Dreams of White Tiles . . .


Translation Stuff

Filed under: Uncategorized — Roddy @ 8:48 pm

Been a slightly busier week than usual, as I got a couple of freelance translations to do. The first one was a document relating to a patent application, and was fairly hard to do – lots of obscure electronic bits relating to obscure mechanical bits, and then the relations of those obscure electronic and mechanical bits had to be compared to the relations of other obscure electronic and mechanical bits in another patent to see if this patent blah blah blah you get the idea. . .

I don’t particularly like doing patents. There’s always new vocab in it, which makes it a bit more interesting, and if the rate is high enough then it cancels out the extra dictionary time. But by their nature patents describe things with great accuracy, and transferring that accuracy into the translation can be tricky. I got paid for it quickly, anyway, and the hourly rate worked out ok.

Then this weekend I had a few newspaper articles to do (not for publication, someone in the US wants to know what China’s saying). Newspaper articles are much easier, and even if there is vocab you don’t know, it’s never going to be very obscure. These articles all had a financial / economic slant and there were a few phrases I wasn’t sure about but at least there’s plenty of information on this field available.

I also did a couple of sample translations. One was on architecture, and I very nearly got confused with 多进建筑 – many-entrance-building. The context made me think this was a kind of short, squat apartment building with a number of entrances along its length, as opposed to a high, tall apartment building with one or two entrances – I know that’s not a great description, but I know the kind I mean.

A bit more research and a couple of hints in the right direction and I figured out it actually refers to larger traditional courtyard buildings, where there are a number of courtyards, and to get to the ones at the back you have to go enter through the ones in the front – hence, many-enterings. I’m not sure that’s the kind of mistake that goes unnoticed.

I’ve also come across a new translation tool that works within Word, Wordfast. It looks like a cheaper, nastier version of the very expensive translation tools you can get, but seems to have most of the important functionality. I got hold of it too late to use it on the patent thing, and the newspaper articles didn’t have the repetitiveness that these tools help with, but I think it’ll come in handy at some point.

Feeling less bad about the few hours I’m working now – earning a large chunk of my normal monthly income in what was effectively a couple of days work will do that . . .

Talking of large numbers John has a chart of Chinese 大写 or ‘capital’ numbers. These numbers aren’t actually capitals. Hard to have capitals in a language without letters. They’re complex forms of the normal numbers used to prevent forgery on things like receipts, contracts, etc. it’s easy to change 一 into 十, but not 壹 into 拾.


  1. We learnt those different ways to write numbers at schools. I still use the “capital form” when I write a cheque (that is if I use a cheque at all and it is not to be written in English). We also learnt those “Suzhou numbers” (〡〢〣〤〥〦〧〨〩十) and they are (or at least were) used in traditional wet markets.

    Comment by skylee — 11/15/2004 @ 7:34 am

  2. I was iffy about using the word “capital” at first too (hence the quotes), but a lot of other sources use it.

    But when you think about it, why does capital have to be about letters? Sure, in English it’s always going to be about letters, because that’s what English is written in.

    Also, I was thinking it’s important to be careful not to get “capitals”mixed up with the simplified/traditional issue,as it’s a separate issue, e.g. 元 圆 圓.

    Comment by John — 11/16/2004 @ 11:34 am

  3. But John, aren’t capitals given that name because of their position at the “head” of the sentence or word? It’s possible to imagine a non-alphabetic language where the character at the beginning of a sentence is treated differently, but Chinese is not that language.

    How about “majuscule”? That’s pretty much 大写 right there.

    Comment by zhwj — 11/19/2004 @ 9:56 pm

  4. Hmm, I see your point John…a simplified character that is the complex form of a number? Yep, I’ve even confused myself with that sentence. Personally, I have never written 大写 before, and it was comforting to see a chart of them in one particular bank. If I ever need to write a cheque, I will head straight there!

    Real reason for writing this comment: Roddy, I’d like to know more about your work, and your freelancing. Can’t find any other blog entries on the topic, though. Are there many foreign translators working in Beijing?

    Comment by Todd — 11/25/2004 @ 9:47 pm

  5. I couldn’t really refer to myself as a freelance translator. My main (part-time) job is proofreading / editing for a translation agency. The freelance translation I do as and when I get it. I don’t make a great deal of effort to find freelance work – a lot of what I do get comes to me via people I used to work with, etc.

    Comment by Roddy — 11/25/2004 @ 10:40 pm

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