translation industry


translation industry
The translation industry in China must be seen as consisting of two essentially divided branches: the publishing sector and the commercial translation sector. Of all published translated publications in the PRC, more than half are translations of English-language fiction and non-fiction. Japanese and French are a distant second and third. As a rule, translators are not employees of the publisher but freelancers, many of them university teachers in foreign languages. Publishing companies still are state owned. Under the WTO, the wholesale as well as the retail publishing sector will open up, which will undoubtedly influence translation practices. Decisions about the translation of a foreign publication now lie with the editorial board of a publishing company. For these, as for any other publication, the publisher must apply for a book number (shuhao, a kind of national ISBN) from the central authority (Xinwen chuban zongshu), where also the number of copies is set. Each publisher has a yearly quota of book numbers it can obtain. In practice, smaller publishers buy unused book numbers from bigger publishing houses. Copyright is handled between the Chinese and the foreign publisher through an intermediary agent representing the main Western publishers. Professionals consider most translations to be of poor quality because of the speed with which they are produced, especially foreign bestsellers, as well as because of the poor qualifications of many translators. In historical perspective, the waves of literary movements have been accompanied by the translation of foreign literary works on a large scale, often bringing about a fusion of Chinese and foreign literary trends. Literary translation in China began with the translation of Buddhist classics during the Eastern Han (25–211). The translation of Buddhist works had an enormous impact on the syntax, lexicon and phonology of the Chinese language.
Liang Qichao (1873–1929), who recognized the potential political and social impact of foreign literature on an isolated Chinese society, encouraged foreign translation. After the Cultural Revolution, a new wave of translated foreign literature introduced influential writers such as Marquez and Kundera to the Chinese public.
The commercial translation sector is almost entirely independent of the literary. Translation companies employ translators and work with free-lancers, often university graduates with a technical degree and proficient in the foreign language. Translators’ fees in the commercial translation sector are substantially higher. Translation business was traditionally seen as a sensitive area and is difficult to grasp. For example: officially, 400 translation companies are registered in Beijing. In practice, probably more than double that number are active in the field, while also offering peripheral services such as interpretation and the organization of conferences. Many are spin-offs of universities. State-owned translation companies hold only a small market share and cater mainly to governmental institutions. For foreign companies, this segment of the services sector still is highly regulated, and competition with the practically unregulated local market is fierce. Most of the demand is for translations of English into Chinese.
Murphy, C. (1995). ‘“Ulysses” in Chinese. The Story of an Elderly Pair of Translators and Their Unusual Bestseller’. Language (September).
Xu, Jun (ed.) (1999). Theory and Practice of Translation in China. Special issue of Meta 44.1.
MARTINE TORFS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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