Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

roddy

Working with top-down right-to-left texts

Recommended Posts

roddy

Does anyone work with top-down right-to-left texts regularly? I've never really had to do it before, but I'm currently having to check such a document against a "normal" (ok, normal for me) one and it's maybe lack of practice, but the constant switching between the two orientations is doing my tiny little brain some damage. 

 

And is there a standard for how to handle other languages in an otherwise top-down right-to-left text? This one has some English and romanisation embedded, and they've turned it sidewise. So if you want to read it, you have to put your head on its side. Surely that's not right? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

imron

I’ve done a fair amount of reading physical books top-down, right-left.  You get used to it after a while the biggest thing that still gets me is going back to the top of the next line, which I find I’m far more likely to scan to the top of the wrong line, compared to reading left-right, top-down.

 

Sideways English text is not uncommon. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

And after a period of reading top-down, do you find your eyes flicking to the top of the page when you go back to l-r? 

 

My problem at the moment is that I've got documents in two different orientations open on each half of my screen and am having to go back and forth constantly. Headache inducing. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
889

"This one has some English and romanisation embedded, and they've turned it sidewise."

 

That's the standard style in Hong Kong newspapers, which still use a lot of vertical text. From today's 東方日報:

 

DFRB.jpg

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lu

Sideways Latin text is normal in top-to-bottom Chinese. And a lot easier to read than

w

r

i

t

i

n

g

it vertically.

 

If you copy the text from a top-to-bottom pdf and paste it into Word, it turns left-to-right. It also turns the formatting ugly here and there, but it might be helpful in the short term for checking your documents. It should also be possible to turn a left-to-right Word doc into top-to-bottom (although I've never done that myself).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tomsima

an excerpt from the translation of my masters dissertation, 40 pages of this, lucky you weren't my supervisor!

捕获1.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

A blessing for both of us, I'm sure...

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Luxi

Not sure this will help you, but if at least one of your docs is a pdf (if not Word already), and you have Word/Office 2016 or 365, it's easy to convert the orientation to whatever you want, so at least you'll have both documents with the same orientation. 

Use 'Open with' to open your document with Word, save that copy as a docx file. Now you can edit it. Select 'Layout' from the ribbon menu and use the 'Text Direction' options on the left hand side. 

 

If working on paper and desperate, you can always OCR and convert.

 

 

  • Helpful 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lu
4 hours ago, Tomsima said:

an excerpt from the translation of my masters dissertation, 40 pages of this, lucky you weren't my supervisor!

With such a layout, why didn't you put the Chinese text in left-to-right? I assume the original was top-to-bottom, but you wouldn't exactly be the first to convert a text.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tomsima

The original was top to bottom, yes. I kept the original layout as part of the theoretical side of my paper. The translation was on Chinese aesthetics, and I argued that the author used the physical arrangement of his text as a conscious effort to convey and realise the 'aesthetic' that he was writing about.

 

I discussed how we as C-E translators might suceed or fail to recreate the aesthetic in what I guess you might call an 'art(y) book' for the coffee table, and one important part of this is how to 'translate' the appearance of the text. As the vertical to horizontal is actual a big part of the conversion process, I chose to present the original in vertical to show the dissonance that is unavoidable sometimes in translating chinese to english.

 

I'll stop there, could talk about 'chinese aesthetics' (sorry for such a broad term) for days

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
somethingfunny

I'm afraid I'm going to be a little bit off-topic as well.  I can't help you with your problem, but it reminded me of this passage I came across recently:

 

207358735_Screenshot2020-07-08at16_38_53.thumb.png.36e38de84fd3fd57e5585a2eb03b8381.png

 

So this does at least help understand why it hurts the brain so much.  All that left-right hemisphere switching must be a real strain.  And, if nothing else, you can rest assured that things could be much worse, as you could be reading "as the ox ploughs".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lu

Which book is that from, and does the author know about Mongolian, Manchu, and individual Chinese characters that are more often than not horizontally alinged (你、好、相、线、晚,等等等 (OK those last ones are vertically alinged)? With those 'oriental scripts'?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
somethingfunny

Interesting.  I hadn't considered left-right vs. top-down alignment within individual characters.  However, I don't think people 'read' characters from one part to the next in the same way they do with strings of characters.  Rather, the brain recognises the entire character at once.  But that still doesn't explain why they would be constructed principally on a left-right basis - especially if the characters were established at a time when reading was done top-down and right-left.

 

This is the book. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lu
1 hour ago, somethingfunny said:

Rather, the brain recognises the entire character at once.

Same as with words in alphabetical languages, then.

 

That book looks interesting but I think I would so many nitpicks with it. From a quick read of that Wikipedia article, the author seems like someone who knows a lot about his own specific field, quite a bit about his own society, and more about other societies than most people in his own society, but not nearly enough to actually make such sweeping statements. Or perhaps he does that in the book somewhere not on that page you quote here and I am too quick with my judgment once again.

 

'the oriental languages remain vertical': I didn't take issue with this until I saw the book is from 2009. I mean, Vietnamese, mainland Chinese, Korean, Thai and Tibetan are horizontal, and that's just the ones I know. Seems to me only a minority of 'oriental' languages are still vertical (HK and Taiwan Chinese and Japanese). Manchu and Mongolian in China are also still vertical, but there are too many cultural, political and historical things going on there to say something meaningful about that. Mongolia Mongolian is written in horizontal Cyrillic these days.

 

'practically all systems of writing that depend exclusively on the visual rendition of phonological features of language are horizontally laid out': you can state that, but then you need to at least mention Manchu and Mongolian and also Korean Hangul not doing that and account for them somehow, even if it is by saying they are the exception.

 

'almost every phonemic language is written left to right': well, except all languages written in Arabic.

 

I think this guy would be fascinating to talk to about what he knows, but less so about what he only vaguely knows.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
oceancalligraphy
17 hours ago, roddy said:

And is there a standard for how to handle other languages in an otherwise top-down right-to-left text? This one has some English and romanisation embedded, and they've turned it sidewise. So if you want to read it, you have to put your head on its side. Surely that's not right? 

 

I think that's the standard. It's what I've seen in all books that go right to left with embedded English, from a book from Taiwan:

 

IMG_4407.thumb.JPG.f4d5349afc6aa449d10b1660a219ffca.JPG

 

5 hours ago, Lu said:

Seems to me only a minority of 'oriental' languages are still vertical (HK and Taiwan Chinese and Japanese).

 

Books are published either direction in Taiwan.

 

Here's a page from the book I just finished:

 

IMG_4408.thumb.JPG.573d549de9d9d777b6a8ec7cfe48495a.JPG

 

I usually have to take a second look to make sure I'm opening a book in the right direction.

 

15 hours ago, roddy said:

My problem at the moment is that I've got documents in two different orientations open on each half of my screen and am having to go back and forth constantly. Headache inducing. 

 

Just thinking about this is headache inducing! 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
17 hours ago, roddy said:

And after a period of reading top-down, do you find your eyes flicking to the top of the page when you go back to l-r? 

No, because thankfully I’ve never had to read both side by side.  If you’ve got electronic copies, I’d try to follow the suggestions above about changing the text direction. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy
17 hours ago, Luxi said:

Use 'Open with' to open your document with Word, save that copy as a docx file. Now you can edit it. Select 'Layout' from the ribbon menu and use the 'Text Direction' options on the left hand side. 

Ha! This was really useful. I hadn't realised Word could do the conversion, but it's done a much better job than whatever was used to create the file I was given. Daft of me. Headache over, I think. 

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
889

For those that don't have Word, the free OpenOffice Writer can also do this.

  • Like 2
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

I am still seeing problems, although much fewer. Missed line breaks, mostly. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anonymoose
On 7/8/2020 at 10:32 AM, imron said:

I’ve done a fair amount of reading physical books top-down, left-right.

 

Do you read Mongolian? That is the only text I know of that is written top-down, left-right.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...