Tricky Proverbs

Chinese is such a concise language that translating a proverb is much harder than it looks. The end result is often wordy and fails to capture the nuances of the original.

For example, 人生若只如初见 could be translated as:

If I never knew you beyond the first look.
If I never knew you better than our first encounter.

Neither really does the saying justice tho. I think the saying means, if we never met, if we never got to know each other, how different our lives would be now, or how different we’d feel now. There is such a sense of regret of paths not taken and choices not made that I’m still searching for a good way to say this in English. 


One thought on “Tricky Proverbs

  1. One of the great lessons about translation imparted to me by a great translator: “translation is not about accuracy.” As strange as it sounds, I really believe it to be true. Translation is more about “readability” (in my opinion) and about context.

    Great site and great posts… Happy (Gregorian) new year…

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