The translator’s work is often seen as the intervention of a “traitor”: but is this always the case?

An Italian saying goes “Translator, traitor” meaning that translation can betray the meaning of the original text.

Our starting point in this article is the great scholar and semiologist Umberto Eco, who recently passed away. He had raised this topic in an essay collection entitled Dire quasi la stessa cosa-Esperienze di traduzione (Bompiani 2003) (Saying almost the same thing-Experiences in Translation), starting from personal experience as a translator, editor of other people’s translations or translated author.






Umberto Eco


Here are some considerations that Linguese wants to share with you.

First of all it is necessary to distinguish two types of translation: technical translation and literary translation.

Technical translation relates to the translation of technical and technological topics such as instruction manuals, patents, documents etc.  In these cases it is essential to control the language, keeping it 100% faithful to the original text. An appropriate and consistent terminology must be used throughout the document, without interpreting the text.

In these contexts, when the translator “takes some freedom”, he/she crosses the limit that could lead to dangerous misunderstandings.

Literary translation needs a different kind of approach. George Steiner, literature reviewer and theorist, said that “without translation, we would live in provinces bordering with silence”. Thanks to the work of translators, we can read works by authors from any time: from Greek and Latin classics, to Italian, Spanish, French and Chinese literature.

After these general considerations, let’s get to more specific mistakes in Mandarin-Italian translation, offered by Ebe Cecinelli,  Italian teacher with a ten-year experience teaching in China.

-“Even animales can make a will in Italy?” a student asks while reading and analyzing some articles from the Italian civil code. When trying to understand would could possibly cause this mistake, I find out that a sentence from an article about inheritance was translated in Mandarin with “the animal’s rights” instead of “the soul (=anima)’s rights”: the Chinese translator was clearly not an expert in legal Italian.- The best office chair of 2019

When dealing with the Chinese language, especially in the past, translation mistakes can be frequent, due to the great difference from Western languages and to China’s long cultural and political isolation.

Before Beijing Olympics in 2008, the municipality tried to correct the many English translation mistakes from road signs along the capital that made tourists and visitors laugh. In order to do so, the government asked foreigners living in the city to notify the mistakes that they happened to detect on road signs along the streets: the correction campaign had a positive outcome.


take care

When you entrust somebody with translations in China, you always need to be careful about his/her professionalism. He/she could always be an improvised translator, which can happen very frequently.

At Linguese we can count on a team of certified translators and can guarantee professional translations that are consistent with the original text: you can trust us! Translate with Linguese

You need a Mandarin-English translator and you do not know where to find him/her? Linguese is there for you. Ask for a quote at http://linguese.com/mandarin-translation

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