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Kenny同志

Translating political propaganda

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Kenny同志

Hi folks,

 

I hope you could give me some feedback on the following English translations, which I have done as a favour to a local headmaster. I know it is kind of meaningless but I hope that with your help, I could put them into acceptable English. 

 

倡导文明新风,共建美好校园
Be part of the new culture for a better studying environment (This sounds a bit awkward but I do not know how I can improve it)

[Despite the word '新', it is nothing new. I think it just urges the students to be part of this so called new culture so as to make the school a better place for studying]


 

创建文明学校,争做文明学生
Strive for greatness in both services [i.e. on part of the school] and academia [i.e. on part of the students]
[The term 文明学校 always stikes me as odd, if not ludicrous. After all, which school is not civilised? But according to this baidu zhidao page, 文明 means this in Party Speak. Given this, I think it is almost impossible to translate it with accuracy so I have altered the meaning a bit. ]

 

共建美好环境,共创文明校园
Keep the campus clean

[The first segment should just mean that all students should keep the campus clean, hence the translation. The second segment is meaningless or bombastic.]

 

维护校园安全,创建文明环境
Help us to be safer

[The second segment makes no sense to me. What the first segment means is pretty obvious.]

 

Any thoughts folks? Thanks in advance for your help. 

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Kenny同志

Just a little feedback will do, folks. I just want to know whether they are acceptable. 🙂

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Moshen

You called these sentences "propaganda" and then you want to take all the propagandistic flavor out of the translations? That makes no sense.

Who are you to decide that some other culture's propaganda makes no sense? If they are using rhetorical doubling, then for you to put that into a single phrase is really bad translation practice, in my opinion. All of these sayings have two parts, and they had a reason to do it that way.

Plug them into Google Translate and you'll get a more or less accurate translation that also preserves the literal meanings as well as the intended balance or contrast of two sayings.

What you've done here is like taking a line like Dickens' "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" and then changing it to "It wasn't really so bad, for the most part."

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roddy

I might add a bit to the second two to keep them all a similar length, or it will look odd once printed onto red banners. Doesn't have to mean anything.

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Kenny同志
Quote

You called these sentences "propaganda" and then you want to take all the propagandistic flavor out of the translations? That makes no sense.

Many thanks for your feedback, Moshen. Yes, I totally agree. Will figure out how to better put them. My gosh, this is really mentally demanding!

 

@Roddy,

Thank you very much for your feedback. 🙂

 

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Jim

Promote a new civility, make a wonderful campus together.

Create a civilised school, do our best to be civil students.

Make a beautiful environment together, create a civilised campus together.

Keep our campus safe, create a civil environment,

 

Obviously the ideas are odd in English and I wouldn't normally repeat "together" in the one slogan but I think the above sticks pretty close to the original without being complete nonsense. Best you can hope for sometimes unless you can persuade the client otherwise.

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roddy

With a hat-tip to Moshen, Google Translate does a decent job here (as it increasingly often does): 

 

Advocate a new style of civilization and build a beautiful campus

Create civilized schools and strive to be civilized students

Build a beautiful environment and create a civilized campus

Maintain campus safety and create a civilized environment

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杰.克
3 hours ago, Moshen said:

What you've done here is like taking a line like Dickens' "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

 

I always knew it as "it was the best of times, it was the blurst of times"

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Demonic_Duck
4 hours ago, Moshen said:

If they are using rhetorical doubling, then for you to put that into a single phrase is really bad translation practice, in my opinion.

 

This really depends on the purpose of the translation. Some translations prioritize fidelity to the source, whereas others prioritize overall intention. The intention of propaganda is to persuade, and what works as persuasive rhetoric in Chinese often just sounds weird in English.

 

Seems like the intention is to persuade students to... be good?

 

I don't think you'd ever really see this kind of thing in English — instead of aspirational exhortations in the positive, it'd be more concrete examples in the negative. So instead of "维护校园安全" you'd have "don't run in the corridors", instead of "共建美好环境" you'd have "don't chew gum", and so on.

 

With all that said, without further information that's a bit of a stretch, so literal translations are probably your best bet.

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Dawei3
3 hours ago, roddy said:

Advocate a new style of civilization and build a beautiful campus

Create civilized schools and strive to be civilized students

Build a beautiful environment and create a civilized campus

Maintain campus safety and create a civilized environment

I'd go with Roddy's translation as it preserves both the meaning and the "feel" of the original.  To Moshen's point, one country's propaganda can sound weird in another country (even between 2 countries with English as their native language), but this is somewhat  the beauty of it. 

 

For an English speaker who doesn't read Chinese, it is valuable for them to know that the signs have a propaganda-like gist to them.  The full meaning of the signs is both their literal translations and the fact that they have a propaganda side.  

 

 

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roddy

Not my translation, Google's. I'd be tending towards civil / civility more, as Jim has done. Civilized / civilization implies a contrast with barbarians, which is excessive even for a school. We're looking more for 'be polite and considerate.

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Kenny同志

Many thanks for this interesting discussion, folks. I appreciate it very much. 🙂

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Kenny同志

OK folks, to preserve the propagandistic flavour of the original texts and after referring to your versions, I am going to go with: 

 

倡导文明新风,共建美好校园
Advocate a new civility, co-build a wonderful campus
 

创建文明学校,争做文明学生
Create a civilised school, compete to be a more civil student

 

共建美好环境,共创文明校园
Build a beautiful environment, create a civilised campus

 

维护校园安全,创建文明环境
Maintain campus safety, create a civil environment

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Lu

Kenny, that translation sounds good.

 

This is one of those translation cases that you really need to pick if you want to translate the meaning, or the form, or get the message across, because you can't have them all. In Roddy/GT/Kenny's latest version, meaning and form have been mostly preserved, but the message won't land with foreign students because this is not the kind of slogan they respond to. If you'd want to really reach them, you would have to transcreate not just translate and basically start a whole new parallel campaign. Even without knowing any of the people involved, I'm pretty confident the university won't be interested in doing that, so that field can be left to commercial enterprises looking for foreign customers.

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Kenny同志

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lu. As a native speaker and an expert in written Chinese, I can tell that this is Party Speak and I know very well how bombastic, incoherent, and absurd Party Speak can be. Such being the case, I think it is fully justified to translate it with equal bombast, incoherency, and absurdity.

 

I have explained to the headmaster that given the nature of the source texts, it is impossible to render the Chinese into idiomatic English as we have to preserve their propagandistic flavour and form (see below).

 

Quote

X校长:
原文是党八股式的宣传材料,对仗重复之处颇多,文字兼且空洞,翻译颇为不易。若求译文文辞雅驯,势必需作天翻地覆之改动,然如此一来,原文的风味和形式必定全失。经与符老师商议,考虑原文是宣传文字,故翻译时以达意,保存原文风味和形式为先,未求文字之雅驯。四则标语译文现呈您过目。

 

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Moshen
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This is one of those translation cases that you really need to pick if you want to translate the meaning, or the form, or get the message across, because you can't have them all. In Roddy/GT/Kenny's latest version, meaning and form have been mostly preserved, but the message won't land with foreign students because this is not the kind of slogan they respond to.

 

From time to time my husband, who reads both the Chinese and the American news, comes to me and tells me, "This is what the Chinese foreign minister said, and this is how they translated it into English."  Usually all the pithiness, wisdom and even the political point got taken out of it.  It may take him five minutes to explain to me what the Chinese foreign minister meant. 

 

Lu made a great point, that many times it's hard to capture both the flavor and the meaning in a translation and that one may need to choose.

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Lu
1 hour ago, Kenny同志 said:

I have explained to the headmaster that given the nature of the source texts, it is impossible to render the Chinese into idiomatic English as we have to preserve their propagandistic flavour and form (see below).

That's a very direct message to the director. I don't think I would have bothered to speak truth to power on an issue such as this one. Weren't you worried you'd irritate the director?

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Kenny同志

I should have been more cautious but it should be okay this time as the headmaster knew well that it was Party Speak. As a matter of fact, while accepting the task, I discussed with him the differences between China's New Speak and the Chinese language used in HK and Taiwan for a short while. :mrgreen:

 

He seems to be a person interested in good Chinese writing, by the way.   

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roddy

With this kind of stuff, the answer to the question "How would you say this in English?" is often "We wouldn't." It's not how it's said that sounds odd, it's the fact that this is what is said in this situation.

 

Maybe I'm just culturally blind to the similar slogans in UK schools. Pretty sure we just had 'don't run in the corridor' and 'use the bins' though. 

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realmayo
On 9/10/2020 at 11:18 AM, Moshen said:

Who are you to decide that some other culture's propaganda makes no sense? If they are using rhetorical doubling, then for you to put that into a single phrase is really bad translation practice, in my opinion. All of these sayings have two parts, and they had a reason to do it that way.

 

I happen to think this might not be correct. For example, Chinese also commonly doubles adjectives, e.g. 红红的花。But is a translator required to say "red upon red" or some other attempt to reproduce the effect in English?

 

One other thing. If the translation task was: "these are common Chinese slogans in various other schools, can we have an English equivalent for our English school?" then I would guess you have a fairly free hand. But if the English translations are going to sit underneath the Chinese versions, I reckon there might be more pressure to stay closer to the originals.

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