Samstag, 8. Februar 2014

Translator's Rant

So I'm very busy these days. Mainly because I was hired as a translator for

actual screenshot I took three minutes ago and then edited in MS Paint for three minutes
It's a great website with an astonishing variety of videos, suitable for beginners to 7d players (I reckon that even pros watch them). It's run by (relatively young and) active pros who are up-to-date about the latest Go fashions.

As you can see, everything is in Chinese. And I happen to speak Chinese. But I'm sure most of you don't.

That's why they asked me and a few others to translate a few videos to English, for the English WeiqiTV due to launch in March! It won't be completely free, but I think 0.74€ (1$ as of today) is reasonable for a video or a set of videos. And please check the free sample videos:) (in March).

By the way, WeiqiTV is looking for apt translators! Should be fluent in Chinese and written English and around Dan-level in Go.

But you know, Chinese and English aren't in the same family of languages. (A part of my university studies is linguistics, so I should kind of know what I'm writing about.) Like not even similar.

But according to the guy whose name I forgot, everything that can be expressed can be expressed in any language. I found that this does not always apply to translations of Go videos.
There is another dude (or was it two dudes? I don't remember:p) who said that the way you think is determined by your language. People who grow up with different languages think in different concepts. I do come across this sometimes in those videos.
Anyways, those are the two extreme positions on this issue. I think the truth is surely, as almost always (aah, an alliteration), somewhere in the middle. (Well, except darwinism vs. creationism.) And I'm sure someone has already thought of this and given it a scientific name. I hope my university teachers won't come across this blog.

So, when I translate from Chinese to English, most of the time it goes smoothly (according to the first dude's theory). But I come across several issues from time to time. Sure, there is always a way to paraphrase something, but there are aspects that cannot be translated accurately. Partly because I see to it that the English sentences are about as long as what they say in the videos. If I translate a Chinese phrase of 4 syllables to 3 English sentences, the subtitles won't be able to keep up with the speech.
Therefore, to a certain extent, a translation also includes an interpretation by the me, the translator. Which is why a certain knowledge in Go is required so that the interpretation of the translator doesn't differ too much from view of the dude talking in the video.

Firstly, the Go moves should be named correctly, which is not always as obvious as you might think.
Then what does the commentator think about these moves? Four-syllabic idioms happen to be a common way to express ideas with a poetic touch. Translating those sometimes sounds extremely stupid or over the top. But I usually find my way around them.

I planned to rant some more about Chinese grammar, but I realised that it might not be interesting to read, and I don't know it so well. (This is a common occurrence among native speakers in any language; if you want some grammar explained, from my experience it's usually safer to ask someone who's been learning that language. I think I speak Chinese like a 7-years-old kid who is abnormally versed in Go jargon.)

I shall rant about Go jargon instead.
First of all, let's take a moment to appreciate the geography of a Go board.

This tengen-centric view of the Go board defines various word for the move in the following diagram, in relation to the circumstances.

I will use this move to complain about the lack of English Go vocabulary. 
(Please note that my knowledge of English Go terms comes from KGS kibitz and Go books, no scientific background whatsoever. Also I'm sure this list is not complete.)

The word extend/extension is one of the most ambiguous translations of Chinese Go terms. (Also Japanese and, probably, Korean, but I know Chinese the best, so...:p) As a result, certain concepts of Go are not available for anglophone Go players (see second theory I mentioned).

So here are some moves that, dieu merci, have different names in English:

 Block, 檔
Push (see below)

Iron pillar 鐵釘
Etc. etc. etc.

Chances are you mistakenly call some of these "extend" or "nobi" anyway. According to Ferdinand de Saussure (I know his name because he was mentioned in like 8 of my classes), a sign, i.e. in our case the names we give Go moves, is composed of a signifiant and a signifié (yes, he was French). 
The signifié is the concept of a move in your brain, which is inextricably connected to its signifiant, which is what happens when we talk about that move. 
Therefore I think if you don't call the moves correctly, you are missing concepts and ideas. Thus learning what the moves mean would also make you a better player.

One very important distinction would be sagari and nobi.

Descend 立 =going DOWN
EXTEND!!! 長 =advancing AHEAD (regardless of geographical direction)
De Saussure also said that signs get their value only by opposition to other signs in the system. If you have only one name for so many moves, that name has no meaning.

Above I cited examples that can be translated fairly accurately.

But what do you call the following moves?

I call this move "drawing back" in the subtitles. This is definitely not a nobi.

"Escape the stone", however "extend" is also valid.
 No idea how to translate this move (narabi), but I REFUSE to call it nobi.

And who the flick first called this an "extension"?

 While making this post I realised that there are different kinds of "push" too.

爬 literally "crawl"
壓 to press
 衝 to dash, you know, Rambo-style

So far so good. This might not have blown your mind, but the whole point is to not call everything "nobi". (Not to mention the different kinds of "attachments" 碰, 靠, 托...)

I'll introduce you to two more Go concepts that don't enjoy literal translations in English.

1) 軟頭/硬頭 "Soft head/hard head":

This is the most commonly "soft head". White's further advancement will be hindered by the weakness imminent in this shape. This term also applies to positions other than on the edge:

White's head is totally soft. Black has many moves to choose from, should a fight go towards this corner. As opposed to a "hard head":

This is like the complete opposite of a soft head. Coincidentally, the last move in this position is called "phallus nobi".

2) 損

I always have a hard time translating 損 (or 虧). Literally it means "loss". However it can be applied to almost anything in Go. You can 損 points, an exchange (as in furikawuri ~trade) can turn out 損, you can make a 損 exchange ("a bad exchange"), you can 損 liberties, aji, ko-threats, etc........ Also 損 is used as verb, noun, adjective... as many Chinese words are.
I'm too lazy to complete this post right now:( Uaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaavhghfbwdbclkj

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