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Trong Phiêndịch" 

Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 00:12:38 EDT
Subject: Translation from English into Vietnamese

Minh Hồ 

Dear Editor

I 've found your website whilst surfing on the Net today, and read with great interest Mr Trinh Nhat's article 'Thu Ditim Caituongduong Trong Phiendich' because I'm a student-translator at RMIT University in Victoria, Australia. I just wonder if you can pass on to Mr Trinh Nhat a number of questions concerning translating certain English terms and phrases into Vietnamese. The questions that I have are as follows:

- the phrase 'fiscal policy' was translated into Vietnamese by my teacher-translator 'chinhsach thue', meaning 'taxation policy' if the Vietnamese phrase 'chinh sach thue' is translated back into English. I believe this is a mistranslation because a taxation policy is only one arm of a fiscal policy of which the government budget is a product that catches so much public attention every year when it is announced. I 've attempted to translate this term into Vietnamese as 'chinhsach ngankho' because the Australian Treasury Department is the government body reponsible for formulating fiscal policy and the resulting annual goverment budgets. Are there other alternative Vietnamese versions that are linguistically acceptable?

- the phrase 'terms of trade' was translated into Vietnamese by my teacher as 'cancan maudich' meaning 'balance of
trade' in English. I believe this is a more serious mistranslation than the one above. As far as I know, 'terms of trade' usually refers to a situation in which one country gives up a quantity of their products to get another quantity of another country's products. Hence, we frequently hear the media talking about favourable and unfavourable terms of trade. However, 'balance of trade' refers to the difference between funds received by a country when exporting products and the funds paid for importing products, hence, the phrase trade deficit and trade surplus. Could the phrase 'terms of trade' be translated into Vietnamese as 'chiso maudich'?

- In an examination paper, there was a paragraph discussing the rise in property prices and there was a sentence saying a prospective buyer faced 'a $350,000 dilemma'. This phrase was translated into Vietnamese by my teacher as ' canh tienthoai luongnan trigia $350,000', meaning 'a dilemma that is worth $350,000' if the Vietnamese phrase 'canh tienthoai luongnan trigia $350,000' is translated back into English.

I believe my teacher's Vietnamese version of the phrase '$350,000 dilemma' represents a distinct mistranslation because it involves both a comprehension problem and an _expression problem.
(a) It is a problem of English comprehension because the phrase 'a $350,000 dilemma' should not be literally understood as 'a dilemma worth $350,000'. I would think when a prospective property buyer faces 'a $350,0000 dilemma' it means the person has to make a very difficult choice between to buy and not to buy a house worth $350,000.
(b) It is also an _expression problem because in Vietnamese the phrase 'canh tienthoai luongnan' does not collocate with the phrase 'trigia $350,000', or, as a matter of fact, never collocates with any monetary values.

- In a short text published by Centrelink (Australian Social Security Department) that my teacher handed out in class for translation practice, there was a paragraph saying: 'Remember, domestic violence is a crime and unacceptable in Australia. You do not have to remain in a violent situation just to get residence' . My teacher believed that because the term 'Australia' was mentioned in the first sentence, it gave rise to an implicit context of an immigration issue, and the term 'residence' should be understood as 'residency'. Therefore, the second sentence is meant to be something like this: one (who is a non-resident, but has been a partner of an Australian resident) does not have to subject himself/herself to domestic violence just because he/she wants to become a (permanent) resident.

I find it is difficult to agree with my teacher for the following reasons:

(a) the term 'residence' here means no more than 'a place in which one resides' because elsewhere in the text there is no mention of immigration issues or anything to that effect.

(b) immigration, in particular the grant of permanent residence in Australia on ground of a continuing marital relationship, is an area administered by the Department of Immigration, Multicutural Affairs, not by Centrelink which administers the payments of government benefits paid almost exclusively to permanent residents of Australia; and

(c) in a real-life situation, it is a legal minefield for those who understand and, subsequently, translate the passage into Vietnamese the way my teacher believes it should be because it is unlikely that Centrelink published this piece of information with the intention of (i) encouraging, on ground of domestic violence, the separation of married couples of whom one party is a non-resident whose application for the grant of permanent residence is pending upon the continuing relationship between the parties; and (ii) by so doing, impliedly pledging financial support in the form of payments of government benefits to those non-residents who involuntarily choose to live separately and apart from their partners who is a permanent resident of Australia and who supports his/her partner's application for permanent residence.

The issue of whether the term 'residence' actually means 'residency' is quite clear given this extra-textual knowledge that is required of a professional translator, not to mention that that person is also a teacher. Yet my teacher is a government-accredited professional translator who always recommends us to read a book entitled "Butchien o Mietduoi' published by his former teacher!

Minh Ho



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Vietnamese translation in Australia: 
A missing link
của Frank Trịnh

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