Blending Language Learning with Translation Teaching: A New Perspective on the Teachability of Chinese Translation


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Over the past fifty years or so, a gargantuan number of textbooks on English–Chinese (hereinafter “E–C”) translation has been published. There are usually two major approaches. One of them is to explain how translation can be done on a word-class and linguistic-level basis. Another is to put on display a repertoire of translation methods and techniques in the hope that users are fully equipped for translation tasks at various linguistic levels and in different text types. Some of these works include Loh (1959), Sun and Jin (1977), Chen (1996), and Liu (1997; 2006). Nonetheless, both strategies, to a large extent, rest on the assumption that readers have such a firm grasp of the Chinese language that they are able to stand against the interference of the source language in the translation process. As Poon rightly points out, there are no translation techniques independent of language competence (2000, 53). With reference to the universals of translation, this chapter argues that translation as an activity represents resistance against normalization and simplification. Thorough language proficiency training before translation training being costly, if not out of the question, it is argued that incorporating the defining characteristics of the Chinese language in an E–C translation textbook or course syllabus along with the aforementioned methods may enhance, if not maximize, the teaching effectiveness. There are three major parts in the ensuing pages. The first outlines the history of textbooks on E–C translation, highlighting their two major approaches and the desideratum in the future development of textbooks with regard to E–C translation. The next argues how translation may be seen as resistance to normalization and simplification, which lead to the so-called “translation-ese.” Part Three elucidates the major defining characteristics of the Chinese language, namely, yìhé 意合 (parataxis), linearity, dynamism, an emphasis on such dimensions as concreteness, humans and human relationships, holism and a sense of balance, and how Chinese culture has played its part in shaping them. This chapter is significant in pushing back the frontiers of teaching E–C translation, setting the scene for further discussion on the delicate balance between language teaching and teaching translation. It is original in highlighting the importance of developing students’ awareness of the defining characteristics of the Chinese language in order to enhance their language sensitivity with a view to producing unaffected written Chinese. It further contributes to the academic discourse through presenting these characteristics in a systematic manner and placing them in the context of Chinese culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiverse Voices in Chinese Translation and Interpreting : Theory and Practice
EditorsRiccardo MORATTO, Martin WOESLER
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9789813342835
ISBN (Print)9789813342835, 9789813342828
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Publication series

NameNew Frontiers in Translation Studies
ISSN (Print)2197-8689
ISSN (Electronic)2197-8697

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Bilingual competence
  • Defining features
  • Language learning
  • Teachability
  • Translation competence
  • Translation teaching


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