Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, March 12, 2004

Publishers balance translation speed, quality to fight against pirates

Only three months after the international best-seller, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", was published, the Chinese version hit local book stores.


Only three months after the international best-seller, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", was published, the Chinese version hit local book stores.

Although the publication of the Chinese version of the fifth in the "Harry Potter" series was the first of all other translated versions, five months ahead of the Russian version for instance, Chinese readers were still not satisfied, as they scrambled for pirated copies before the official version was launched.

Han Ju, a reader who had already bought two pirated versions of the book said, "I can't wait to read the book. Harry Potter fans are eager to know the story's plots rather than details, so the trivial mistakes of the pirates are negligible."

"The pirates put a lot of pressure on us," said Sun Shunlin, director of the People's Literature Publishing House, the book's Chinese copyright holder.

"The quality of pirated versions are very poor. Translators omit many parts of the book if they don't understand them," said head of the publishing house Liu Yushan.

"In the open market, publishers will hurry if readers require speed," said Xu Xuejun, an editor at Tsinghua University Press, the publishing house of one of China's top universities.

Insiders know that a good translation takes time.

Soccer star David Beckham's autobiography "My Side", with some 300,000 words, was translated into Chinese by 12 people within a week, but it drew criticism from media home and abroad for its poor quality.

Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" was hugely popular in China for about 10 years, but critics claimed to find many mistakes in the translation.

China's translation market has an economic potential of 12 billion yuan (1.5 billion US dollars), of which the country's 3,000 translation companies can only handle one-tenth, the Beijing News newspaper reported.

"The competition has become more intense, while the translation market lacks order. Some companies provide fast but poor translations at low prices," said Zhang Nanjun, a senior official of the China Translators Association.

In December 2003, the State Commission for the Administration of Standardization issued a set of voluntary standards for translation services, defining the responsibilities of translation service providers.

Jinma Book Translation Company, a professional translation studio, is a newcomer to the market. Chief translator Yang Dayong is optimistic about the company's future. "We divide the translating and publishing work, which is the best solution to improving a book's translation quality without losing speed," he said.


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