Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Proposals to Improve the Accuracy of Bilingual Public Signs/LES PROPOSITIONS VISANT A AMELIORER LA PRECISION D'AFFICHAGE DES SIGNES BILINGUE EN PUBLIC

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Proposals to Improve the Accuracy of Bilingual Public Signs/LES PROPOSITIONS VISANT A AMELIORER LA PRECISION D'AFFICHAGE DES SIGNES BILINGUE EN PUBLIC

Article excerpt

Abstract

Accurate translation of bilingual public signs not only provides foreign visitors necessary information in life but also is an essential symbol of internationalization of the city. However, because of the lack of competence of the translator, cultural differences and other factors, it is not an easy job to translate the public signs correctly. As a consequence, there are still many noticeable problems in public signs translation. This paper attempts to summarize some frequent errors found in sign translation and the possible causes of these mistranslations and comes up with some strategies for the proper translation for bilingual public signs.

Key Words: Public sign; Translation; Mistranslation; Strategies

Résumé

Une traduction fidèle d'affichage public bilingue fournit non seulement aux visiteurs étrangers les informations nécessaires dans la vie mais c'est aussi un symbole essentiel de l'internationalisation de la ville. Toutefois, en raison du manque de compétence du traducteur, les différences culturelles et d'autres facteurs, il n'est pas une tâche facile à traduire les signes publics correctement.

En conséquence, il y a encore de nombreux problèmes notablement dans la traduction des signes public. Ce document tente de résumer quelques erreurs fréquentes trouvées dans la traduction des signes et des causes possibles de ces erreurs de traduction et arrive avec quelques stratégies pour la traduction correcte des signes bilingues publics.

Mots Clés: Signe public; Traduction; Contresens; Stratégies

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INTRODUCTION

With more people from overseas travelling, working or studying in China, English, which is always regarded as a widely-spoken language, can be seen and read in almost everywhere in China and the significance of providing English public signs in big cities of China has become increasingly prominent. These signs are not only a great help for the foreigners who cannot understand Chinese to get the information they need but also they are regarded as a symbol of a city's internationalization degree. As a matter of fact, what the translation of public signs represents is a city or a country's style, image, as well as cultural and educational level. However, many errors still exist in the present bilingual public signs. Some improper or wrong English translations of the public signs arising from linguistic, pragmatic failures or culture differences will cause great inconvenience to the foreign readers, leaving with them an unfavorable impression of the city or the whole nation.

SOME FREQUENT ERRORS IN THE TRANSLATION OF PUBLIC SIGNS AND COMMON CAUSES

If you are attentive enough when walking along the streets in the city we live, when in stores, parks, hotels etc., it's not difficult to find many improper or incorrect translations of public signs in many public places. These mistranslated public signs are just extremely embarrassing when a foreigner encounters them.

Some public signs are presented in both Chinese and English, but these "English" signs are meaningless and empty to the foreigners because they are actually Chinese PINYIN; sometimes, the translations of naming of roads, buildings, companies are inconsistent, which makes it more inconvenient and confusing to the foreign visitors; numerous spelling mistakes of public signs, which involve wrong spelling of a word or missing of one or more letters in a word, can be easily found; unnecessary and surplus words or expressions cause redundancy in translation and deviations in meaning and difficulties in understanding; some translation errors can totally change the message and then distorted intention will emerge; Chinglish, a phenomenon existing commonly in every city in China, offers a humorous and insightful look at the misuses of the English language in Chinese public signs, instruction of products, and advertising; a mass of grammatical mistakes in the translation of public signs can be easily found everywhere around us, which are not as noticeable as spelling errors or Chinglish, but they are still disturbing and annoying; in some cases, the word that is improperly chosen by translators while deciding on the wording and making their considered choices in the process of translation usually causes confusion, ambiguity or misunderstanding because a Chinese word may have several counterparts with quite similar meanings in English; last but not least, translation mistakes on the cultural level may on the one hand make foreigners feel they are offended in terms of their customs, beliefs and faith; on the other hand, some other signs baring characteristics of Chinese culture are translated literally without taking account of the cultural differences, which may cause misunderstanding and barricade the foreigners from understanding Chinese culture. …

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