译不达意: Language Drama in 2 Acts

Written by Julen Madariaga on April 29th, 2010

Here is my first short story in Chinese. The title is “Lost in Translation”, and it illustrates the potential consequences of bad mandarin pronunciation. If you don’t read Chinese I left a little summary in comments, or else use G Translator to get the enhanced experience [1].

UPDATE: I have reposted this on Tianya to give it some air time among Chinese readers. By now the post has stabilized at around 3000 reads and 50 comments, I don’t think it will go much further. It was a nice experiment in Chinese BBS propagation, I will analyze the results soon.

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译不达意

帮助迷失于中文中的老外找回爱之路

卖抠是我的好朋友。我们在美国老家是小学同班。虽然好几年没见面,但是我们的关系还是很密切。所以上个星期收到他的求救信让我很惊讶。他居然在中国! 还说他一个人无友可靠!

我马上回邮请他来上海我家住几天,看看能不能帮助他。

他写的让我太诧异了。更奇怪的是,居然我发现他会中文。我迫不及待的要他说这是怎么一回事。他说一年前,在我们美国的老家,因为那个金融风暴他的公司倒闭了。他失业了不知道该怎么办,有一天在路上看到了一个广告说“学会中文掌握未来!”就决定了报名上中文课。谁想到卖抠爱上了他的老师曹晓琳,一个来自江西的留学生。不到三个月他们就谈了恋爱。

当然,有了中国的女朋友,卖抠的水平也进步很快。卖抠彻底爱上了曹晓琳,下定决心在她学年结束回国的时候一起去中国留学。为了尽快过语言关他每天从日出学到日落,做练习,甚至阅读中文的经典文学作品。到年末,他的中文已经好得不得了。只不过是,由于他大都分是从书里面学的,还缺了一点口头语能力。他讲得很书面,发音也不分声调,听起来怪怪的。

卖抠到我家的时候很难过,到中国以来他没办法联系晓琳。他还说不会再信任中国人,没想到这里的人会这样去欺负老外。我感到很奇怪,在中国住了好几年没碰到过什么问题,肯定因为文化差距有了个误会! 我逼迫他立刻说出来到底发生了什么事,还要他仔细的描述所有的细节,看有没有什么地方他误会了晓琳。他告诉我下面这个故事:

*  *  *

卖抠是三天以前到达中国的。原来的计划是他到南昌机场时,晓琳来接他,带他去父母家介绍介绍。谁能想到偏偏那天下班之际,晓琳的老板找她加班到很晚。卖抠在飞机上没收到她的信息,到南昌他很难为情地发现不是晓琳而是他素不相识的曹爸爸来接机。

到了曹家,等待晓琳回家的只有他们仨:爸爸妈妈和卖抠。卖抠听不太明白他们的江西的口音,不了解晓琳在哪里,感到很寂寞。但是他怕第一次上门留下不好的印象,只好微笑地听着而不开口。不过一会儿,晓琳的妈妈端上了晚饭。

“卖抠,你先吃一点我们特色豆腐,” 曹妈妈说, “你们美国是不是没有豆腐吃的?”

“是的,基本上我们更喜欢芝士。”

“啊,真的吗?” 曹妈妈奇怪地说。

曹爸爸打破了一时的沉默:“卖抠,你们这几天在江西有什么计划,想去什么地方玩?”

“随便吧,我们美国最喜欢搭便车去自由自在地享受。”

“天哪!” 妈妈说, “你们真喜欢那个!”

“对,只要有司机接受,我们就很高兴随着他去”

曹妈妈的脸变得煞白,难过的说:“那么,我们晓琳也要参加那种活动吗?”

“对啊,她最喜欢,在美国的时候习惯了!”

曹爸爸打断问卖抠:“那到底你们要去什么地方?”

“我们去看什么地方要留学?”

“怎么留学?“

“对啊,我很想去上海她那边,她更喜欢北大,我们大家要解决留学的问题。”

“卖抠!你的父母叫什么名字!?”曹爸爸严厉地大声说。

“Tamara, Ben Seller, 晓琳没有告诉你们吗?”

曹妈妈吓了一跳道:“她说过,说过,只不过是我们忘记了,你先别急了。”

“你父母到底给你什么样的教育呢!” 曹爸说。

“这个。。。 基本上都是新教的教育”

“天哪!”

“对啊,老子也想跟晓琳一起了解一下。曹太太放心,虽然晓琳说没经验,但只要细读细读道德经都可以掌握了!”

突然曹妈妈站起来哭着离开房间,卖抠没有太理解她是怎么一回事。

“真是!” 爸爸喊起来, “你真不要脸!看你把我女儿弄成这样!我告诉你,我们这家可能是落后,不了解西方流行的习惯。但至少我们有道德!我的女儿万万不会接受这种对待!!”

“曹先生,我们大家可不是很好吗?”

“这里是个文明的家庭!你给我滚出去,否则我叫警察。你个流氓,你有严重的心理毛病,先回国看病,别赖着我们女儿!!!”

“可是。。我。。曹先生,晓琳到底在哪里啊!”

突然曹爸爸站起来,把可怜的卖抠推出去,没有再回答他的问题,而用力甩上了门。卖抠只好打车回南昌市中心试试联系晓琳,但是打电话打了半天都打不通。他最后想起来,他美国的老哥们儿在上海,就给我写了个邮件。以后的故事你们就知道了。

真奇怪!谁能帮助我把这件事情搞明白?

研究研究但还是没希望

听完卖抠的故事,我觉得晓琳的父母肯定对他的计划感到不高兴。我跟卖抠解释不要随便说话,中国的家庭比较保守,肯定不喜欢他这么“自在自由的”旅行的计划。卖抠还不懂为什么晓琳不接他电话,我说她是为了孝顺,父母说不要接她就不接。我说先要去了解她的父母有什么问题。

即然卖抠没有办法和他们沟通,再说他最怕再回去南昌面对曹爸爸,毕竟我只好提出我直接联系晓琳,和他见面了解一下到底发生了什么事。

她电话里面听起来很愤怒,一听到我是卖抠的朋友就要赌气挂断了。我马上说卖抠是多么好的个小伙子,他多么绝望,整天哭泣想着她。她终于松口同意解释一下,到底那个不幸的晚饭中发生了什么。她告诉我从妈妈听来的故事,弄我目瞪口呆。真是一个莫名其妙的对话,满口脏话的,甚至我不敢在这里写下来!

我回家花了很多心思分析她所说的故事,但不管怎么样还是没法搞明白。晓琳讲得这么厉害,不会是个简单的误会!除非曹家人都疯了我想不出来一个符合逻辑的解释。我开始嫌疑卖抠没有告诉我所有的细节。。。我家里面的气氛变得很闷。

过几天,卖抠最后放弃了,说反正他和晓琳的思想差距太大了。他已经买好了回美国的飞机票。最后一天他都没有情绪说话,我为了让他高兴给他说一下“Chinglish”的笑话,这是,中国人讲英文的搞笑的小故事。。。突然那个时刻我来了灵感,想起来了答案。我马上拿一张纸再记下来他描述的那个对话记录。

最后时刻找到了答案 !

我居然了解到的是这个:卖抠和曹父母之间的问题原来不是文化差距,而是语言不通!卖抠在江西的时候无知无觉得讲了很奇怪的个语言,只有我们老外能听懂的:老外话,Laowainese。我把卖抠说的话都翻译成中文再写下来了。结果让我很惊讶!怪不得小林的爸爸发火!!

要是读者会“老外话”的话,你肯定早就搞明白了。为了帮助那些没学过“老外话”的中国朋友,下面考配过来了我的翻译。你可以把鼠标箭头放在划线的词语上,看看“老外话”的翻译。

这就是曹家人那天在吃晚饭当中听到的不可思议的谈话:

“卖抠,你先吃一点我们特色豆腐,” 曹妈妈说, “你们美国是不是没有豆腐吃的?”

“是的,基本上我们更喜欢吃屎。”

“啊,真的吗?” 曹妈妈奇怪地说。

曹爸爸打破了一时的沉默:“卖抠,你这几天在江西有什么计划,想去什么地方玩?”

“随便吧,我们美国最喜欢大便吃去自由自在地享受。”

“天哪!” 妈妈说, “你们真喜欢那个!”

“对,只要有司机解手,我们就很高兴随着他去”

曹妈妈的脸变得煞白,难过地说:“那么,我们晓琳也会参加那种活动吗?”

“对啊,她最喜欢,在美国的时候习惯了!”

曹爸爸打断问卖抠:“那到底你们要去什么地方?”

“我们去看哪里要流血

“怎么流血?“

“对啊,我很想去伤害她那边,她也喜欢被打,我们打架要解决流血的问题。”

“卖抠!你的父母叫什么名字!?”曹爸爸严厉地说。

他妈的笨死了!晓琳没有告诉你们吗?”

曹妈妈吓了一跳道:“她说过!说过!不过是我们忘记了,你先别急了。”

“你父母到底给你什么样的教育呢!” 曹爸说。

“这个。。。 基本上都是性交的教育”

“天哪!”

“对啊,老子也想跟晓琳一起了解一下。太太放心,虽然晓琳说她没经验,但只要吸毒吸毒道德经都可以掌握了!”

突然曹妈妈站起来哭着离开房间,卖抠没有太了解她是怎么一回事。

“真是!” 爸爸喊起来, “你真不要脸!看你把我女儿弄成这样!我告诉你,我们这家可能是落后,不了解西方流行的习惯。但至少我们有道德!我的女儿万万不会接受这种对待!!”

先生,我们打架可不是很好吗?”

“这里是个文明的家庭!你给我滚出去,否则我叫警察。你个流氓,你有严重的心理毛病,先回国看病,别赖着我们女儿!!!”

“可是。。我。。曹先生,晓琳到底在哪里啊!”

*  *  *

这就是我的老兄卖抠的故事。还好他那天没坐飞机,决定待在中国坚持找回他的心上人。他很辛苦,只有过几个月才找到了办法跟晓琳沟通,最后他们再合起来了。

那你们学中文的老外想一下,看中文里面的声调和发音是多么重要,以后好好学习。请大家不要再犯我的朋友卖抠的错误。

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NOTES:
  1. that is, you will be lost in the translation of Lost in Translation []



Comments so far ↓

  1. Apr
    29
    11:50
    PM
    George

    沙发!
    加油啊,写的挺好,词汇和语法都没问题,不过“Michale”,一般在中文里约定俗成的翻译成”麦克“或“迈克” :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    @George: 谢谢! 其实我写卖抠是故意的。。。 我觉得好玩, 你想晓琳的父母,他们的女婿还叫叫 “抠” 哈哈哈

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Apr
    30
    7:02
    AM
    Baoru

    Nice first story! Keep it up! :-) It would be funny if there is an audio file.

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Apr
    30
    9:27
    AM
    Giom

    J’ai compris la premiere phrase ! Je reviens avec des commentaires dans 3 mois.

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Apr
    30
    11:39
    AM
    Tom

    Bravo, Julen - reads really well. I’m inspired. The 他妈的笨死了 line made me laugh out loud because the Cao parents, not knowing English, might actually be convinced this is what he was saying. Others like 留学/流血 and 大便吃 seemed like a reach. Also, it didn’t seem like Michael’s problem was the formalness of his Chinese as explained in the first part but rather simply his tones. Keep the 中文 coming!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    Thanks Tom.

    You are right about the formalness. When I started writing the story the gags were a bit different, that is why I wrote that intro. I guess I should change it a bit.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    PS. regarding the 大便车, you might not remember, but it happened in real life and I think you were there. We asked our friend how to say “hitchhiking” and she answered 搭便车, immediately one of us repeated it as 大便吃… for a foreigner’s ear it really sounds very similar.

    In fact, it is so easy to do laowainese puns that they just keep happening all the time. In this story I actually only used about half of the ones I had jotted down. One of my favourites is “mineral water” as “rabies dog water”, figure that one out if you can.

    Anyway, you are right it is an incredible succession of coincidences to have all then these misunderstandings happen in one single conversation. But fiction would be so boring if it had to consider statistics… :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. Apr
    30
    11:50
    AM
    Julen Madariaga

    Thanks all.

    Giom: I am glad you liked the first line of the story, I am encouraged! Try to put this into the Google translator see what it gives :)

    - SPOILER -

    For those that don’t speak Chinese very well, here is my promised explanation. Just go straight to the last big chunk of dialog and check the underlined words. The whole story is based on the misunderstandings that you can see explained when you hover your mouse on those words.

    For those that don’t speak Chinese at all, here is the summary:

    My old friend Michael has studied Chinese and fallen in love with a local from Jiangxi called Xiaolin, so he comes to China for the first time to meet his gf’s parents. This is the setting for a series of language misunderstandings.

    Unfortunately, Michale has not learnt the tones properly and his mispronounced words tend to sound like swearwords and other very embarrassing things.

    Some cool features of the story are: Michael saying how he says he likes to eat shit, Michael describing his sado-masochists activities with Xiaolin, or Michael explaining to Xiaolin’s mom how he wants to teach her “sexual instruction” by taking drugs…

    … and all the while poor Michael was only speaking of his serious plans to travel and study with Xiaolin!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. Apr
    30
    7:49
    PM
    陈埃里克

    gosh! Your Chinese is sooo good. How long have you been learning Chinese?

    [Reply to this comment]

  7. Apr
    30
    10:26
    PM
    Julen Madariaga

    Thanks a lot! I would be more flattered if I hadn’t been hearing that same phrase every day, ever since the times when I could only say Nihao :)

    I have studied for about 3 years, but I was working fulltime all along and blogging for half of that time. I am still very far from complete fluency. But I still believe I might reach that point some day.

    [Reply to this comment]

  8. May
    1
    12:05
    AM
    Julen Madariaga

    UPDATE: I have reposted this on Tianya with a weird picture of a couple I found on the net. But the forum is so busy that posts get buried in 2 minutes, I need comments support.

    Come on people give me a click and a comment on this link, anything in any language will do!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  9. May
    2
    10:43
    AM
    kailing

    ”芝士“… 还好在台湾我们说“起司”,难怪中国人听不同我哈哈。应该用真中文的”奶酪“哈哈。

    [Reply to this comment]

  10. May
    2
    9:25
    PM
    cyn

    写的很好啊。加油啊!
    给你讲个笑话, 我刚进公司的时候,我常常听到同事说: xiao bian chu qu le! xiao bian lai le! 我觉得这个公司的人怎么那么随便啊! 后来才知道,我们公司的司机姓: 卞(bian)。大家都叫他“小卞” 。。。

    [Reply to this comment]

  11. May
    2
    10:36
    PM
    Julen Madariaga

    呵呵呵, 你这个同事个变态。。

    反正你知道三年前刚到中国的时候我中文真是很差,早上上班听我同事说“早!”, 我的听力不好,不太分声调。。。

    结果我也开始每天向我同事们很热情地说: “操!”, “操!”, ”操!“。

    [Reply to this comment]

    Fu Ting Reply:

    @Julen Madariaga,
    我觉得这个也可以放到你以后的小说里去
    我很想知道后来你的同事沈么反应呢?

    [Reply to this comment]

  12. May
    2
    11:03
    PM
    cyn

    才不是变态呢。 卞(bian)是在《百家姓》中是第86为啊!! 是个真正的姓!

    [Reply to this comment]

  13. May
    7
    12:16
    PM
    sfs

    天雷滚滚

    [Reply to this comment]

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