Lost in Translation

By greenteapanda

December 16, 2007

Category: Living

1 Comment »

If you don’t mind the F-word, see how several traditional Chinese characters merging into one simplified character meant that the English translation is the F-word.

Apparently the original Chinese-English dictionary was Traditional Chinese to English. When the the Chinese was converted to simplified, the translations of 干 got translated to the most offensive meaning, though the character has other meanings like ‘dry’, ‘do’, ‘trunk’, ‘only’, and a bunch of other things. It is one of the reasons the more Chinese I study, the more I think Chinese characters should not have been simplified.

I should get used to a lot of words being represented by one character, since the problem is even worse in Korean. Korean does have over 10,000 alphabetic characters, but the common characters are far fewer – and learning the alphabet really only requires learning the 40 or so basic components that make up those characters. Korean requires a lot more context to communicate things in a particular way. It would be like reading Japanese with only hiragana or Chinese with only pinyin.

You might point out that English only has 26 characters, but those characters are often put together in patterns that increase the possible phonetics available to far beyond those available in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. In English the hononyms like too/to/two get special attention because they are special. Even then they have different spellings. They aren’t and don’t in Korean.

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One Response to “Lost in Translation”

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