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 No need, says Dragons and Pandas, if only the West also abandoned its own outdated notion of 'national language':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?!

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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

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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!

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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