Life’s greatest mistake

Wednesday, 19th March, 2014

杨澜 (yáng lán / Yang Lan) is a Chinese media proprietor, journalist, and talk show hostess. She hosts an interesting interview programme called Yang Lan One-on-One (杨澜访谈录 yáng lán fǎng tán lù), and she has a couple of microblogs on Sina Weibo (1, 2). Plenty of realia for the dilettante language learner.

The microblog linked to her TV programme often has themed posts — e.g., quotations translated from English, excerpts from recently published books. One theme is called #杨访晚安句子# (yáng fǎng wǎn ‘ān jù zi / Yang’s goodnight sentence). These posts have a mildly uplifting or challenging homily, with a “goodnight” (晚安 / wǎn ‘ān) sign-off.

Here’s one from 18th March 2014:



** gloss

zh: 每一次轻易的放弃,
py: měi yī cì qīng yì de fàng qì,
en: every time easily give up,
zh: 都是人生的一处败笔。
py: dōu shì rén shēng de yī chù bài bǐ.
en: this is life’s one mistake.

A full idiomatic translation might be something like, “to give up easily every time is the greatest mistake in life”.

Some web service translators:

  • google: Each easily give up, life is a big mistake
  • bing: Give up easily every time, is the life of places

** style notes

Chinese and English are so different that anything beyond a literal translation, which would not be very idiomatic English, must be regarded as an interpretation, or a paraphrase, or a version.

** vocabulary

轻易 qīng yì (adv) easily, lightly
放弃 fàng qì (v) abandon, give up
人生 rén shēng (n) life
chù (m) place, event, location
败笔 bài bǐ (n) false stroke, mistake

** grammar notes

  1. 都 (dōu) is used to emphasise the second phrase.
  2. 处 (chù) is a measure word for places or locations, e.g.,

    fā xiàn liǎng chù cuò wù
    find two mistakes


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