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  1. #1
    Mandel1 is offline Newbie
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    Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    Hi all,

    This is my first post. I do web novel translations part-time for a Chinese company (Chinese to English). I am not a native speaker of English, so please feel free to point out my errors. :)

    Just last week, I was asked to translate a chapter of a manhua (Chinese comic strip). Since the client was important, my translation was edited many times, with plenty of emendations. The client asked for American English, but I was brought up using British English.

    One editor is based in the US, and I assume he/she is a native speaker of American English. Most of his/her emendations are clear improvements, but I'm wondering about a few others.

    These include:

    1) No matter how I see it --> No matter how I look at it
    (Is there a difference between these two, or is the second the only one correct?)

    2) Which class are you two from? --> Which class are you two in? (Are both acceptable, or is the second more correct in AE?)

    3) Didn't you hear me? I called you so many times! --> Are you deaf? I've been calling you! (Which sounds more natural? The speaker is a teacher who is a little angry with an unresponsive student. The literal meaning is more like the first, but isn't the emended version a little rude?)

    4) It's too high up! I can't reach it! --> It's too high! I can't reach it! (Is "too high up" wrong?)

    5) Wow, he's so tall! Is he 1.9 meters... ? --> Wow, he's so tall! Isn't he like 1.9 meters? (I know the second is correct, but does the first sound natural in AE or BrE?)

    I'm asking this because I want to know if my English is good enough to translate comic strips, which demand more idiomatic, informal, natural-sounding English. I was brought up under the British system, so please feel free to point out any differences between BrE and AE (if any) in the examples above. Any input will be much appreciated!

  2. #2
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    probus is offline Moderator
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandel1 View Post
    Hi all,

    This is my first post. I do web novel translations part-time for a Chinese company (Chinese to English). I am not a native speaker of English, so please feel free to point out my errors. :)

    Just last week, I was asked to translate a chapter of a manhua (Chinese comic strip). Since the client was important, my translation was edited many times, with plenty of emendations. The client asked for American English, but I was brought up using British English.

    One editor is based in the US, and I assume he/she is a native speaker of American English. Most of his/her emendations are clear improvements, but I'm wondering about a few others.

    These include:

    1) No matter how I see it --> No matter how I look at it
    (Is there a difference between these two, or is the second the only one correct?)

    "No matter how I see it" is a bit unnatural. It's hard to think of a context in which it would be used.

    2) Which class are you two from? --> Which class are you two in? (Are both acceptable, or is the second more correct in AE?)

    "From" would rarely if ever be used when "class" pertains to school.

    3) Didn't you hear me? I called you so many times! --> Are you deaf? I've been calling you! (Which sounds more natural? The speaker is a teacher who is a little angry with an unresponsive student. The literal meaning is more like the first, but isn't the emended version a little rude?)

    Yes, it's a bit rude. But perhaps the teacher was so exasperated they chose to be rude. But both are otherwise acceptable.

    4) It's too high up! I can't reach it! --> It's too high! I can't reach it! (Is "too high up" wrong?)

    No.

    5) Wow, he's so tall! Is he 1.9 meters... ? --> Wow, he's so tall! Isn't he like 1.9 meters? (I know the second is correct, but does the first sound natural in AE or BrE?)

    Yes in AmE.

    I'm asking this because I want to know if my English is good enough to translate comic strips, which demand more idiomatic, informal, natural-sounding English. I was brought up under the British system, so please feel free to point out any differences between BrE and AE (if any) in the examples above. Any input will be much appreciated!
    See my comments above.

  3. #3
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    Context would help.

    1. "How I see it" and "how I look at it" can mean different things.

    2. Which kind of class are you talking about?

    3. "Are you deaf?" would be seen as offensive nowadays. It was at one time perfectly natural, though rude.

    4. "Too high up" is not wrong or unnatural. It works either way.

    5. Nothing with meters is natural in AmE. The "isn't he?" formation is natural. "Isn't he 6 foot 2?"

    High

  4. #4
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    "Are you deaf?" in that context is very offensive.

    The height question is of course only natural in American English if it uses feet and inches. The speaker might say Isn't he, like, six three/six foot three?
    I am not a teacher.

  5. #5
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    jutfrank is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    As a British English speaker, here's my take on this:

    It's very hard (if it's even possible) to get a good sense of this without being able to see the whole thing, but absent context, I agree with the editor in every case. It seems to me that he/she has made your translations a little more natural to the context and individual style of the speakers. None of this has anything to do with American or British English.

    Although your English is clearly very good, I'm not sure that you're ready to translate this kind of thing. A translator should be translating into his native language, not out of it.

  6. #6
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    I can't agree with the editor regarding numbers three and five. Number two isn't impossible, but if this is in a modern setting, the next scene might feature the teacher facing disciplinary action. Number five uses meters, which is utterly unnatural in American English.
    Last edited by GoesStation; 26-Mar-2021 at 13:33. Reason: 2 ≠ 3. Thanks, jutfrank.
    I am not a teacher.

  7. #7
    jutfrank's Avatar
    jutfrank is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    I can't agree with the editor regarding numbers two and five.
    I take it you mean 3 and 5. Yes, I fully take your point about the inappropriacy of a teacher saying Are you deaf? but without knowing the context and the characters, we can't be certain that the teacher's character isn't deliberately written like that. In fact, I assumed it was.

    Number five uses meters, which is utterly unnatural in American English.
    Yes, I missed that. I see what you mean and I agree the translation would work far better if the unit of measure were translated too. American and British readers wouldn't be too familiar with how tall 1.9 meters is, and even if we were, we wouldn't say 'one point nine meters', would we? I'd say 'one meter ninety'.

  8. #8
    probus's Avatar
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    In my youth I had a friend who wanted to do simultaneous translation at the UN or someplace similar. I considered both his English and French to be flawless. He attended a special college to learn and get certified. Although at college they translated in both directions, once they started work they were only allowed to translate into their mother tongue.
    Last edited by probus; 25-Mar-2021 at 22:37. Reason: Typo

  9. #9
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    My mother translated many scientific papers from various Slavic languages into English, which was her fourth or fifth language. She wouldn't have hesitated to do the same for literary works; after all, her first submission to the very prestigious Atlantic Monthly was accepted and published with no corrections needed just fifteen years after she first lived in an Anglophone environment.

    She was obviously exceptional though. The general rule that translators and interpreters should target only their native language is a good one.
    I am not a teacher.

  10. #10
    Mandel1 is offline Newbie
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    Re: Naturalness of the following expressions in American English

    I thank everyone for their responses.

    I agree that in AE and BrE, no one uses the metric system. But somehow, this is company policy (??). Why, I really don't know. I've explained to them before that everyone in the English-speaking world uses the imperial system, but still they did nothing.

    I can't break the confidentiality agreement by showing the comic, but I'll try to explain the contexts:

    1) "No matter how I see it/look at it, she's just a weak girl. How did she do that?" The girl character just broke a sword with her bare hands.
    What's the difference between the two? Is the first plain wrong?

    2) "Which class are you two from/in?" - Teacher is asking two truant students which class they belong to.

    3) The teacher is feeling a little impatient, but not furious. The literal translation is more like a). I find "Are you deaf" pretty rude myself.

    4) "too high up/too high" - Something is pinned on the wall above a blackboard and a student is trying to reach it. Is "too high up" acceptable in this case?

    5) Ignoring the use of the metric system, is "Isn't he like 6 foot 2?" far more natural than "Is he 6 foot 2?"

    The fact is, I can't get a job if I do English-to-Chinese translations: my Chinese is nowhere as good as the Mainland Chinese, and they have legions of English-to-Chinese translators there. They generally don't have a problem understanding English, but only in expressing themselves. My Chinese-to-English translations will be vetted and touched up by a native editor. I don't think they can find enough native English speakers to do the translation job--well, not at the rate they are offering anyway. That's why an incompetent translator like myself can get this part-time job, LOL.

    Since language learning is a long journey, it's never too late to learn from a native speaker, right? Although honestly, I can't see myself doing another comic.

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