Translation of Public Signs Essay
Translation of Public Signs
The translation in tourism plays the important part in overseas travel while bilingual public sign is an essential part of the translation in tourism. Guangzhou, as an economic and cultured capital of south area in china, attracts millions of foreigners. It is doing better in bilingual public signs than some other cities in China, both in the quantity and quality. However, there are still many problems in Guangzhou’s public signs building.
This paper elaborates on the translation of public signs in Guangzhou from the view of the Skopos Theory with an attempt to summarize some normative methods from the mistakes found and collected in this paper. [Key words] Public signs; The Skopos Theory; Translation in tourism CONTENTS Chapter 1 Introduction1 1. 1 Translation in tourism1 1. 2 Public signs in Guangzhou1 1. 3 Skopos theory2 Chapter 2 The signs of place name and signposts in the light of translation brief3 2. 1 The signs of place name3 2. 2 Street signs4.
Chapter 3 Name of the tour spot in the light of translation methods. 6 3. 1 Historical relics in documentary translation. 6 3. 2 Scenic site in instrumental translation7 Chapter 4 Warning signs in the light of translation errors10 4. 1 Pragmatic translation errors10 4. 2 Cultural translation errors11 4. 3 Linguistic translation errors12 4. 4 Text-specific translation errors12 Conclusion14 Acknowledgement15 Bibliography16 chapter 1 Introduction 1. 1 Translation in tourism Tourism is the largest cultural and service industry in the world nowadays.
China, as one of the largest countries with a long history in Asia and in the world, is definitely becoming one of the biggest tourism countries. According to the estimate of UNWTO (World Tourism Organization), there will be over 1. 37 billion people coming to visit China in the year 2020. However, China has not fully prepared for her tourists. The culture and economic globalization offers more and more chances and challenges for China. As a student who studies foreign languages especially English, I have a deep feeling about the importance of the language in communication in our modern society.
The translation in tourism is no doubt playing the most important part in overseas travel. It is a great pity that people always ignore this field. In recent years, some of the translators begin to focus their eyes on the translation of tourism. However it is still not enough. 1. 2 Public signs in Guangzhou The simplest and most direct style in the communication of tourism is public signs, which show the kernel information to the tourists. Most of the cities in our country have equipped bilingual public signs already while the quality of the English phraseology of public signs still have to be improved.
The equipment of bilingual public signs is important for a tourism city while to give clear and authoritative information to foreigners is considered to be more critical. Guangzhou is a modern city with a long history. Millions of foreigners rush there for its foreign trade, fairs and tourism, which bring not only benefit but also a chance for those foreigners to know more about Guangzhou or even China. Considered to be a card of a city, the tour spot is a window for culture-learning. So standard phraseology and strict translation appear to be urgent.
According to my research, Guangzhou is doing better in bilingual public signs than some other cities in China, both in the quantity and quality. However, there are still many problems in Guangzhou’s public signs building. Some public signs are antiquated and the translation is chaotic without any standard. This paper will focus on the translation of public signs in Guangzhou. 1. 3 Skopos theory I will use the “skopos theory” to support my ideas in this whole thesis, which will be explained roughly in this paragraph and in detail with instance in the following part.
Skopos theory is the most important part of the German Functionalist School. It was first advanced by Hans J. Vermeer and improved by Justa Holz? Manttari and Christiane Nord later. The word “skopos” comes from Greek, meaning “purpose, motive and function”. The point of this theory is the principle of purpose, defined by those German Functionalist translators as every activities of translation is decided by the purpose of translation, which in one word means method depends on purpose (Reiss and Vermeer 1984: 101; Nord 2001: 29).
Generally speaking, the skopos theory believes that the result decides the method. So this theory solves the contradiction between some of the traditional western translation theory, such as “equivalent value”, “equivalent effect” and “functional equivalence”. It discards the traditional western translation standard, believing that the quality of a translation is not judged by its equivalent value or equivalent effect with the original version but the “adequacy” with the purpose of translation.
It means that translation can use various methods to translate, such as literal translation or rewrite or any method between these two, as long as it can help to achieve the expected function of the translation. Take the translation of public signs for example. We translate a Chinese sign into English because we expect to let the foreigners understand the public information. So when doing the translation, we can stand in the foreigners’ side without looking at the Chinese version. It is different from literary translation which has to be more or less faithful to the original version.
Next I will elaborate on “translation brief”, “translation methods” and “translation errors” mentioned in skopos theory with those public signs version collected by myself in Guangzhou. chapter 2 the signs of place name and signposts in the light of translation brief 1. The signs of place name Place name is a geography proper noun used to mark a range of a land. According to the Chinese Territory Administrative Divisions and Place Names, the signs of place name are a material carrier of the place name, which is used in the public place and usually appears on a board.
In a strange city, these signs of place name to foreigners are what lighthouses to the sailors. The problem of how to make foreigners know the place name clearly without infringing on country’s sovereignty and dignity has been paid attention to by the world for a long time. In 1967, the United Nations passed a resolution in her First Meeting of the International Standardization on Geographical Names that the “Single-Romanization” is the international standard of place names. That means one place name has only one spelling style and in one word is that Chinese Pinyin is the only way to translate the place name.
China State Council also approved this decision and made a regulation that the Chinese place name can be only spelled in Pinyin in foreign translation since Feb 1st in 1979. Later in 1999, Chinese SQSB (State Quality Supervision Bureau) announced a rule called “the standard of the public signs of place name” in which using Pinyin to indicate the place name becomes obligatory. However, do we really need to follow this rule in any situation? First, I would like to show the following examples: |Chinese |?? |?? |?? |?? |??
| |English speaking |Hong Kong |Macao |Canton |Amoy |Peking | |in general use | | | | | | |English speaking |Xianggang |Aomen |Guangzhou |Xiamen |Beijing | |following the rule | | | | | | We can see that some of the places were open up to the outside world earlier than the other places, especially those places in the south of China. The people in these places have a strong dialect complex so that the early translators translated the place names by following the pronunciation of dialect and this kind of spelling is now already accepted by the international world.
Hong Kong and Canton are the two typical examples translated from Cantonese. The founder of Functionalist School supported that translation cannot be considered as a change from one language to another merely and it is actually an intercultural communication with strong purpose. Travel is a kind of activity involving different cultures. Obviously, in tourism, the translation of public signs has two main purposes – one is to show the position clearly to the foreigners so that they cannot be isolated because of language and the other is to make foreigners understand Chinese culture.
If we discard the general English saying “Hong Kong” or “Canton”, changing them into “Xianggang” and “Guangzhou”, most of the foreigners will not understand why they are sent to an unknown place. What’s more, the tourists also cannot enjoy the Cantonese culture. If this regulation were applied, the translation would seem to be unnecessary because we neither show the correct position nor culture. I think in the translation of place names, we should not follow the rules blindly. Sometimes we need to respect the culture more than rules. So let Hong Kong be Hong Kong instead of Xianggang.
Meanwhile, nowadays China has been known by the world better and better and Pinyin starts to be accepted by the foreigners so that more and more foreigners know about the Pinyin. The saying “Canton”, “Peking” and “Amoy” is being superseded by “Guangzhou”, “Beijing” and “Xiamen”. 2. 2 Street signs No matter inside the tour spots or in the street of Guangzhou, street signs is the first signal seen by foreigners. Cases are different between the place name and the street name. Simply speaking, a street name is always formed by a place name and a geography terminology, such as “???? ”, in which “?? ” is a place name while “??” is a geography terminology.
The place name is used to tell people where it is while the geography nouns like “?? ”, “? ”, “? ”, “? ” is used to tell what it is. Skopos theory believes that before the translator does his job, he should be given a “translation brief” containing the reader of translation, the function of translation, the medium of translation, when and where the translation accepted. The reader is of course foreigners, who are varied in education and social position.
The function is to show the position clearly in a short time. According to the definition of street name and the idea of skopos theory, taking “???? ” and “??? ” for examples, the translation version can be “Huangpu Avenue” and “Tianhe Road”. However, in Guangzhou and also the other cities, those English street signs are still not in standardization. In Guangzhou, most of the street signs are translation directly from Pinyin, such as: ???? Huangpu Dadao or Huangpu Da Dao ???? Zhongshan Dadao or Zhongshan Da Dao ??? Tianhe Lu ??? Tianfu Lu ??? Shipai Jie For foreigners, especially those who understand no Chinese, such kind of signs are obviously useless because no matter how hard they think, they will not understand what the words “Dadao” or “Lu” means.
It is against the skopos theory for it not only loses its function but will also keep foreigners perplexed and inconvenient for a long time. In translating the street names, I suggest separating them into two parts. One is the place name which can be directly translated from Chinese Pinyin and the other is the geography noun which must be translated into its regular saying in oder to make it understandable. Here are the English saying and abbreviation for some geography nouns: ?? /? Avenue, Av. ?? Main street ? Street, St. ? Road, Rd. ?/? Lane ? Alley chapter 3 Name of the tour spot in the light of translation methods.
The name of the tour spot is the first gate through which foreigners enter. The travelers can easily lose their interests when seeing the signs with a boring name standing in front of the gate. In order to make it attractive to foreigners, translation can be an essential task. In the translation study, experts find various methods and Nord summarized two basic methods to support his theory. The two basic methods are “documentary translation” and “instrumental translation” (Nord: 2001: 47). Combining these two methods, I would like to compare some of the translation of the names of tour spot in Guangzhou.
3. 1 Historical relics in documentary translation Documentary translation emphasizes that the purpose of the translation is to use the target language to show the communication between the author and the local readers through the original in the local culture situation. That is to say, when foreigners read the English version, they will gain the same culture feeling as local people. It needs the translators to abandon the Chinese saying and stand in the culture point. Lingnan culture (the mainstream Guangdong culture) has a long history.
In Guangzhou, there are many historical relics which are different from those famous relics in other places or the sceneries which are emphatic in nature viewing. The name of the historical relic is not only a sign but also contains their history, background and culture. When translating these kinds of relics names, translators not only need to make the tourists understand the meaning but also the culture deep inside the names. Documentary translation can do it. “The Chen Clan Academy(??? )” is a classic architecture in Lingnan style. It plays a decisive role in Guangzhou’s history.
Entering the gate, the sign writing “Chen Clan Academy” tells the foreign tourists where they are and shows the academy’s history and the Cantonese culture as well. The Chen Clan Academy is a temporary residence for the children of Chen family to study and preparing for examination in Qing dynasty (1644-1910). The English word “academy” has a meaning of school or place where people get together to study and it is exactly the right function of “??? ”. What’s more, the word “clan” comes from the pronunciation of Cantonese. When reading “Chen Clan”, foreign tourists can feel the long history of the dialect of Cantonese.
In some of the travel books, I find another translation “the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family” for “??? ” and “Chen Clan Temple” in the subway station. The English word “temple” in dictionary means “a building used for worship in certain religions in public”. Guangzhou’s “Nenren Temple(??? )” and “Guangxiao Temple(??? )” are such kind of buildings. Although “??? ” used to be a place enshrining the ancestors of Chen family, it is not a public place for worship. The Chinese word “?? ” means a place for family sacrificing while the words “?? ” and “?? ” mean public place for worship. It is not suitable to translate “?
” into “temple”. And also it is better to spell the word “?? ” as “Chen Clan” than “Chen Family” because of its history of dialect. For these historical relics translation, we can not just satisfy with the language communication. The communication of culture and history is more important. 3. 2 Scenic site in instrumental translation For those scenic sites which are not like the historic sites, such as amusement parks it will be better to use the method “instrumental translation”. Scenic sites are mostly used to be a place offering amusement and happiness, which are totally different from historic sites.
So that the purpose of the translation has changed and it is not necessary to show the history or culture. Instead, the beautiful view is the most charming. Guangzhou has a famous mountain called “??? (White Cloud Mountain)”, which is named because it is so cloud-capped and the beautiful view in the mountain is just like a paradise hidden in the cloud. Unlike some of the other mountains, it is not named by a famous people lived in here named “?? ” or something. Instrumental translation believes that it is important to retain the decorative part in translating the names of scenic sites.
That is to say, we should take the original as model and use the target-language as a tool, establishing a new communication between the author and reader. Unlike the documentary translation, we should not abandon the Chinese saying and instead, Chinese version is an essential tool in translating. The controversy of how to translate “??? ” has existed for a long time. Some translators call it “White Cloud Mountain” while some call it “Baiyun Mountain” or even “Baiyunshan Mountain”. The skopos theory emphasizes that translation method depends on the translation purpose.
The reason why we translate the names of those scenic sites is that we should guide the non-Chinese-speaking people to the beautiful view. If we translate “??? ” into“Baiyun Mountain” or“Baiyunshan Mountain”, they will not gain the joy of the nature and consider it an ordinary boring mountain. However, when the foreigners see the sign writing “White Cloud Mountain”, they will understand why this mountain is so famous and would like to visit it, to find whether it is really cloud-capped and like a fairy land. Guangzhou city government dismissed and replaced some of the improper public signs in the White Cloud Mountain in 2002.
However, in my research, there are still many mistakes in some of the English version of the public signs and six years later, some public signs still exist. There is a big sign standing at the entrance of the White Cloud Mountain, in which printed all the names of the view sites inside. Here are some of the translations collected: ??? Ming Zhu Lou ??? Tao Hua Jian ???? Songtao Villa ???? BaiYun Songtao ??? Dang Xiong Pavilion ??? Mo Xing Ling ???? Mountain Villa ???? Jin Xiu Nan Tian ?? ShanWan ?? Song Feng ?? Shuang Xi ??? Nine-Dragon Spring ??? Hui Gui Lin ???? Shangding Park
From these translations we can see that some of the translations directly come from the Chinese Pinyin while some are mixture of Chinese and English. For example, the nouns “? ” and “? ” are spelled as Pinyin “Lou” and “ Jian” but the same type of nouns “? ” and “? ” are spelled into the English words“Pavilion” and “Villa”. The bilingual public signs appear to be rafferty and lack of canonical. However, when I reach the mountainside and find the public signs, the English names of some view sites are changed. The translations below are copy directly from the public signs in mountainside, in which there are some spelling mistakes.
??? The Pearl Tower ??? Flower and Valley ???? The Pine-Tree Villa ???? A Place to Listen to Whirling of Trees ??? The Starssraping Summit Park ???? Tour Hotel ?? Mountain Turn Teahouse ??? Ju Long Spring ??? Pine Pavition ??? Woods and Lawha ???? The Summit Park First, the signs are rafferty. If a foreigner wants to visit “Ming Zhu Lou”, which he finds in the public signs by the entrance, he will lose his way in the mountainside because in there he can not find the “Ming Zhu Lou” but “The Pearl Tower”, which he will never know it is the same as “Ming Zhu Lou”.
Secondly, in the idea of instrumental translation, the English versions of the public signs in the mountainside are better than those in the public signs by the entrance. Most of the foreigners cannot read Chinese Pinyin so that they cannot understand what the “Ming Zhu Lou” means. But when they see the name “The Pearl Tower”, they can easily know that there is a tower named the pearl. And also take “???? ” for example, hardly do foreigners see the translation in the sign writing “A Place to Listen to Whirling of Trees” when they will know that it is a place surrounded by many pine trees and people can enjoy the whirling of the trees.
The translation in the entrance should be dismissed for it can not realize the purpose of translation. By the way, the word “whirling” in dictionary means “to spin around very quickly”, which in my opinion is not suitable to be used to show the artistic conception of this place. I prefer to use the word “whisper”, which can be used to be a noun. “Whisper” emphasizes the “quiet” instead of “quickly”. Consequently we can translate “???? ” into “A Place to Listen to Whisper of Trees”. Besides, in the examples I have mentioned above, there is a spelling mistake.
The English spell of the word “? ” is “pavilion”. However, in the signs of the mountainside, “? ” has been spelled as “Pavition”, which is incorrect in English. This kind of mistake should be avoided. chapter 4 Warning signs in the light of translation errors Warning is an indispensable part in the public signs in tour spots. People can see these warning signs everywhere. There are a lot of public warning signs in Guangzhou’s tour spots and streets. However, here, like the previous signs, errors and problems abound in the building of the warning public signs.
Whampoa Military Academy(???? ) is one of the famous tour spots in Guangzhou, inside which, however, there are almost no English warning signs. Inside the Chen Clan Academy(??? ), English warning signs are not enough. What’s more, in the Yuntai Garden, which is located near the White Cloud Mountain(??? ), I can only find the Chinese warning signs besides some introduction to the plants and a few sayings like “???? No Entry” and “???? Keep Off the Grass”. The translation of these public signs has the same purpose as the Chinese version.
In the view of the skopos theory, to fulfill this function, the tone and manner of a version are as important as the language itself. For example, the imperative sentence is used to express the tone of directive or the situation of dangers. If we translate the language in a peace tone, it definitely cannot suit the purpose. Skopos theory makes the definition of “translation error”. “If the purpose of translation is to fulfill the function which serves the readers, anything impeding the translation purpose, including the translation methods and translation result, can be considered to be translation error.
”(Nord, 2001: 74) So that using an unsuitable tone is also a translation error. Translation error in skopos theory contains four types, which are “pragmatic translation errors”, “cultural translation errors”, “linguistic translation errors” and “text-specific translation errors”. 4. 1 Pragmatic translation errors Pragmatic translation error occurs because translators neglect the function or the readers who accept the translation version. In Yuntai Garden, there are various versions warning visitors not to get in: ???? ,???? Keep Off the Grass ???? No Entry ???? ,???? No entry ?????? No Entry ???? Don’t come in please.
Although all of these signs have the same meaning – do not come in, each sign’s purpose is different. “???? ,???? ” is to remind people to protect the grass and do not step on it. “???? ,???? ” is to warn people that there is a pond and please keep away from the wet floor. “?????? ” is used to tell people not to crush on the beautiful flowers. According to all these purpose, we cannot translate all these Chinese signs into “No entry”. The foreign readers cannot get correct information by the public signs because they can just know “No Entry” but may forget the dangers of the wet floor or the idea of protecting plants.
In order to make foreigners understand those signs clearly, the translation should be changed in different situations as follows: ???? ,???? Keep Off the Grass ???? ,???? Slippery! Keep away from the pond ?????? No Picking ???? No Admittance or Staff Only ???? No Entry In this way, pragmatic translation error can well be avoided. 4. 2 Cultural translation errors According to the idea of Vermeer and Nord, culture is a kind of manner and customs that help an individual to communicate with the others (Vermeer 1984a: 28).
If the target-language has conflict with the manner and customs of the culture of source-language, cultural translation errors appear. China is a nation rich in etiquette and the good manners are praised by foreigners for a long time. The translation of public signs should be simple and understandable but sometimes we should also pay attention to the manners of the language. So that foreigners can not only gain the correct information they want but can also obtain good mood by the friendly language. There is a public sign I have mentioned in Yuntai Garden writing “Keep Off the Grass”.
There are two Chinese versions having the same meaning –“???? ,???? ” and “???? ,???? ”. The second one is obviously better than the first one because it is lively and polite. So in my opinion, we can use the English version “please keep us alive” instead of the former one “Keep Off the Grass”. The words “no”, “don’t” and “do not” is used frequently in the translation of warning public signs. Among them, the word “don’t” has the strongest tone, which has the meaning of giving an obligatory order. I consider it better not use the word “don’t” too much in the translation of warning signs in order to avoid impoliteness.
Instead, the words “no” and “do not” give people the feeling of politeness and tenderness. For example, “Don’t Litter” and “No Littering” share the same meaning. When see the sign writing “Don’t Litter”, we will feel like there is someone ordering you that if you litter, you will be punished. But when we see “No Littering”, we seem to hear someone say in our ears that the action littering is not right and we should act more civilized. Translators can use these three words in different situations, making the warning signs more authoritative or humorous. 4. 3 Linguistic translation errors
Linguistic translation errors appear more frequently and easily, such as wrong spelling and using wrong grammar or wrong words. Most of these errors are because the translators are poorly-educated or careless. As I have mentioned above, in the White Cloud Mountain, there is one public sign writing the wrong word “Pavition” instead of “Pavilion”. Employing professional translators and checking the versions carefully can avoid this kind of linguistic translation errors. It is a pity to see that in Guangzhou city, these kinds of rookie mistakes still appear – it may also be a shame.
“Take care” has Chinese meaning of “?? ,?? ” while “take care of” means “?? , ?? ,?? ”, both of which do not have the meaning of “protect”. In the Yuntai Garden, there is a warning sign writing “???? ,???? Take care of the sculptures. No graving, please”. I think to use “take care of” is not very suitable. The purpose of this is to tell foreigners to protect the sculptures. Chinese language emphasizes the symmetry so here they add “???? ” to show its symmetry. The other example is “???? ,???? ”. In English, “???? ” and “???? ” is unnecessary and to show what they can not do is most important.
So translate it into “No engraving, please” is enough. 4. 4 Text-specific translation errors Text-specific translation errors refer to those mistakes connected with the original version. In the translation of public signs, if the updating of the translation goes behind the original version or translators add and modify some unnecessary words, it could be called text-specific translation errors. The warning signs are used in the public places and people won’t stay long before these signs. We should not follow the Chinese customs and make the translation short and easily to understand.
In one public sign of Yuntai Garden, I see the saying “?????? ” with its English version “Keep your hands off the exhibits”. It is correct translation but the word “exhibits” seems superfluous. The sign is put beside the exhibits. People will not take the hands-off staff to be another thing. Here, it can be translated into “Hands Off,Please”. So the text-specific translation errors do not refer to the language mistakes. It can refer to the translation which can not show the purpose in a shorter and clearer way. I had to mention two common public signs in tour spots. That is “?? ” and “??
” in Chinese. Almost all the tour spots in Guangzhou translate them into “Exit?? ” and “Entrance?? ”, which become a standard version in all the place. However, when I doing my research in one of Shenzhen’s places of interest Window of World, I am surprised to find that some of the public signs of “?? ” and “?? ” are translated into “Way in” and “Way out”. After searching many sources and consulting a dictionary, I find that “exit” refers to the emergency situation. According to established international practice, exit means a way to let people scatter and escape in emergency situation.
However, most of the exits in the view spots are only the roads people coming out but not the emergency exits. According to the International Standardization ISO 7001-ADD the Public Information Symbol, those exits not for emergency situation should be called “way out”. In order to differentiate them, some of the places should use “Way in” and “Way out” instead of “Entrance” and “Exit”. So in some closed view spots, visitors can easily distinguish which is the emergency exit and which is the way leading out in a short time. Conclusion Guangdong plays an important role in china’s economic construction.
Lots of foreigners reach here everyday. The city’s equipment of public signs is important in the city’s culture and economic communication. Guangzhou is doing better and better in recent years. However, the translation standardization of the public signs is still not clear. At present, most of the translations of Guangzhou’s public signs are translated by those translation companies, which take profit instead of the quality of the work as their priority. From the examples I collected, we can see that the translation of public signs in Guangzhou lack standardization.
Skopos theory believes that the translation should depend on its function or purpose. To standardize the translation of the public signs is to make the signs more convenient to the foreigners. That is the function of public signs. Acknowledgements Pre-eminently, I would like to show my deepest gratitude to Professor Tang Yuhua, my supervisor, for all the helps he gave me in the preparation and writing of this thesis and for all the pains he took in reading the drafts at different stages. Without his patient instruction, helpful suggestions and constant encouragement, this thesis would not have come to the present form.
I am grateful to him not only for the valuable support he gave me while I wrote this thesis, but also for what I have learned from him during my three years’ studies in the College of Foreign Studies. I am also much obliged to Professor Dai Canyu and Cheng Jia, for the support and help they gave me when I did this research. Thanks all the teachers who had thought me during these four years. Their instructive lectures and teaching have greatly enlarged my scope of the fundamental knowledge, enhanced my ability in English-language studies and encouraged me to try out my thoughts on various research works on English.
Finally, my gratitude also goes to my classmates in the College of Foreign Studies. They gave not only many helps in my study but also lots of memories of my college life in Jinan University. Bibliography  Bell, Roger T. Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice [M]. Shanghai:Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2001  Bassnett, Susan. Translation Studies, 3rd edition. Shanghai:Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, June, 2004  Fawcett, Peter. Presupposition and Translation [A]. The Pragmatics of Translation [C], ed. Hickey, Leo. Shanghai:Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2001.
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