Monday, November 30, 2009

A request to translate a letter

Last week, my friend sent me this letter that someone had forwarded to her in the mail. She found the letter meaningful and asked that I translate this letter for her. Me??? I am so touched that my friend thought of me. I take this as an exercise for me to acquire more Mandarin vocabulary. As my Mandarin is way below the standard for spontaneous translation, I will have to call upon my Firefox Perakun aid. This software is already installed in my PC and all I need to do is to activate it and mouse over the Chinese characters and the hanyu pinyin as well as the meaning of the character will appear. So I will give it my best shot and here it is:

香港名DJ 梁继璋给儿子的信
A well-known DJ from Hong Kong : Liang Ji Zhang's advice to his son.

梁继璋(1955年8月17日-),英文名Michael, 前香港电台第二台节目主持人,也是一位名DJ、作家, 曾从事广告、电视台等媒体创作。
Liang Ji Zhang (17 Aug 1955), English name: Michael, an ex-Hong Kong Radio 2 Programme Director, also a DJ and author. He was in charge of Advertising, Tv and other Media Productions.

My son:

This memo that I am writing to you is based on the following three principles:

(一)人生福祸无常,谁也不知可以活多久, 有些事情还是早一点说好。
1. Life's fortunes and misfortunes do not last forever. No one knows how long we will live. There are some things that are best said earlier.

2. I am your father and if I do not say this to you, no one else will.

(三)这备忘录里记载的,都是我经过惨痛失败得回来的体验, 可以为你的成长省回不少冤枉路。
3. Recorded in this memo are my painful experiences of failure that will save you much agony in your growing-up years.

(一)对你不好的人,你不要太介怀,在你一生中, 没有人有义务要对你好,除了我和你妈妈。
Do not treat people who are not good to you like bosom friends for no one is obliged to be good to you other than myself and your mother.

至於那些对你好的人,你除了要珍惜、感恩外,也请多防备一点, 因为,每个人做每件事,总有一个原因,他对你好,未必真的是因为喜欢你,请你必须搞清楚, 而不必太快将对方看作真朋友。

As for people who are good to you, other than treasuring and being thankful their friendship be on your guard because everyone who does something good for you may not be doing so out of genuine liking for you. You have to be very clear about this point.

(二)没有人是不可代替,没有东西是必须拥有。看透了这一点, 将来你身边的人不再要你,或许
失去了世间上最爱的一切时, 也应该明白,这并不是甚么大不了的事。
No one is irreplaceable and there is no object or material good that we cannot do without. Once you are aware of this, you will not be too overly affected when those who are close to you leave you or when you lose what you love most in life.

(三)生命是短暂的,今日你还在浪费着生命, 明日会发觉生命已远离你了。
Life is short. Today you are wasting your life, tomorrow you may discover that life has left you.
因此,愈早珍惜生命, 你享受生命的日子也愈多,与其盼望长寿,倒不如早点享受。
That is why, the more you value life, the more you will enjoy it. It is better to enjoy life than to wish for a long life.

(四)世界上并没有最爱这回事,爱情只是一种霎时的感觉, 而这感觉绝对会随时日、心境而改变。如果你的所谓最爱离开你, 请耐心地等候一下,让时日慢慢冲洗,让心灵慢慢沉淀, 你的苦就会慢慢淡化。不要过分憧憬爱情的美, 不要过分夸大失恋的悲。
There is no such thing as the ultimate love in this world. Love is a kind of feeling that is just passing by like a drizzle and it follows the vicissitudes of time. Situations or circumstances related to love can change. If your so-called love leaves you, be patient and wait a while. Let time wash away your pain slowly; let your spirit slowly come to rest, then your agony will slowly dissipate. Do not destroy love's beauty unnecessarily and do not unnecessarily exaggerate the pain in losing one's love.

(五)虽然,很多有成就的人士都没有受过很多教育, 但并不等如不用功读书,就一定可以成功。你学到的知识, 就是你拥有的武器。人,可以白手兴家,但不可以手无寸铁,紧记!
Although there are many successful people who have not received much formal education, it does not mean that you do not need to study hard in order to be successful in life. What you have gained in knowledge through learning becomes your weapon or artillary. We can start a family with nothing but we cannot be totally unarmed or un-equipped in life.

(六)我不会要求你供养我下半辈子, 同样地我也不会供养你的下半辈子,当你长大到可以独立的时候, 我的责任已经完结。以後,你要坐巴士还是Benz, 吃鱼翅还是粉丝,都要自己负责。
We will not ask you to look after us when we are old and likewise, we will not support you forever. When you become independent, our responsibilities will end. In future, it will be entirely in your hands, whether you will be taking a bus or driving a Mercedes Benz and whether you can afford to eat sharksfin or plain noodles.

(七)你可以要求自己守信,但不能要求别人守信, 你可以要求自己对人好,但不能期待人家对你好。你怎样对人,并不代表人家就会怎样对你,如果看不透这一点, 你只会徒添不必要的烦恼。
You can make it your responsibility to become a reliable person but you cannot ask others to be reliable. You can be good to people but you cannot ask others to be good to you. How you treat others will not guarantee that you receive the same treatment from them. If you cannot understand this point, you will increase your worries and vexations unnecessarily.

(八)我买了十多二十年六合彩,还是一穷二白,连三奖也没有中, 这证明人要发达,还是要努力工作才可以,世界上并没有免费午餐。
I have been buying lottery tickets for ten or twenty years now and I have yet to win a prize, not even third prize. This proves that if we are to do well in life, we need to work for it because there are no free lunches in this world.

(九)亲人只有一次的缘份,无论这辈子我和你会相处多久, 也请好好珍惜共聚的时光,下辈子,无论爱与不爱,都不会再见。
Fate brings close ones together only once. No matter how long we can be together, we should treasure the time we have with each other. In the next life, be there love or no love, we will never meet again.

Your father
Liang Ji Zhang

Translating this letter has been hard work and though it is not equivalent to hard labour in a padi field, I am quite exhausted at the end of almost two hours of working on this translation not to mention that I had to convert the Traditional Chinese text into simplified Chinese text using a free software on the internet that I have linked to on this blog. I did not want to translate too literally for the sentences would look stilted and unnatural. So most of the time I had to struggle to understand the meaning and then to put it across in the appropriate structure in English.

I thank my friend for enabling me to discover a new way of learning by her sincerity in wanting to share the contents of this letter which surmounts language. Once you know what the father really wants to impart to his son - life's important principles in life - you will forget the pain of having to labour through the translation.

I have one thing to say about the heated and passionate debates going on in our forum pages of our newspaper (The Straits Times) currently:

We cannot blame anyone or anything if we fail to master a language after 9 years of formal instruction in school. Do not blame the teachers, the educational policies, the lack of aptitude etc if you have gained nothing from it other than aversion to studying Chinese. We only have ourselves to blame for not having had the interest in school and we cannot also blame anyone for not creating that interest in us to learn Mandarin. No one can make us do anything if we are convinced that we are totally hopeless in learning a language be it Mandarin, Japanese or French. It is all in the mind. Look at me I may not have mastered Mandarin but from the time I started I have made significant progress. Chinese characters used to break-dance before my eyes, now they disco and soon with time, they will just do the samba or the cha cha and then it will be a waltz....