Translation is the link
Last summer, I bumbled into a large bookstore in Beijing, and walked
a beautifully illustrated book called “Love in the Cards,” in my
hands. With a stunning drawing for every page of text, it was an accessible and
appealing option for a novice translator. It is a bit of a mystery as a book.
For whatever reason, it makes no mention of an author. Its only identifying feature
is the claim of belonging to the “Timmy” collection—an assortment
of Taiwanese merchandise, featuring a cartoon character of that name. For all
that, it is a fascinating collection of whimsical, emotion-driven letters/poems.
The fact that I find myself in the midst of translating Chinese to English surprises
me as much as anybody. I took Mandarin on a whim in my second year at UBC. I
wanted to try a tough language; I live in Vancouver, Russian was harder to justify.
Despite its reputation for being difficult, I have found Chinese a very satisfying
language to delve into. Once you adjust to tones, oral Chinese is fairly easy.
There are no tenses. There are no irregular verbs. There is only one major preposition.
Writing is where you do your work. A knowledge of several thousand characters
is required for a basic reading level.
Chinese bears hardly any resemblance to English in word formation. It generally
builds longer words out of two or three basic words: a computer is an “electric
brain,” a giraffe is a “long-necked deer.” How can one resist
such a language?
This is how, three years later after my sudden decision to begin, I find myself
majoring in Chinese, along with a second major in Creative Writing. Translation
is the link.