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Hi,everyone.
These days I am invited to give lectures on English writing to adult students on an in-service training programme. Yesterday morning, during recess, one of the students asked me about how to translate a company motto. The company, a building material manufacturer, intends to place the English translation of the motto right under its Chinese equivalent on its Brief-Introduction webpage. Its classical Chinese motto is "言行九鼎 德通天下",which is usually used to describe a paragon of virtue and literally means "He always lives up to his words and enjoys high public regard." In my view, although a company seeking prosperity can be compared to a man who always wishes for respect from others, it may be a better idea to have the literal meaning of the Chinese motto slightly altered to suit this business situation. I plan to translate it as "Honesty is the best policy and quality matters most, we believe." I won't have the English translation corresponding word for word with the original version, for literal translation oftentimes confuse and mislead the readers. Rather, I think this treatment works best: the Chinese version will be intended for the Chinese readers while the English version will be instantly understood by international visitors of the webpage. I would like to have your comments on the acceptability of my English translation on the part of native speakers.
Thanks.
Richard
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Comments  
Your translation certainly gives a clear idea, but it seems a little long and wordy. How about:
"Where honesty and quality are standard".
Hi,
"He always lives up to his words and enjoys high public regard."

I plan to translate it as "Honesty is the best policy and quality matters most, we believe."

It's obviously a loose translation, since I see nothing in the original about 'quality'.

However, you know best. Do you need the words 'we believe'? It seems to me that would be understood, and adding the phrase makes the motto seem weaker and more tentative.

Best wishes, Clive
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ohmyrichardI won't have the English translation corresponding word for word with the original
Don't worry about that! Having done some translation myself, and having read a good deal on the subject, I can assure you that literal translation is not a good idea. Translate the original into its thought; then translate the thought into the target language. The words of the target language have to communicate the same thought as the thought communicated by the original. Determining the thought may take you into strange territory -- such as the meaning of the original words within their own culture. That should not be a cause for worry. I have seen fine translations of whole sentences where not a single word of the original, literally translated, appears in the translation.

If I were you in this case, I would search out company mottos and advertisements in English. Lately the preference has been for clever language -- double entendres, puns, and the like:

For paper towels: Softness on a roll.
For investments: The company you keep.
For jewelry (Kay Company): Every kiss begins with Kay.

Some thesaurus work may also suggest further ideas.

CJ
I should admit that I know so little about how to translate mottos. Do you mean it is sufficient to have "Where honesty and quality are standard" for this corporate situation? But it is an incomplete sentence? Do we need to add "This(Our company) is" and have "This is where honesty and quality are standard"?
Thanks.
Richard
Thanks for reminding me that "we believe" weakens the motto. The classical Chinese phrases,which are usually used to describe a person of high prestige, are invoked in this corporate situation to imply that this company will make every effort to ensure the quality of its products. Quality is implied and should be emphasized in the translation; otherwise, the translation would be nonsensical to international visitors or customers, in my view.
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Hi,CJ.
Thanks for your advice. I will take it and do the search job.
Hi,
Do you mean it is sufficient to have "Where honesty and quality are standard" for this corporate situation? But it is an incomplete sentence? Do we need to add "This(Our company) is" and have "This is where honesty and quality are standard"?

A motto is typically either a short sentence or simply a phrase. It's your choice.

Clive
ohmyrichardI should admit that I know so little about how to translate mottos. Do you mean it is sufficient to have "Where honesty and quality are standard" for this corporate situation? But it is an incomplete sentence? Do we need to add "This(Our company) is" and have "This is where honesty and quality are standard"?
Thanks.
Richard

You don't need to worry about a complete sentence in this case.
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