An Aid to Composition
Do you often meet with a word or phrase or construction that you understand fully without being able to translate it into readable Han? I believe you do1; I believe you have read enough English to have this experience. I myself often meet with such2.
You have perhaps seen such a sentence as “They will not return for many days to come”. You know that it means that they will return many days from now, or that they will return only after the passage3 of many days. But can you translate it into readable Han? In the very common expression “simply cannot”, I find the word “simply” very hard to translate into Han. I also find it very hard to translate into Han the very common word “probable” as contrasted with4 “possible”. As to such a sentence as “You cannot be too careful”5, I think it is even untranslatable.
你大概见过像“They will not return for many days to come”这样的句子。你懂它的意思是：他们将在许多天以后回来，或者他们将只在许多天过去以后才回来。可是你能够把它译成易读的汉语吗？很普通的表达方式“simply cannot”中的“simply”这个词我看很难译成汉语。我觉得有别于“possible”的“probable”这个很普通的词也很难译成汉语。至于像“you cannot be too careful”这一句，我甚至认为是无法翻译的。
All these and many other words and phrases and constructions do not seem to have what we call Han equivalents. You understand them, but you cannot translate them into readable Han; that is, you cannot translate them both exactly and clearly.
I do not mean to advise you to try and translate such hard things. Do not try to translate them, I say6. Just commit them to memory.7 They will often come in useful8 when you write. They will help you to write more idiomatic English.
By the way, “society” is a much used word among Chinese learners of English. But I have seldom seen it used by any of them in the sense of companionship, as in “The old man enjoys the society of young people”. This is because Chinese learners do not usually use an English word in a sense that cannot be easily translated into Han. I hope you will now profit by9 my hint.
顺便说一点，“society”是中国的英语学习者用得较多的一个词。但是我很少见有人把它用于“companionship”一义，例如在“The old man enjoys the society of young people”中。这是因为中国的学习者通常不把一个英语单词用在不容易译成汉语的一个词义中。我希望你现在将得益于我的暗示。
- do=often meet a word or phrase or construction that you understand fully without being able to translate it into readable Han
- such=a word or phrase or construction that I understand fully without being able to translate it into readable Han
- passage 过去
- contrasted with … 与……相比；与……区别
- You cannot be too careful 即“愈谨慎愈好”的意思
- I say 注意我的话
- commit them to memory 把它们牢记
- come in useful 变成有用
- profit by 得益于