“I find several things challenging when I translate Korean into English. One is repetition: Korean novels can meander and repeat words or phrases or parts of scenes, but that doesn’t translate well into English. It tends to read like a mistake. And to find the right balance between the author’s voice and English literary conventions is fairly difficult. Another is the fluidity of tenses. For Please Look After Mom, there was a lot of confusion among English speaking readers about the chronology of events, especially when a character, in the middle of a present scene, reminisces about past events, and from there, refers to past events that are closer to the present, or even further in the past. The editor, the author, and I, played with page breaks and making new paragraphs and moving paragraphs around before we settled on the final version.”
“Singular ‘their’ etc., was an accepted part of the English language before the 18th-century grammarians started making arbitrary judgements as to what is ‘good English’ and ‘bad English’, based on a kind of pseudo-‘logic’ deduced from the Latin language, that has nothing whatever to do with English. “
(Update: domain expired, have changed link to mirror, thanks Steve!)
“We all know that we refer to a group of fish as a ‘school’ and a group of elephants as a ‘herd.’ […] Where did such terms come from — and why are they needed?
”[…] In the very little Chinese I learned as a child, I recall that there are such terms in the Chinese language. These ‘modifiers’ typically accompany the noun and often refer to quantity or measure. There’s a generic modifier (‘ge’), but use of a modifier specific to the noun is far preferred. My mother cautioned me that to use ‘ge’ instead of the specific modifier is a sign of lack of education. As an American-born Chinese, learning Chinese was tough enough without having to learn a gaggle of modifying terms! Perhaps that’s why I gave up studying Chinese (much to my later regret).
“So there’s an answer parallel with the English ‘why’ question: to indicate degree of education. But the Chinese language has a much more fundamental reason for having such modifiers.”