On the evening of May 22nd, 2019, the School of Humanities invited Professor Xu Xueying from the School of International Studies to deliver a lecture titled “Translation and the Difference between Chinese and English Language” for the students. Professor Xu was a core mentor of “Chinese Youth Global Competency Training Program” and the deputy Secretary General of Zhejiang Translators Association, who undertook interpretation and translation tasks for a great number of important meetings nationwide, including the G20 summit.
Starting with a translation sample in the official promotion video of Zhejiang University, Professor Xu then proceeded to analyze the difference between English and Chinese with three emphases. The first comes to sentence structure. In Chinese sentences, words are loosely connected in order, thus in translation practice, it is necessary to keep the main trunks of a sentence and then reconstruct the sentence by employing conjunctions and subordinate clauses to show logical relations between words. The second emphasis is the comprehension of words’ original meaning and the context of narratives. Lastly, the cultural differences are emphasized by employing the principle of “Dynamic Equivalence” with a few examples in translation practice (such as “Green Boy” in The Story of the Stone).
This is followed by a theoretical explanation for these distinctions in aspects of language features and thinking patterns. According to Professor Xu, as an Indo-European language, English shares with other language siblings the feature of ‘hypotaxis’, which means that English sentences are featured as hierarchically structured, grammatically strict and logically connected. In contrast, as a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, Chinese is characterized by ‘parataxis’. Its sentences are structured non-inflectionally, with their components loosely connected.
The second important factor is differences in thinking patterns between English and Chinese speakers. As Professor Xu points out, westerners always makes a clear distinction between the subject and the object, and tends to put their attention on the object, which is demonstrated by the frequent occurrence of passivizations and absence of elliptical sentences in English. By contrast, in Chinese philosophy, an ancient yet long-lasting belief is the unity between nature and human beings, which makes a rather implicit distinction between the subject and the object. Therefore, while sentences without a subject are common in Chinese language, passivizations can be rarely found. Additionally, English compositions are highly analytical and deductive while its Chinese counterpart is largely synthetic and conclusive. Repetition is frequently employed in Chinese as a vehicle to achieve completeness of structure and neatness of expression, but this technique is rarely employed in English.
At last, Professor Xu encouraged the students to improve their global competency, which was particularly relevant at the time of globalization of Zhejiang University. She also prompted them to keep a close eye on the opportunities of studying abroad or oversea internships provided by schools and the university. This is followed by an expectation that more students could pay attention to global issues, join in the United Nations and be global talents.
The lecture ended in a round of applause. Students were not only impressed by Professor Xu's gentle humor but also inspired in this wonderful feast of knowledge.