the Challenge of Translation

I found a difficult translation task here, How to translate “不打不相識” into English? We may get a quick answer from the Internet. Here it is:
No discord, no concord.

In real life translation, this can hardly be achieved. How can we translate it into English ourselves? Here are some possible literal translations:
People will not know each other until they fight against each other.
Those who have never fought against each other do not really know each other.

I think personally these are Chinglish because they make no sense to native speakers of English. People are strangers to each other because they have never struggled against each other. Does it make sense? I do not know President Obama, and he does not know me. If we fight each other, injuring each other, disabling each other, we will no longer be strangers. Is that the case? Apparently, this logic does not work. I know my good friend, so we have fought each other. Does this make any sense? Clearly, it is ridiculous.

We translate Chinese into English for one purpose and one only: to let native speakers of English know the meaning without the knowledge of Chinese. The challenge here is that certain meaning is implied in this Chinese idiom and it is omitted because native speakers of Chinese know the meaning without conscious. However to make the translation accurate, even native speakers of Chinese should turn to a dictionary for help.


Here comes a better one.
It takes a fight for people to know each other better.

Still it is not perfect. Do we have to fight in order to know each other better? It could be, but it is not necessarily a must. In English, we may say:
It could take a fight for people to know each other better.

Yet it sounds odd to say people being hostile to each other might be more likely to be friends. We know, this idiom is from “Outlaws of the Marsh “(“水浒传”). According to story in the novel, I think personally this version can be the right one.

People might get acquainted more easily to each other after they have accidently engaged in a struggle against each other.

In this version, I supplied the implied but omitted information so that it reads reasonable and can be understood. Although this version is relatively long, it can be safer in logic and intelligence.

In my humble opinion, we may submit our translations of poems without the original versions, and ask our friends in this group to decide wheather they really make sense. Meanwhile, native speakers of the languages of the peoms may guess the original version. This can be more helpful.


You may find the copy of this post here,

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You are encouraged to feel free to correct it even if you are not a native speaker of English.

May 19, 2012 12:26 PM
Comments · 4

Jeff, IMHO, according to your translation, this would be right in Chinese:小赵和小钱本来是陌生人。几年前他们入伍当兵,后来他们在一个班里服役并在战争中互相帮助,后来他们俩成为了好朋友。他们俩真是不打不相识。

John and David were strangers. Several years ago, they joined the army and helped each other in a war. Later, they became intimate friends. 他们俩真是不打不相识。


Is this correct Chinese? It cannot be. This should be indisputable among native speakers.


"Those who had not fought AGAINST each other, know not each other." is a correct literal translation, but as I have mentioned above, it sounds odd in terms of logic. Therefore we have to supply some missing information. I noticed that above.

May 22, 2012

As I had explained in the other post... and you did not agree with mine.  Here's even one that is more ambiguous which I think is the best equivalent.


Those who had not fought with each other, know not each other.

May 21, 2012

Thank you, Brook.

May 19, 2012

我先讀一半... 解釋一下. 我寫那句話是有感而發的. 不過. 給你一個讚

May 19, 2012
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Shanghainese), English
Learning Language
Chinese (Shanghainese), English