world at home. As a young man of this new time, we should master the information technology, or we will be knocked out by society.

  16. Roger's Gravatar Roger
    07/01/2013 - 12:33 pm | Permalink

    With the development of society and economy, people have got more freedom in public opinion, which was once strictly restricted by government. This change further frees people in mind and spirit. The government as well as the public should take full advantage of this opportunity, aided with advanced technology, to popularize science knowledge in the remote rural areas, foreign language education not excluded in particular. The 21 century, the century of globalization, belongs to the whole world. A fluent English is no doubt the first step to the international stage. The Internet, which brings great amusement to our life, makes the learning more convenient and easier, along with various kinds of English learning software, and even makes it possible for people to access the most valuable teaching resources at home. As the new generation, we should know well of how to use internet, or else we could be left behind.

  17. David G's Gravatar David G
    07/10/2013 - 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Here is my original attempt – having had the benefit of reading the above translations there would of course be several changes I would make!

    Also, a question – what kind of time frame would a professional translator be looking at to turn over a paragraph of this size?

    Following in the wake of socio-economic growth, public speech once prohibited by the government is now permitted, and the spirit of the people is a step closer to liberation. Both the government and the public should fully take advantage of the opportunities of the times, and strive to achieve technological ascendancy, especially through the popularization of science and technology in the less developed regions. Foreign language education is of even more practical importance. With the massive globalisation of 21st century to the point that we are now a global village, being fluent in a foreign language will no doubt become a pre-requisite for entering the world stage. The advent of the internet has also brought endless delight, allowing language study to become fast and convenient. Every time a new piece of language learning software comes out, the process becomes easier and less stressful, to the point where one can access the a host of excellent learning resources without even needing to take a step outside the home. As a young person in this new age, you need to master the new technology, or risk being left behind.

  18. JenniferZhang's Gravatar JenniferZhang
    15/01/2014 - 7:52 pm | Permalink

    As the advancement of economy and society, the once politically-banned‘free expression'has been approved, meaning a single step further to the spiritual liberation.Both Government and general public are supposed to seize the opportunity of the times, exert the scientific and technological advantages, and,particularly, popularize knowledge of science and education in underdeveloped regions.
    Extra endeavor is demanded in the foreign language education.The twenty-first century is an epoch of globalization and global village. Consequently, there is no doubt that fluent and idiomatic spoken English is the prerequisite and stepping-stone to the world stage.
    Furthermore, the advent of the Internet, not only produces never-ending delight in our life, but also extremely facilitates the foreign language study today. The springing up of multifarious applications for the foreign language study,undoubtedly, has simplified the study process and relieved the learning burden.Moreover, with those apps,merely at home, we can get access to the excellent instructional resource all over the world.
    Therefore, to the young people of the new era, it's the life-and-death moment to master the information technology or to be sifted out.

  19. John's Gravatar John
    15/01/2014 - 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Hi Carl.
    Firstly CONGRATULATIONS You have a wonderfully interesting website!
    I recommended it, especially the ‘ Chinglish Translation’ to a student of mine. She has done the translation and posted it here but I can’t seem to see the post.
    Any idea what may have happened? She posted the translation under the name of JenniferZhang…..Wait! Forget it, I have just realised what’s happened. The post is “awaiting moderation”. Well, that’s that, I’ll just have to wait!

  20. tamie's Gravatar tamie
    08/02/2014 - 11:27 pm | Permalink

    My try. This blog entry is a great idea. Every single comment is very valuable. Thanks to the people who have contributed.

    As social economy advances, the government has lifted the ban on public expression of personal views, further librating people’s mind. Both government and the public should seize this opportunity of the times, make use of scientific and technological advantages, and in particular spread scientific and educational knowledge to less developed regions. More importantly we should make great efforts to improve foreign language education. The new millennium is the century of globalisation and the age of global village. Undoubtedly, fluency in a foreign language has become a basic requirement for people integrating into the international community. The creation of the internet has added endless joy into people’s life and made the study of foreign languages more convenient and easier. The availability of various softwares aiming at foreign language study has facilitated the study process, making it easier for the beginners to kick start, and even possible for people to access the excellent learning resources around the world without leaving home. As the young generation of the new era, we should master information technology, or risk being left out by the society.

  21. Bill Dai's Gravatar Bill Dai
    07/10/2015 - 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Your majestic in the field of translation:

    I have just find your website by google, and find your expertise awesome. You must have immersed yourself much in Simplified-Mandarin-Speaking environment since i found many of your articles refer to the phenomenon of China, which rarely happen to Taiwan where traditional mandarin is used. I appreciate your dedication to the blog. It quite inspires me.

  22. 09/08/2016 - 8:18 pm | Permalink

    My first shot at translation. After translating it I browsed through some other people’s translations, which makes me think that I misunderstood a few parts of it. But despite being a bit awkward in sections, in the interest of transparency here is my unedited draft of my first translation:

    “Civic speech” once prohibited by the government has followed the progress of society, liberating people’s minds.
    Regardless of whether or not the public or the government with take advantage of this opportunity to develop a technical advantage, this should popularize science education for underdeveloped areas. We must be practical about foreign language education. The 21st century is a globalized century, a century of a global village. Fluency in a foreign language is undoubtedly a fundamental necessity for the people to enter the global stage. The internet’s appearance has brought incredible joys to people’s lives, making contemporary foreign language education far faster and more convenient. The release of so many types of language learning software in rapid succession has allows students to progress through their studies with greater ease than ever before, achieving mastery. This even extends to those who are able to enjoy quality resources from around the world without setting foot outside their homes. To be a young person nowadays one must be able to grasp information technology, otherwise you will face extinction.

  23. Sharon Wong's Gravatar Sharon Wong
    08/12/2016 - 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Here’s my attempt:
    As our society and economy evolves, the ‘public opinion’ that was once prohibited by the government has now been approved, and people’s minds are now free. Both the government and the public should be taking full advantage of the opportunities in this new era, and make use of the benefits of science and technology. We should especially be taking science education to less developed areas. It is more important to master a foreign language than ever before. Globalisation has come to define the 21st century, as we are now becoming a global village. Native-level fluency in another language will doubtless be a basic requirement for people aspiring to take their place on the international stage. The rise of the internet has improved our lives in countless ways, and made learning a foreign language quick and convenient. The numerous language learning programs that are being released day after day have made the educational process easier to master, to the point where people can enjoy some of the world’s best learning resources without leaving the comfort of their own homes. As young people in this new age, we must become familiar with information technology or be left behind by society.

  24. Luna's Gravatar Luna
    04/06/2017 - 10:30 pm | Permalink

    With the development of society and economy, the prohibition of some “public speech” from the government has been lifted now, and people are further relieved in mind. Both the government and the public should seize the opportunity of the era to exploit the advantages of technology to the full. Especially, they should make technology and education universal in backward areas, as well as attach more importance to teaching foreign languages. The 21st century is an era of globalization, and the earth is a global village, in which speaking fluent and idiomatic English is the prerequisite for people to stand on the international stage.
    The emergence of the internet has brought enormous pleasure to our lives, in addition, it enables learning English to be more convenient and efficient. A selection of English-learning applications have entered the market one after another, making the learning easier to start and the process much more relaxing. These applications even allow people to enjoy great learning resources from the world without going out of home. As the young generation in the new century, we should be skilled in information technologies, or we might be knocked out by society.

  25. Luna's Gravatar Luna
    05/06/2017 - 12:22 am | Permalink

    After I did the translation, I checked all others’ versions and Carl’s revisions. I think all of us have made great efforts in eliminating the traces of the source language, such as adding linking words (I especially like the rendering of “the availability of wide variety of “`, to the extent that you can get access to“`”. The addition of “to the extent that” perfectly helps build coherency between two clauses.), changing word orders, and rephrasing, etc. Although the source text is a little awkward, the pitch of a good translation is to present the same information and style of the source text, meanwhile, being expressive and elegant. I’ve learned a lot by referring to Carl’s and many other great translations, and I hope there can be more exercises like that. At last, thanks to Carl’s commitment.

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