中国格言英译

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今天想找一些关于教育的格言,就顺着Google的每日格言进入了The Quotations Page的主页。在那里看到一句:Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself. 作者是:Chinese Proverb。想来应该是“师父领进门,修行在个人”这句中国的古语了。

中国古文化博大精深,在这样的网站可以作为单独一类。很多外国人想翻译古诗词但都不可能表达出那种字里行间的神韵。古谚语也是如此,用极其精炼的语言表达了无尽的含义。但同时也可以看出汉语,特别是古汉语,为读者留下了太大的思考空间,也造成了所谓汉语相对与英语的“不准确性”。英语的准确性也是其横行天下的原因之一。

就拿“师父领进门,修行在个人”这句话来说,“师父领进门”是“师父领我进门”?还是“师父被我领进门”呢?如果按照英译,应该是前者。但就中国古代的教育模式来讲通常都是请师父来家里教孩子,应该是后者。“修行在个人”如果钻牛角尖,也可以用两种理解:是指“强调有个性的培养”呢?还是指“个人努力的重要性”呢?虽然公认后者,但前者也说的过去。这就是汉语容易产生歧义的一个例子。

古汉语的翻译具有“不可逆性”,如果你不知道原来的谚语,从英文往汉语回译的时候,无论如何也达不到古人的境界。现代汉语多了些精确性,却再也找不到那种“神”了,不知道这是进步还是退步。

Chinese Proverb这个分类里,目前有三十多条格言,我全拷贝在这里。有些翻译的很有意思,有些能理解是我们的什么话,更多的则是明白意思却想不出有哪句谚语对得上号。大家也来猜一猜,然后留言告知。

  1. A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
  2. A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.
  3. A book holds a house of gold. 【书中自有黄金屋,上半句为什么没翻译啊?】
  4. A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
  5. A book tightly shut is but a block of paper.【开卷有益?】
  6. A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.
  7. A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections.
  8. A filthy mouth will not utter decent language.
  9. A fool judges people by the presents they give him.
  10. A nation’s treasure is in its scholars.
  11. A rat who gnaws at a cat’s tail invites destruction.
  12. Be the first to the field and the last to the couch.
  13. Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom.
  14. Dig the well before you are thirsty.
  15. Do good, reap good; do evil, reap evil.【善有善报,恶有恶报】
  16. Do not employ handsome servants.
  17. Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still.
  18. Do not remove a fly from your friend’s forehead with a hatchet.
  19. Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile.
  20. Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown.
  21. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.【授人与鱼不如授人与渔】
  22. He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
  23. He who is drowned is not troubled by the rain.
  24. He who strikes the first blow admits he’s lost the argument.
  25. If heaven made him, earth can find some use for him.【天生我才必有用】
  26. If you bow at all, bow low.【一不做,二不休】
  27. Keep your broken arm inside your sleeve.
  28. Raise your sail one foot and you get ten feet of wind.
  29. Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.
  30. The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.【玉不琢不成器,下半句怎么说来着??】
  31. The palest ink is better than the best memory.
  32. To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.
  33. When you drink the water, remember the spring.【饮水思源】
  34. When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.