Translating Hybrid Texts in Hong Kong: A Case Study of the English Translation of Chan Koon Chung’s Fiction Jindu cha canting
Topic: Translating Hybrid Texts in Hong Kong: A Case Study of the English Translation of Chan Koon Chung’s Fiction Jindu cha canting
Time: 14:30 December 8th, 2023 (Friday)
Speaker’s Biography :
Prof. Dechao Li
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Dr. Dechao Li is a Professor in the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He also serves as the Chief Editor of Translation Quarterly, a journal published by the Hong Kong Translation Society. His research interests include corpus-based translation studies, empirical approaches to translation process research, the history of translation in the late Qing and early Republican periods, and PBL (problem-based learning) and translator/interpreter training. He has published over 70 articles in journals both domestically and internationally. One of his most recent works, Transcultural Poetics (co-edited with Yifeng Sun), was published by Routledge in 2023.
Chan Koon Chung (1952—) is a native Hong Kong writer whose fiction is largely inspired by the city’s kaleidoscopic urban life, and depicts the "petty" stories of people from all walks of life he has closely observed since childhood. Written in a mixture of Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, his stories often blend different cultures in Hong Kong, including British and Chinese cultures, as well as minor ones such as Indian, Pakistani, and Nepalese cultures. As a result, he has been called “a pioneering critic for metropolitan life and culture.”
Chan's fiction embodies particular colonial historical and linguistic features of Hong Kong, offering unique insights into the special “sub-system” of modern Chinese literature that is Hong Kong's modern literature. His stories are also hybrid or “métisses” texts, as described by Samia Mehrez, due to the culture-linguistic layering that exists within them.
This talk examines the English translation of Chan Koon Chung’s fiction Jindu cha canting (Can-do Tea Restaurant) to reveal how the hybrid features of the original work were translated and whether the image of the “colonial self,” as characterized by the protagonist, was accurately reproduced. The analysis reveals that Chan’s creative use of language hybridity, including language varieties, idiolects, jargon, metaphors, puns, coinage, and allusions, which were meant to create a “new language,” was significantly downplayed in the translation. As a result, the “in-between” cultural space of the protagonist, typically represented by the superimposition of these hybrid linguistic features, was severely undermined.
The talk concludes by arguing for the necessity of adopting a scenes-and-frames model in the translation of hybrid literature. This approach encourages the translator to approach the text holistically, invoking all related knowledge essential to understand linguistic signs before choosing top-down overall translation strategies and making bottom-up translation solutions.