China’s Translation Crisis – Kenneth Tan

From Shanghaiist:

EastSouthWestNorth has translated an excellent story on the translation crisis in China that first appeared in Phoenix Weekly. It talks about the more than 1,000 foreign literary works that are translated and published in China each year (and we assume that number is still growing). The story laments over the “awfulness of the translations, the crudeness of the translators and the absence of critical reflection on what is happening”. It then looks into why translation quality has fallen and why China has such a great lack for good translators.

Much of the blame, as it turns out, falls in part on the shoulders of the short-sighted publishers that are out to seek quick profits and their unwillingness to pay their translators more:

Over the past twenty years, the salaries for most professions have increased by twenty fold. But the salary for translators has only doubled. In the early 1980’s, the basic fee for translation was 30 yuan per 1,000 words. At the moment, the basic fee for translation is only 60 yuan per 1,000 words. [Full Text]

For another perspective on this issue, see “The picture may not be so bleak” from Chinese Stories blog (via Danwei)

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