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In-Depth Source Text Comprehension: A Very Simple Example

November 7, 2017

In a recent translation project of mine, there was a sentence about a policy where person A is forbidden from discussing certain details with person B. How would you translate "discuss" into Chinese here? Before you dismiss my question for its insulting simplicity, let me preface it by saying that I don't think the answer is 讨论 and confess that I was very close to going auto-pilot before I caught myself. 

 

The pitfall here is that the word "discuss" sounds so elevated that we forget it also means, simply, to talk about something with someone. Compare that with the other meaning of "discuss," which is to have a more formal and detailed exchange of opinion or debate. That's why the correct translation here should be 谈论 instead of 讨论.

 

In translation, every word choice matters. And that starts with perfectly accurate understanding of every word in the source text. Next time someone says translation is not that hard, show them this very simple example. 

 

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