Reading translations

I’m curious how you guys prefer to read the translations.

For very specific terms, would leaving the term in pinyin make a lot more sense? If it repeats enough you kind of learn the meaning. It’s like Expelliarmus in Harry Potter. Instead of using Disarming Charm, simply writing the name of the spell puts the reader in the wizardry world immediately. Likewise, I’m looking to leave certain terms in pinyin, and Buddhist terms in the original Sanskrit form to give the greater authenticity. We have the benefit of using hover tooltips to add context and explanations.

Which brings us to the next question, how often do you find yourself using the tooltips and do they break the flow of the reading or do they enrich the experience? Your feedback is very valuable because, at least for me, my goal of working on these translations is to bring the magic of masters such as Jin Yong to the English-speaking audience. It is a tricky balance to maintain authenticity while ensuring easy access for readers new to the genre.

But I definitely don’t want to go down the route of Lotus Huang :wink:

I usually enjoy when some original terms are left in as just the pinyin, but I also use translations as a stepping stone to reading in the original language, so I’m used to trying to figure out words I don’t know, which may not be the case for everyone. I’ve seen some fan translations go too far in this direction and leave tons of basic words untranslated that makes it become a bit of a hybrid language text.

I think the one difference to look out for with the analogy to Fantasy novels, is that often Fantasy novels are written in such a way to get you used to the terms gradually, and use techniques like having a character who doesn’t know anything about the world so other characters are always explaining things to them. In Harry Potter for instance, they mentioned Quidditch several times and explained in different levels of detail before the first game is played, so by the time it becomes important in the story the reader has come across the terms several times and had them explained to them.

So with translations if its a term the original audience was expected to know the meaning of, you have to see if there’s enough context for a casual reader to get the idea.

Hi Jenxi

I totally agree with you about Lotus Huang. I downloaded the sample and decided not to buy it because of that.

For the terms, I prefer leaving them in pinyin. However there should be an appendix or footnote which defines them.


QingGong == Lightness skill, a person with the skill could leap up or jump at …

Qiánkūn dà nuóyí == The skill allows the user to translocate force from one place to another, and redirect enemies’ attacks elsewhere. This skill also allows the practitioner to sense the energy flow in himself/herself and opponents, thus gaining a better understanding of external martial arts. [text copied from Zhang Wuji - Wikipedia]

In my work, I write technical papers and reports. I normally define the terms somewhere in a separate section where readers can lookup when they encounter them. Though some may feel, it is outside of what make the text to be a novel.


Series by series I think, certain novel it best to just translate it because these skill only get use so very little and it difficult remember characters names let alone remember skill name and Chinese pingyin.

Trade mark skill it might be good to keep it original though but otherwise if it sound good in English might as well. Certain term, personally I think it best to leave in pinyin form.

E.g. I prefer Qinggong over Lightness Skill.

Of course my preference is one thing, but one recommendation is best to have consistency when translating, otherwise you might be jumping around too much.

Yes, this is one technique and something I’ve explored, though it would make the translation less true to the source by adding slight descriptions to introduce the terms.

Lightness Skill barely conveys the meaning. I think qinggong is a lot better. Just like how we are so used to terms like ninja and samurai versus Japanese spy/assassin or a Japanese warrior

I agree with ngocem: consistency is vital.

I generally tend to translate only terms that are descriptive in nature, as opposed to things like people or cities’ names. These can have a descriptive function, but it’s secondary, and the main purpose is to just serve as a label for the person/city. With cultural concepts, it can be more complicated, since translating words like qinggong and wulin could result in clunky phrases.

I think a good rule of thumb for the translator is: when facing a scene with these kinds of terms, they should try to describe the scene with their own words in the language they are translating into, and try to make it sound as natural as possible. If the term fits better in pinyin, there are ways to explain their meaning to the reader, such as adding a short phrase to the sentence. Simply changing a word into a whole sentence just to keep it “understandadle” can lead to a very uncomfortable read.

As for the second question, I personally don’t mind footnotes when reading fiction, but I prefer when they go a little deeper into the term, explaining the historical context or the structure of the language, instead of serving only as a glossary. And also, they can be fun, but not so much if I have to take my head from the story every other page.

Yeah the idea is to have them there as additional information that some users might be interested to learn more about, but not a must have in order for a reader to understand the prose.