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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Translator Education  »  Common Mistakes in Translating from Chinese into English

Common Mistakes in Translating from Chinese into English

By Giovanni Valenti | Published  10/5/2006 | Translator Education | Recommendation:
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Giovanni Valenti
Միացյալ Նահանգներ
չինարենից անգլերեն translator
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现象 often translated as phenomenon
Use of the word Phenomenon. Used loosely in Chinese but very intense in the English, meaning a sight or occurrence that is unexplainable or awesome. Often used in Chinese as “the occurrence of 什么什么” or “the appearance of 什么什么 situation”.
Incorrect: The phenomenon of leaking that occurs in the gearbox can be dealt with by referring to the operation manual to find the appropriate measures to deal with the leak.
Leaking is not a phenomenon; it is simply just an occurrence or situation.
Correct: The (any) occurrence of leaking can be dealt with by referring to the operation manual to find the appropriate measures to deal with the leak.

Direct Translations
绿色(产品,食品,等)= All natural product (food, etc). Environmentally safe product. Environmentally friendly product. Sometimes, it is inappropriate to translate as “GREEN FOOD” even though that is what the packaging says. How will a westerner view “绿色牛肉干” if translated “Green Beef Jerky” or something else translated “Green Pig”?? They will probably get the idea that if they eat such a product then they will become very sick or loss an arm or leg to food poisoning. Be careful on direct translations!
Sometimes it is necessary to translate concepts and not just words or sentences.

绿化=landscaping, afforestation (large-scale), planting of plants and shrubbery to beautify the landscape or surroundings (or control noise levels around highways and factories, etc).

宣传 often translated as propaganda
Propaganda in English is usually seen as a 贬义词and carries along with it the connotation of “brainwashing” or generalization of some form of agenda or plan by a superior or higher power: i.e., the Government. If you look the word “Propaganda” up in the 同义词库 you will find synonyms for it like: half-truths, party-line (meaning the Party’s way of looking at a situation, etc.) Unless it is in-fact a government department (especially a communist or socialist government, not usually used in democratic or capitalist vocabulary), then do not use this word. For individuals, companies, projects, etc 宣传 usually one of the following words would be used:
Publicity/Publicize: Usually a proactive (but not necessarily) action to make a product, company, etc known to the public. In most cases, use of one of these words is appropriate.
EX: The company invested a lot of money on the publicity of its products.
Ex: The company invested a lot of money to publicize its products.
Their publicity campaign for the election obviously had some important supporters in the media.
The government publicized (made public) the report on the census taken and the suggestions on sustaining economic growth for the future.

如果: Often tranlsted incorrectly as "in case"
如果 or similar words should not be translated as: “In case”. Usually “in case” means 万一(发生什么事情).
In the case that…
In the event that….
In the instance that …..happens,

Here, it should be emphasized not to just take the first word in the dictionary as the translation. Is the word logical? Any other words that might be more appropriate?
Usually places like hotels would use “meeting venue” in an advertisement, etc. Club would be used for something like community youth activity center/club.
SHIFT+F7 will open the 同义词库 which can supply you with alternative word choices if the dictionary does not have a suitable choice.

国产 almost never translate as homemade. Homemade is more for something like: 家常菜 Homemade apple pie, homemade meal, etc. 国产牌号=domestic, domestically-made brand, products, equipment, etc.

流动人口 usually translated as ‘floating population’, moving population, etc
Should be translated as transient population or temporary population
Use this in the future, it is probably the closest English equivalent to the word and better than “floating population”

Entitled to…
at times it might be more suitable to use ‘entitled to’ or ‘possess’ rather than ‘enjoy’.
自己享受的民事权利 civil rights that one is entitled to/ civil rights that one currently possesses
享受优惠政策 be entitled to preferential policies

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