Translation Rules and Difficulties (English & Chinese)
By Darkgaia, In progress
Chinese and English are two of the world's most-spoken languages. First and second place, respectively. (See: Wikipedia:List of languages by total number of speakers) Being able to translate between these two languages effectively places one at a significant advantage, considering the astronomical demand for such a service. However, quality translation between English to Chinese is, irritatingly, a very difficult task. Internet memes have been made of poor Chinese → English translations in China. High school and college students undertake multiple-year courses in order to specialize in the field of English-Chinese language-pair translation. As of this writing, the best method to translate the English-Chinese language pair is through professional human translators. I have not yet found any machine translation programs that can produce even a decent sentence-based translation of the English-Chinese language-pair.
This page attempts to describe and explain the challenges of English-Chinese language-pair translation, and, hopefully, Apertium might be able to build a prototype for this revered language pair in the future. Technical rules are left in their Chinese forms to assist any future Chinese linguists/developers working on this language pair.
Common Translation Mistakes
Translator does not understand source text (生词词义不明）
This occurs when the translator fails to capture the meaning of the source text accurately or does not comprehend (some nuances of) the source text.
(eng) Drive carefully on that road in bad weather, it's very winding. → 那条路弯弯曲曲的，天气不好的时候开车得小心。 :: 那条路很多风,天气不好的时候开车·得小心。
"Winding" in the English sentence means
- adjective: 1. twisting, turning or sinuous
However, the translator understood it as a gerund of the word "wind", which means:
- wind — noun: 1. countable uncountable lang=en: Real or perceived movement of atmospheric air usually caused by convection or differences in air pressure.
This results in an incorrect translation.
Contextual Errors (熟词望文生义）
This occurs when the translator understands the words individually but did not take into account the context.
(zho) 番茄 1粒 → 1 tomato
(zho) 花椰菜（花碎） 少许 → A little broccoli
(zho) 蟹柳 1条 → 1 crab meat (willow)
The last one is an example of an error.
Lexical Selection Errors （因词害义）
This occurs when the translator chooses the wrong translation for a word that has more than one translation in the target language.
(zho) 干菜类 → Dried vegetables :: F*** vegetables
"干菜" means dried and "类" means type. The translation should read "dried vegetables". However, "干" is also colloquial slang for "f***". The translator's poor lexical selection resulted in a widely-circulated internet joke.
Word Usage （词法）
Sentence Structure （句法）
Inappropriate Word Usage
Flawed Sentence Construction
Modifier-Head Construction （定中结构）
Subject-Verb Agreement （壮中结构）
Logic Flow （逻辑顺序）
Wrong Grammar Transfer Rules
This occurs when the translator translates the sentences according to the wrong grammar rules. For example, when translating from English to Chinese, the result is written according to English Grammar (which is wrong).
Due to the intricacies present in translating the English-Chinese language pair, such as the need to observe context, understand figurative parts of speech, and follow the appropriate grammatical rules for the target language, it is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to deliver intelligible results that maintain the nuances in a text with the currently available machine translation technologies.
Nonetheless, it remains hopeful that this documentation will serve as a useful resource, if a sufficiently qualified developer wishes to work on the English-Chinese language pair for Apertium in the future.
Please see Darkgaia: English and Chinese Translation Rules (Advanced) for advanced translation rules and contrasting grammar between the English-Chinese language pair.