Translation: airbrushing, hyping, linking to originals
I’ll bet someone’s internet manifesto already contains this commandment: Link to original documents if possible.
I seem to recall something like that; it’d be great to have a link.
The reason this is important in the context of China is that — in the course of translating, paraphrasing, and summarizing from one language to another — sensitive subjects often get filtered. In the direction of English to Chinese they might get filtered quite literally by the censorious eye. Black and White Cat and others document this kind of airbrushing quite nicely. In the direction of Chinese to English, words sometimes get a dose of rhetorical viagra, all the better to serve a particular constituency.
This kind of thing is unavoidable. But, but… if everyone would just link original sources, eventually someone besides the unfaithful translator might go back to the original in a disinterested way, to look at what was actually said and write it thus.
In this way, linking becomes a Good Thing in and of itself. I may have my biases in translation — I may not even know that I have them, right? — but if I link to the original source I’ve opened my work up for criticism and am prepared to consider alternatives.
Linking may not lead to world peace, but it might lead to a little less misunderstanding between China and the US.
Just a few days ago I was criticizing the news reports of large media companies for NOT including links to originals even when it seems eminently clear that they are just paraphrasing from other sources. So it seems only fair to praise WSJ when — in Stanley Lubman’s excellent summary of the legal issues around the Rio Tinto case — they publish links to Chinese scholars’ discussions of reform that actually get you to the original Chinese versions:
Sure, this kind of link happens every day on the internet. But not as often as it should for big media. So let’s give them credit when they do it right.