ZERO TRANSLATION - As Chinese Are Madly In Love With English Words, Abandon The Archaic Habit

Young trailblazers all over China mix English words and Chinese characters to modernize China's 3300 years old writing system. Conservatives want to stop this movement. No need, says Dragons and Pandas, if only the West also abandoned its own outdated notion of 'national language':


COPENHAGEN/TOKYO – Globus Kina’s Christina Boutrup hosts German linguist and end-translation advocate Thorsten Pattberg (D. Litt., Peking University) i. o. t. discuss the ‘Zero Translation’ phenomenon:

“This phenomenon, termed "zero translation", has sparked a fierce debate – why is that so important for some people in China that everything has a Chinese word?” --Christina Boutrup, Globus Kina

A Notion In Favor Of Limiting Translation

First of all, it is a late spring early summer topic. We have similar discussions about ‘national languages’ –and the protection of thereof- in German and French media, too. Every year, in fact. The main concern is this: We have A LOT of English words coming in. What do we do about it?!

RELATED The Coming of Post-Translational Society

It is unfortunate that those Chinese intellectuals talks about ‘purity’ and ‘vitality’ of culture and language. That is so 20th-Century. Imagine they would also do the talking about race and ethnicity.

Here, the ideology is NOT multiculturalism –it is assimilation. And one way, the BEST WAY, is by translation; that’s because THEN our eyes and ears are met with the familiar and the convenient.

“The concept of “zero translation” is introduced both as a translation strategy for overcoming the unbridgeable differences between languages, and as a means of safeguarding the general validity of translatability as the theoretical cornerstone of translation.” –Qiu Maoru中国翻译》20011月第22卷第1期(P24-27

Liberating the World’s Vocabularies

Critics are right, they should PROTECT their cultures and languages (at least to a certain degree), because that’s apparently what everyone is doing. We are competing for our sovereignty over thought and definitions. Remember George Orwell’s Six Rules for Good Writing: Rule No. 5: “Never use a foreign phrase, word, or a jargon if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”

READ MORE Language imperialism - 'democracy' in China (in The Japan Times)

ALL major Anglophone media apply those rules, be it The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, or The Economist, and so on. They want to expand THEIR OWN culture, not surrender it. Nationalists in China have those worries, too.

Having said all this, however, most young people are not having any of it. They want to see all foreign words liberated. It’s a good thing.

“The current lack of Chinese translation for new English terms is due to an increasing interest in and respect for Western culture. More Chinese people can speak English now and they generally want to use English words where appropriate in normal conversation.” –Empowerlingua.com

RELATED Global Language - The Chinese Dream, no wait, Meng!

Aesthetics of Multi-layered Scripts

The use of English words in Chinese writings looks strange at first. This is aggravated by the fact that Chinese uses pictographs, not letters. So, English words do really pop out and may irritate. That it works nevertheless is shown in Japan, where four scriptures form a highly sophisticated mish-mash: Hiragana for Japanese readings; Katakana for foreign loanwords; Kanji as pictographs introduced from China in the 5h century; and the Roman alphabet for adopted names.

I am in favor of ending or limiting translation.

ADDITIONAL READING: Relationship Between Translation And Culture Cultural Studies Essay, by Qiu Maoru

Image credit: Michaeljung/Shutterstock.com

Cross-posted with east-west-dichotomy.com. You can follow me on Twitter, my Website, or my other Blog. See you next time around!

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Lama Rod Owens – the price of the ticket to freedom

An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
  • "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
Keep reading Show less

For most of history, humans got smarter. That's now reversing.

We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?

The Flynn effect appears to be in retrograde. (Credit: Shutterstock/Big Think)
popular

There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.

Keep reading Show less

Lateral thinking: The reason you’ve heard of Nintendo and Marvel

Here's why generalists triumph over specialists in the new era of innovation.

Videos
  • Since the explosion of the knowledge economy in the 1990s, generalist inventors have been making larger and more important contributions than specialists.
  • One theory is that the rise of rapid communication technologies allowed the information created by specialists to be rapidly disseminated, meaning generalists can combine information across disciplines to invent something new.
  • Here, David Epstein explains how Nintendo's Game Boy was a case of "lateral thinking with withered technology." He also relays the findings of a fascinating study that found the common factor of success among comic book authors.
Keep reading Show less