Friday, 14 October 2016

A 100-word closure

On my desk sits a Wimbly Lu business card, and a booklet of well-wishes from MCI. On a table less than a five metres away rests the supplies I brought to OBS, an exhibition of utilities bearing the imprint of someone who hadn't yet learnt Latin, or studied translation, or understood how Literature could save the world. But already a layer of dust covers the sunblock, as it does the business card and the booklet, and everything else within sight. A feast devoured, but still a feast nonetheless, filled with bitterness and relish, fuel for my actions in the future.

Block 4 Week 3: Cold War (SC)

Today was the last day of the Cold War course. Unfortunately, I don't think I learned much. Everything we went through was brief, and most of what I did pick up on was through readings, which, to be blunt, can be found on the Internet. But then again, that's as good as history lessons get.

The most meaningful part of the course was connecting what I learnt this year in history to what was being taught about the Cold War. I can't remember the details, but it was about a different perspective of WWII, which I managed to get a clearer picture of. The last time something along these lines happened was during the Latin course, when the similarities between Latin and French I observed made me appreciate the languages more. You know how there are certain words you can read and spell but which you're not yet thoroughly familiar with? The feeling I'm describing is sort of like seeing a synonym of that word for the first time, which helps you better understand both words almost simultaneously.

In general, though, it was a disappointment, and I would recommend this course only if you take and are interested in exploring more of history.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Block 4 Week 2: Creative Writing Capstone (SC)

This was a paid course, but unlike the course for Latin, where we received booklets that I can refer to in the future, I didn't think the money was well-spent.

In the first place, the local writer who was meant to facilitate the prose section of the course ended up not being invited because the number of students who signed up was too low. As for the poetry section, I didn't feel like the sessions were productive. We spent almost all of our time reading and writing poetry, neither of which struck me as particularly inspiring. Also, anything we learnt was spoken; besides a sheet of poems, we didn't receive any notes.

On the other hand, the small number of attendees allowed each of us to have more time writing, and give more targeted feedback to one another. Apparently, in the real world, this is what the community of writers do: write, review, repeat. It fits in with the facilitators' words that writing a little every day improves your writing tremendously, and that an extra pair of eyes can reveal assumptions undetected by the writer. However, based on how I struggled with the time limits this week, I don't think this rigid schedule would work for me. I honestly believe that I would be better off writing in my own time than struggling to meet deadlines with works whose qualities have suffered as a result, even if that means I get constant practice.

Block 4 Week 1: Can Literature Save the World? (SC)

Disclaimer: I haven't been posting recently because of academics. If it matters to you, the course discussed in this post occurred one week ago from 28th to 30th September. 

When I picked this course, I had high hopes for it. I like to think of myself as a pragmatic person, and at least to me, the way the course was phrased suggests a direct investigation into the relevance of Lit to the world, something I have always been interested in. Unfortunately, it was precisely this interest that blinded me from reading the subtext closely enough; it was only just before the course that I realised how it was specifically looking into "Lit of Protest and Resistance", a phrase that, at best, sounded vaguely familiar.

Also, one issue I had with the course was the workload. Technically every Singapore Course has this section called "Feedback for Learning", which translates to homework, but in previous courses, this seemed to have been built into the course schedule, such as when we watched a movie and did a review during course time for Media Representation of Women. In this case, though, we had to write a whole play, along with a 1,200-word commentary. And yes, it was as difficult as it sounds :P

But besides this, the course didn't disappoint. The teacher-in-charge, Mr James Koh, did a great job guiding class discussions that produced significant results. One result in particular did actually affect me in real life, by changing my perspective on transgressive plays, which are plays that contain explicit or otherwise controversial content. I had previously frowned upon and dismissed all such plays as stupid and attention-seeking without giving them a second thought, not understanding that the point of such attention-seeking content was not to talk about the content itself, like sex, but to raise a more important concern behind it, like racism. So when I watch plays in future, I will have to be more open to such techniques.

Friday, 16 September 2016

MCI Day 9 (Final)

Today was my last day at MCI. To say goodbye to this experience is to say goodbye to a lot of things, predominantly my amazing colleagues and the conversations we shared, as well as translation in great depth, both of which have been priceless. Yet, there were also other things that came with the package, like my freelance job as a minesweeper, which took up the pockets of time when I was sick of the translation guide (and desired instead to hone my life-saving skills), and even the long trips on the MRT, which I had made more meaningful by listening to podcasts. Attending meetings; getting coffee and biscuits; being treated to lunch... The list goes on, each constituent significant in its own way.

(from left to right) Me, Tze Hee, Jing Hua, Sin Yee, Candice

There isn't really much I can describe about our chitchats, which involved more process than product. I would however like to give a shoutout to the translation guide (商务英语翻译实务), which, alongside my instructor Ting Ting, helped shaped my perspective on Chinese & Mandarin through teaching me about its rich cultural value both directly and indirectly. This was ultimately one of my objectives for choosing this course, so I'm very grateful that my expectations became reality. And yes, I did manage to finish the guide as per my wishes yesterday, only to find two more books of equal if not greater thickness, waiting in the shelf unread. That's one regret I have, since I read under the assumption that there was nothing else to do and would have read with much more haste had I known there was. But then again, reading the guide carefully has allowed me to appreciate so many things I hadn't previously known.

The integration of language into culture (click to view full size)

In all honesty, I would not want to go for another week - with fewer and fewer things to do, an extended period would just translate to a monotonous drag (pun intended - I've been refraining from using that until now!). But that's partly because this internship is the first of its kind, with everyone, including those in charge of the technicalities like the loaning of laptops, still getting used to the presence of Khalis and me. Which means that if I had the opportunity to come back as a full-fledged intern in the future, it will definitely be an improved experience I will treasure. In the meantime, I hope to have another lunch with my new friends, who have given me a beautiful booklet of well wishes and promised a reunion meal soon enough. Hmm... maybe I'll bring them to a café with the initials WL :)

A booklet of well wishes from the Translation Department

Trivia 4 Thought
  • Translating idioms and phrases which have unique cultural meaning can be done in two ways: foreignisation or domestication. Both have their strengths - the former retains the cultural value of the phrase, while the latter makes it easier for foreigners to understand what it means. Personally I would go for the more practical side of domestication, because I feel that the translation would lose its roots if the intended meaning didn't get through in the first place. There is however an ongoing debate about this, and thus no 'pure' solution.

Domestication and foreignisation

  • The difference between 直译法 (literal translation) and 意译法 (free translation) is quite a subtle one. Literal translation retains both structure and meaning of the source, while free translation retains only meaning. An example of what can go through literal translation would be "crocodile tears" (translated to "鳄鱼的眼泪"), but what cannot would be "the apple of one's eye".

Thursday, 15 September 2016

MCI Day 8

Today was my second last day as an intern, and I think the second best day of the experience, because things went at a very steady pace. In the morning I finished up the translation of this poster that appeared in the papers a few weeks ago in August. It was slightly different from usual in that what needed to be translated had 'informal' names like "Smart Cool Ideas Challenge" that required some creativity, so to speak. Perhaps because of that, I did better on this activity than anything else so far, with two exact matches with the model translation :)

 The translated Chinese version (left) of the English source (right)

In the afternoon, I looked through these notes from NTU that had been distributed to students during a course on translation. There were many cool facts about its history and how it should be done, the most notable of which I took photos of, likely to be used during the Gap Sem Congress.

An interesting table of the significance of context (click to view full size)

Tomorrow, I hope to get some photos with my colleagues who have been very friendly and generous, treating me to lunch on multiple occasions and dispensing knowledge with no strings attached. I also hope to finish up the translation guide, which still has about one and a half unread chapters. While making me distracted at times with its monotony, the guide has nonetheless taught me a lot, not just about translation but also about Chinese formats in general, such as the way letters and even product instructions are written, which I had not been familiar with, alongside, of course, a great deal of vocabulary that I think will come in useful in my speech and writing. 

(That last sentence was a long one, though not nearly as long as the one below, which I included because its length is so ridiculous, it's funny.)

Now you too can laugh at something you know you'll never have to translate! 
You're welcome.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

MCI Day 7

Today was no ordinary day - not only my teacher-in-charge, Mrs Sharon Tan, pay Khalis and me a visit, but I also had lunch with the director herself, Xiu Li, at a vegetarian eating place that I don't think I've discussed before. I mention it now because it's a special occasion, and also because I think the Vegetarian Char Siew Rice I ordered is worth recommending - unlike the Vegetarian Chicken Rice which merely had the looks, this dish satisfied all around.

Vegetarian Char Siew Rice

Then, in the morning, I worked on the translation of this editorial as part of a team assigned to different paragraphs, which wasn't fast-paced, exactly, but exciting anyway. After giving me his comments on my work, Yeow Chua raised an important point that I have neglected to mention, which is that translation, at least in a context of unfamiliarity with words and terms, is not simply the act of writing in a different language as the source. There's something that comes before that: the research. In my article today, for example, there was a lot of background information that, had I known, would have significantly made my job easier and my translation better. As Yeow Chua explained, it's like looking at the source, grasping hold of its contents in one's native language (research comes in here), and then trying to explain it to someone else, in this case the reader, in the foreign language. Which is why translation can take a while, what with all those time-consuming thought processes. Nonetheless, as this knowledge accumulates, the time taken will gradually decrease.