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This is an interesting topic that I came across on Yahoo knowledge.   

 

請問「幸福如履薄冰」的英文可以翻作
1.  Happy, cautious
2.  Happy be cautious, as if treading on thin ice.
3.  Happy is like standing on ice.

4.  Happy is like skating on thin ice.

My answer is no because there are errors in grammar, usage and logic. 

 

1.  Happy, Caution.  (X)

You should not use an adjective “happy” as a subject. 

 

So, would it be accurate if we change the word to a noun?  "Happiness, Caution", as compared to "Lust, Caution".  "Lust, Caution" means you should proceed with caution when dealing with lust. It wouldn't apply in this situation as usually we won't caution people when facing happiness. 

 

"Happiness, Caution" does not sound right because you may now commit an error in logic instead of an error in grammar.  It sounds weird to ask people to proceed with caution when dealing with happiness without providing further information.  Some phrases are easy to be read between the lines while others will only confuse the readers. 

 

2.  Happy be cautious, as if treading on thin ice.    (X)

This is incorrect because it is misleading for the first half of the sentence.  People could easily think of “Happy” as someone’s name. 

 

The correct grammar is    

=> Happy, be cautious, as if you are treading on thin ice.      

In this statement, you are asking the person named “Happy” to be cautious as if he is treading on thin ice.

 

But then this has nothing to do with happiness at all.

 

3.  Happy is like standing on ice.  (X)

4.  Happy is like skating on thin ice.  (X)

 

Again, “happy” as an adjective cannot be used as a subject here.

 

So, would it be accurate if we change the word to a noun?

Happiness is like standing on ice.

Happiness is like skating on thin ice.

 

No.  How can you describe happiness as standing on ice or skating on thin ice? 

 

 “Skating on thin ice” is an idiom which means in a risky situation. Standing on ice - merely states the fact that you are standing on ice. When you say that someone is skating on thin ice, you mean that he/she is in a risky situation or that he/she is doing something risky or likely to be risky or something that can lead to a risky situation.
See http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/skate+on+thin+ice 

 

 

You can say that I saw a polar bear standing on ice, which merely means that the polar bear is standing on ice.

 

Or you can say that stealing is like skating on ice.  You can associate stealing with skating on ice because stealing is a risky business.  How can you associate happiness with something risky?   

 

 

 

Now back to the question of how we can provide better translation.

 

First of all, the text to be translated needs to be an accurate usage.  The phrase "幸福如履薄冰" sounds really awkward to me.  How can you translate something that doesn’t sound accurate to begin with? 

Second, the biggest flaw in this translation is language interference error. Transferring the rules of foreign language to express something in English will lead to grammar and usage errors. You need to think in English when you write in English. You need to understand American/British culture. You need to use correct spelling, punctuation and grammar. You need to learn to use an English-English dictionary, which provides accurate meaning and usage of words.

 

If we expand the phrase 「幸福如履薄冰」to: “幸福得來不易, 稍縱即逝, 要持「如履薄冰」的態度, 小心謹慎對待之”, we can probably translate it as:

 

Happiness does not come by easily.  It is so fragile. Just as if you are skating on thin ice, you could risk it all if you don't cherish happiness dearly.

 

Since the original phrase to be translated is somewhat incomplete, it is really up to the translators' interpretation and imagination. The important thing is to avoid committing usage and grammar errors.

 

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  • Sheila
  • It's  really a good topic!!I agree with your comments!!
  • Thanks for dropping by. 

    elisaenglish 於 2009/06/20 20:40 回覆