Translator Interview: Brendan O'Kane
Sinosplice has an interview with our very own Brendan O'Kane, in which he discusses his background, literary interests and the realities of working as a freelance translator in China. The interview offers practical advice for early-career translators and students of Chinese, and includes a useful summary of print and online dictionaries and Chinese reference materials. I liked the following quotes:
"Chinese-as-a-second-language teaching materials [...] don't really do much to prepare students for dealing with Chinese as a living language. (When asked my opinion of Chinese textbooks, I tend to rate them from 'bad' to 'less bad.') Once you get past a certain level, language environment is the real make-or-break factor."
"Chengyu, while nice, tend to be much less visible to a Chinese reader than they would be to a foreign reader of Chinese, so there's no real excuse for rendering something like 每个字贵如金玉 into chinoiserie like 'every word was as precious as gold or jade' when the text is just using a bog-standard set phrase that would pass unnoticed in Chinese. Knowing what to delete and what to add, what to soft-pedal and what to amplify in a translation is important, and the only way you can really know is by having a sense of what people are actually saying — and that comes from long-term immersion in the environment."