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Preserving Word Order.....


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Shelley

I usually translate chinese sentences into "normal" English. Recently however I have decided not to do this. Instead of making the sentence into good English, I am going to leave it in the chinese pattern.

 

I think this will help me really grasp the way a chinese sentence and grammar work.  After all I am learning chinese and not how to be a translator.

 

So for example 他昨天下午两点去朋友家玩儿

 

He yesterday afternoon couple dots go friend house play.

 

Normally i would go the next step and say - Yesterday afternoon at two he went to his friends house to play.

 

This pretty much changes the order of the sentence and adds words.

 

I feel if I leave out the last step and try to think chinese as it were with the English meaning to help me get the sense of the grammar and patterns.

 

Does anyone have any good reasons why not to do this, or a better way?

 

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anonymoose

I think your method is instructive, and indeed some books/academic papers translate foreign language sentences like this. But why would you translate 两点 as "couple dots"? It is clearly a unit meaning "2 o'clock" here.

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Shelley

I know in my head 两点 means 2 o'clock, I just didn't feel the need to write it out., but yes I should do in the future with that and similar. I feel a great sense of relief knowing that this is a sensible idea, I really feel it will make a difference to my progress.

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Does anyone have any good reasons why not to do this, or a better way?

 

 

feel a great sense of relief knowing that this is a sensible idea, I really feel it will make a difference to my progress.

 

One of my major hobbies is studying foreign languages, and using this kind of mental bridge translation is one of my major study methods.  There are two things, however,  that I may do differently from what you have outlined in this case.  I do not worry about making a one-to-one correspondence between an English word and a Chinese character, but do try to represent the core meaning of each identifiable Chinese morpheme, even if this will take multiple English words.

 

For example, I would represent 下午 as something like "go down from noon" and 上午 as "go up onto noon".  This reinforces some of the meanings and uses of 下and 上 and helps explain why 早上 and 上午 differ in meaning.  I also would prefer to think of 两点 as "couple/two dots/ticks" for similar reasons.  I do not know the origin of the Chinese use of 点 in this case, but I have a mental image of a reference to the ticks on a clock face.

 

I find this method helpful at the beginning of study, but then less useful in the middle.  It then becomes useful again as I get into more advanced structures and vocabulary and can better perceive distinctions obscured by more formal and "correct" English translations.

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Shelley

@Altair I am glad to hear that you go to such a level with it even to "go down from noon" etc. I like your thinking and reasons for it. I may well try this. I can see just from the few examples you have given the difference it makes.

 

I will continue with two dots :) as i know what it means in English but it helps emphasise the chinese way of thinking.

 

@dwq :) no change there then, they already think I am mad for learning chinese.

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I don't think 點 means "dot" here though.  **My guess** would be that it came from the action of striking a bell to mark time, so one strike of the bell (一點鐘) signifies one o'clock, etc.

 

I had thought of that, but couldn't find a satisfactory meaning in the dictionary that I would apply to the common ways in which I have seen traditional bells struck.

 

 

 

10. 一落一起或一触即离的动作:~头。~穴。

 

I guess the bobbing action of 点头 and a swinging bell could be related in the sense that they can involve up-and-down movement; however, I still find it odd, particular when linked with counting.  Is it "two up-and-down movements of the bell" marking the hours?  Were the bells "nodded" in some way?  For 点穴, I always thought the reference was to "sticking something in a small hole," like planting a seed.

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putonghuastudentmark

I like the idea but don't be to literal with the translations of vocabulary. e.g. two dots. The focus by using this technique is sentence order (词序) , and an important step to mastering Chinese is thinking in Chinese.

 

I.e. say ' I yesterday afternoon went to my friend house play'

subject - time when - manner place word - verb phrase

 

This pattern perfectly fits the following example http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Word_order#Placement_of_manner_in_a_sentence. 

 

Something I'm not sure of, is whether 去 is sufficient here, or is 去过 necessary?

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 Is it "two up-and-down movements of the bell" marking the hours?  Were the bells "nodded" in some way?

 

点 means 一落一起的动作 in 点头, to nod the head, and 一触即离的动作 in a literal reading of 点钟, to strike the bell/clock. 两点钟 = 2 strikes of the bell/clock; "the clock strikes two" = 2 o'clock.

 

For 点穴, I always thought the reference was to "sticking something in a small hole," like planting a seed.

 

穴 means an acupuncture point here and 点 is an 一触即离的动作, to strike or briefly press the acupuncture point.

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Shelley

Thanks for all the ideas, from what I can tell there are two ways of doing this one is to go all the way as Altair suggests and preserve as much of the chinese thinking as possible. The other is to just preserve word order but translate into "normal" English things like afternoon and two o'clock.

 

I think I am going to take the middle ground, but to start with for a short time ( 2-3 weeks) I might preserve more of the chinese, then I will move to mostly just keeping the word order with a few chinese word ideas such as two dots (which, for some reason for me, makes sense for time and I can live with it)

 

Already the past 24 hours have proved enlightening and I feel I have already made a small amount of progress and am really enjoying this new approach.

 

I don't think its too important exactly why 点 means o'clock, I like dots on the face of a clock but I think thats just too modern to be the original reason.

 

 

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... keeping the word order with a few chinese word ideas such as two dots (which, for some reason for me, makes sense for time and I can live with it) ... I don't think its too important exactly why 点 means o'clock, I like dots on the face of a clock but I think thats just too modern to be the original reason.

Yeah, like this:

post-60810-0-53786400-1445803935_thumb.jpg

That's an example of using a mnemonic to remember something. By the way, the way we say it in Portuguese is closer to "two dots" than to "two o'clock" (we say "duas em ponto"), so maybe there's some language bias in other people not wanting to use dots at all, in the way they prefer to see 点 more as a hit/strike than as a dot in this case. (I say this regardless of the reason why the Chinese use it to indicate the hours.)

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Shelley

Thats interesting, that its like that in Portuguese, wonder how it is in other languages, just on the conceptual side, may its one of the more common ideas or maybe not.

 

It is interesting.

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  • 1 month later...

In Spanish we also use the expression "en punto" with the meaning of "o'clock". But we can even go one step further: the English words "punctual" and "punctuality" also come from the Latin word punctus, point.

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Shelley

This is interesting, I was very happy with not translating dian to o'clock and leaving it as dot, maybe this is because somewhere in my brain dot already equalled time.

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There is also the English expression "on the dot" to mean the precise time. Why shouldn't dots or marks be associated with clocks? Think of sundials.

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Shelley

Its definitely stacking up on the side of "dot" being used for time as acceptable. I will need to be careful I don't tell someone when asked the time that its 10 dots :)

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  • 1 month later...

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