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How We Translate

Most of our source books for the original poems have come from purchases in Mainland China.  These books have the poems with notes, commentaries, and biographical information.  Most of the poems are dated if known.

Some of the later works have come from originals inside the East Asian Library, on the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus.  This library is large and comprehensive.  It is also less than an hour’s driver from my house (traffic permitting!).

First I translate the Chinese characters (Hanzi) into Pinyin.  Pinyin (spelled sounds) is the official romanization (Latin alphabet) version of the Hanzi.  It was developed in mainland China in the 1950s and became the international standard in 1982.  For English readers it replaced the Wade-Giles system that was developed in the late 19th century.  The letter sounds more closely match the sounds of the continental European languages, and not English.  However, one big advantage is that it is painfully consistent,  unlike the sound-symbol relationships of English.  For each post I will try to provide the Hanzi, the Pinyin and then the English translation for each poem.

Then the Pinyin is translated into the English words, or words.  The middle step of using Pinyin enables me, and others, to look up the word definitions in a standard Chinese-English dictionary.

My wife (Aling) and I then sit down together, usually over dim sum, and talk about each poem.  She reads and informs me of the context, notes, and commentaries from the source book. Quite often there are historical stories to be told, as well as literary allusions to consider.  We discuss the poem–line by line.

Then the poem is written in English–line by line.  Afterwards, I often read other English translations of the poem, if available, in book form.  I can tell that the other translator and I have used the same original, as a starting point, but their and my interpretations are different of course.  The end product should be a well-written poem in English.

未经允许不得转载:STUDY IN CHINA GLOBAL (SCG) » How We Translate
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