Question Chinese Novels and the translation of Female versus Woman

Discussion in 'Translator's Corner' started by lailai, Nov 25, 2019.

  1. Galooza

    Galooza The One True Walapalooza

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    You don't defend someone asking a loaded question calling a bunch of people sexist, then call replies to that off topic.

    Anyway, to get on topic:
    1) They don't necessarily see political correctness like you, as Shibb said.
    2) Someone's English may not be the best, thus assuming someone to be sexist based off word choice is a bad move. Why this even needs to be said is beyond me.
     
  2. patient

    patient Member

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    It is off topic, that's the point. OP's post specifically talks about the double standard in male/female usage, something that all these dismissive replies chose to ignore. And this is a discussion on translations, I don't know why you people insist on bringing up political correctness like it's some magic words to dismiss everything you don't like hearing about.
     
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  3. lailai

    lailai Well-Known Member

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    ... I think everyone needs better reading comprehension. I am specifically talking about “female” the noun, and not “female” the adjective (female xxx).

    In addition, it seems I’ve hit the nerve of a few people. @patient Thank you for trying to defend me considering people are grasping at only a limited aspect of what I’m saying.

    As for @Shibb , I find it interesting your comment indicates at the end of the day you are fine with the status quo, and think throwing “you don’t understand the culture” sounds defensive. I apologize to you for making you feel that way.

    I wanted to promote a question about why woman and female the noun is chosen when translating the texts, asking the translators directly. The limited ways of saying the female sex is limited in Chinese, but not so in English, hence my question on such translation word choice. This was not intended to be a SJW rant, but a genuine question. I read ahead in Chinese, but still try to read the English translations to match my understanding and other people’s understanding. The difference is even text about women for women written by women are translated extremely derogatorily by the translators on NU than the translation I did in my head. Dreamer in the Spring Boudoir translated to “women” more than “females (n.)”, the latter occurring very rarely. However it is jarring in Rebirth of the Military Empress and I’m Pregnant With the Villain’s Child. To Be A Virtuous Wife avoided such pitfalls due to the different writing where the people were referenced by title or title groups.

    As for BL translations, it can be said the main intention is to point out how awful women (female lead) are to highlight the value of the main couple. Therefore saying “female lead” or “female protagonist” isn’t even on my radar. After all, it is female the adjective! I’m referring to the author and then characters referring to other women as “females” the noun. I originally thought the translators chose “females” the noun to indicate disdain (which seemed appropriate), but Shibb is saying translators are lazy or have poor English? If it is intended to be appropriate in certain BL novels, why would novels with female protagonists also disdain other women as “female (n)”? Is it intended by the translators to display interpreted disdain? Or is it also as Shibb said if poor English, machine translation, laziness? Or the conclusion that apparently stops all and furthermore prevents additional discussion, cultural awareness?

    In male targeted novels, some indicate women as females the noun, some switch between women and females the noun. Yet when these stallion or harem novels talk about men, there isn’t a disdainful reference to other men aside from male protagonist in English translation. Is this a limitation of English where calling men as males the noun (limiting them as only their sex) not considered derogatory?
     
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  4. Fuyuneko

    Fuyuneko winter cat

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    Could you name some instances when female is used as a noun in DSB and IPVC? I tried using google to search for it, but I didn't see anything for these novels other than using it as an adjective like older female servant vs older maid.

    In DSB, there was also this one instance

    But, I translated it that way because the author is showing that Ning Jingchen is being sexist.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
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  5. Fuyuneko

    Fuyuneko winter cat

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    On a seperate thought, I asked Fringe Alpaca (She translates Adopting and Raising the Male Lead and the Villain, The Male Lead’s Villainess Stepmother, and Spending the Villain’s Money to Extend My Life) about her opinion.

    Her answer is
     
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  6. Galooza

    Galooza The One True Walapalooza

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    I came off heavy-handed before and I apologize, I think I see what it is you're getting at now? The problem is in using the words female, female, and female or vice-versa. To an English reader, the word female is one and entirely the same as either girl, lady, or woman depending on the context. Some kind of female character is all it is to us. The adjective I believe you're talking about is girly, based on how one acts, is used as an insult. From your perspective, I can see where you could see that as sexist, but to us, it's not used with a sexist intent. There seems to be all kinds of miscommunication happening because we don't understand what's being said based on cultural understanding and wording. Now, anything beyond that is indeed the translator wording something sexist, and as Fuyuneko said, the general reason for that is it's what was gotten from the author's writing.

    Edit: Despite the above, I realize you probably are talking about the general way in which someone may say something like "Get out of my way, woman!", but that is not perceived by us as sexist, just a way of talking used by overly arrogant people. You won't find it in everyday spoken English as it is looked down on, but this "disparity" is known the world over, which is why some turned hostile against you in tagging this solely against translators and not the authors as well. Why not change the disparity? You can't change generations' worth of perception, and again, those who understand it don't see it as innately sexist.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
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  7. Fuyuneko

    Fuyuneko winter cat

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    For Rebirth of the Military Empress, the translator also frequently uses male in noun form too. She's not just using female (noun form) and men.

    For example, just from the last three parts.

    P.S. I wonder if this was an intentional choice by the translator to try to make it sound more formal?
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
  8. xiazixin

    xiazixin Well-Known Member

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    female isn't it 雌性♀? 手动滑稽

    女人 = mostly negative tone, woman.
    女士 = Lady,miss if use as honorific.
    女生 = usually adress young girls who's still schooling. English: schoolgirl.
    幼女 = cute Loli
    御姐 = hot onee san.
    扶她 = futanari
    偽娘 = trap
    乙女 = otome
    萌娘 = anime chicks ( Wikipetan)
    腐女 = fujoshi
    兽娘 = aninal girls

    小姐姐 = hentai/Adult video.
    Example ( 我4tb硬盘给小姐姐吃掉了)(my 4tb of harddisk have been taken up by hentai/pron/adult videos)

    There are so much more terms than woman.

    男生 = schoolboy
    男人 = man
    男士 = mister, mr as honorific.
    绅士 = hentai/pervet
    基佬 = gay

    there are so many words just that author don't use them. Not that our translations are crappie
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
  9. Wujigege

    Wujigege *Christian*Generous Penny-Pincher*Comedian

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    I think you just proved the point of the thread starter.
    Since it supposed to be sexist, if others use it in situations that do not denote sexism then it is the fault of the translators.
    As a reader, I have found that some novels sounded sexist but I just assumed that it was every female but the female lead is evil trope being in play. This was enlightening
    Finding translators that are native in both language is difficult so I am not surprised but it would be jarring if professional companies make similar mistakes
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
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  10. Shibb

    Shibb Well-Known Member

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    Sorry for putting up another essay again. This thread just hit my confusion/pet-peeve at topics raging/questioning Chinese novel contents when the whole thing boils down to culture. Languages are created by the centuries of history in those regions. People expecting another language to cater to them when they aren't even the target audience irks me. (Not saying you. Just the general pet-peeve nerve that you accidentally struck.)

    I was feeling rather defensive as the conversation following the initial question pinning the blame on just the translators on making things sexist when they're possibly not. Backing off and understood all that was just bad communication.

    Why would someone translate 女士/女人 as female instead of woman? Possibly because they've translated to a version of that phrase to female before and stuck with it. Perhaps they find woman more derogatory due to the "move out of the way, woman!" phrases that are so very common in Chinese culture. This was their way of differentiating tone and include some variety. Is using female an insulting objectification? Yes, but so could using woman. We don't have this issue with man/male because the Chinese rarely ever use "man" as insulting.

    Status quo be left alone? Yes. You've mentioned there being more ways to speak of the feminine persona in English than in Chinese. I beg to differ. Except for female and woman, the non-derogatory (according to the internet dictionaries) ones we have are; gal, wench, dame, lady, lass, girl, bird, broad, chick, miss/mrs. All of these would make things either sound archaic/casual/regional/rural (gal, wench, dame, lady, lass, bird, broad, chick), sound too formal (dame, lady, miss/mrs), needing more information (girl, miss/mrs, lady, dame), or slightly insulting (wench, bird, broad, chick). Female and woman are the most politically correct nouns for the non-guys. I much rather have a stale, slightly sexist bag of nouns for those without dongles that don't sound off in modern everyday writing than have the phrase woman repeated 10 times in a speech.

    For those with dongles, the common every day, non-insulting/bff terms are; guy, male, man, fellow, dude, lad. That's 2 vs 6. It stands to reason why those without little me's get the shorter end of the stick.

    However, the status quo shouldn't be left alone in terms of unintentional sexism due to language. (see below)

    Asian languages, especially Chinese, have a love for repetition. They seldom change the specific noun/phrasing used throughout the entire text. The Chinese language is also very sexist (unintentionally and intentionally). If you analyze close enough, you'll find that it's extremely patriarchal and objectifying (aka very telling of its history since the Chinese society hasn't experienced a proper industrialization wave combined with a feminist wave until the last century or so). Whenever women are involved, the language they use is very sexist. As a translator, we should be translating text in tones appropriate to the culture. But this brings the argument to literal vs liberal translation. If it's not sexist in that culture, one side would say to change the phrasing so the tones match. The other side would say to leave it as it'd be a misinterpretation otherwise.

    Another factor also enters the mix when we're discussing web novels. They're written by amateur writers. Some may be good, some may be bad. None of them have access to a proper editor and it's very clear most of them have never attended the kind of creative writing classes English is so fond of. Tone awareness, diction, phrasing - they're all a mixed bag of internet Chinese and "proper" Chinese. The translator has to sieve through any and all gunk produced by the writers, just like an editor. If there are too many "he"s and "she"s, they have to replace it with the name instead of just translating. If a word repeats too many times, they have to replace it with a synonym or (in case of he/she/it/man/woman) the actual name.

    However, that's rarely part of the job description and it takes quite a lot of work to get right. Translators also have it worse than editors - they're in charge of writing the editions now. They're being tested on their creative writing skills and fluency in Chinese at the same time. It's why I'm a fan of liberal translation. It's easier for the reader and the translator.
     
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  11. Tea Fragrance

    Tea Fragrance Well-Known Member

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    Okay I honestly didn't know that and I'm a native English speaker. We have a lot of translators who aren't even native speakers so the chances of them knowing it would be even lower.

    :blobpeek:
     
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  12. Wujigege

    Wujigege *Christian*Generous Penny-Pincher*Comedian

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    That's the crux of it. But instead of admitting that, it became the usual you must be a social justice warrior.
    It's a pretty lousy argument
     
  13. ToastedRossi

    ToastedRossi Well-Known Member

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    There are a lot of cases like that in English. You can have sentences that are grammatically correct and the word usage is okay, but either the whole thing sounds super clunky or it has unintended connotations. This is one of the reasons why it's so hard to write well in English and it's something that translators will have to fight with.
     
  14. jintingmei

    jintingmei Member

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    I think a lot of the use comes with MTL(yeah it actually does appear as female in mtl sometimes). After all, a lot of machine translators weren't built to translate novels, and I don't know if any really are. The same word gets translated differently on its own, in a sentence, and in a full paragraph. Just my own shower thoughts, but I believe there are more native Chinese speakers who speak English compared to the other way around, so that may be where machine translations can potentially "learn" from. Not the best idea sometimes...

    The reason why this happens also differs with the translator. A translator who speaks neither English nor Chinese fluently might show that issue more often than others, an mtler who speaks native English may have misunderstood the context cause of MTL, a native Chinese speaker may not know the difference, and a bilingual could possibly be speeding through and did not think too deeply about the context.

    But of course, culture comes to play. The same words do not hold the same meanings everywhere else, and a lot of bilinguals likely aren't from the same country as you.

    Personally as a fluent bilingual, man and woman comes off to me in casual conversation as derogatory because of the things people usually associate with it, whereas using the words female or male, which is considered objectifying, can remove them from those tropes and they are merely a person of that sex/gender.

    No I don't think translators are sexist in doing this. Is it wrong for them to do it? In the context of accuracy, yes they're wrong, but most of them probably aren't being paid, and if you're paying for mtl then god bless you:hmm:
     
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  15. ToastedRossi

    ToastedRossi Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure where this idea comes from, but I have seen it before; usually from people trying to find a more neutral term. However, female and male are definitely more problematic than woman and man. The former are used for livestock and American slaves were often referred to with those terms.
     
  16. jintingmei

    jintingmei Member

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    I'm not American, and as I mentioned above, different country different meaning. America is just one country out of many, I think it's more problematic for Americans to tell everyone to conform to their ideals.

    Asians aren't generally as individualistic, and don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're cattle, we just don't assume a word used to describe us is relating to cattle in the first place. It may be a functional term for some people. I'm not speaking for all Asians, Inb4 generalisation accusations, just speaking as an Asian person living in Asian society.
     
  17. ToastedRossi

    ToastedRossi Well-Known Member

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    It's true of the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. So pretty much all of the English language native speakers, and probably all of the people who learn the language from these groups. It's really a good idea to know what effect the words you use are going to be even if it's not your intention. And yes, an awful lot of people will find "female" as a noun derogatory.
     
  18. jintingmei

    jintingmei Member

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    But they are likely not where "probably all" the translators are from. So now we are expected to conform to norms that are not commonplace to us. This is difficult to do, especially for non native speakers learning English. I am blessed to know many people from the countries you mention, and many of them do not share the thoughts you generalise of the people in those countries. There will always be other opinions.

    But now, let's come back to who on earth the ones translating these novels are(strictly mentioning non mtl from the source language). You have bilinguals like me, some with deeper western sensibilities, and others with deeper Eastern sensibilities. Though this group of people are less likely to produce the aforementioned question, there is still the possibility, especially for the Eastern sensibilities side where it may not be an issue to them.

    Then, you have people who are weak in the English language. To think about why this happens with them, especially if they're "learning from the natives" (not all are, by the way), why not think about the possibility of you doing the exact same thing in Chinese? You may call someone miss in Chinese, but surprise, you've just called them a prostitute. It's arrogant to assume that just because it's something you're perfectly capable of, that it will be easy for everyone else.

    I do not translate woman as female, but I will still defend them because they are not sexist. Translators can spend a majority of their time translating, and I myself rarely do anything besides translating, eating, showering, and sleeping. We are accused of many things all the time, and the amount of abuse we receive for all our love is disappointing. It's not easy to create perfect translations, if native English speakers want to join the love spreading cause of translating by learning Chinese, then we may have more content to learn from.
     
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  19. Fuyuneko

    Fuyuneko winter cat

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    Not all native English speakers would immediately jump to thinking female = livestock. It's not a word that would normally come up in a conversation. Actually, it would be interesting to see if the majority of NU readers would find female as a noun derogatory. It can be neutral or negative depending on the context of the novel.
     
  20. athenastill

    athenastill Member

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    Guess what, although I haven't done much translation, but what I have done I did them based on the English audios in my head, which come from news reports and movies. I do recall several voices in my head saying "it's a female" "the females...", and hardly remember hearing "males". So I don't know, maybe you should ask the English speakers?