05 Apr 2004
Here’s a test for your Chinese friends:
The caption says, “Where is the renxingdao?” I can’t simply translate renxingdao. That’s the whole point of this post.
I came across this problem a while ago, but I didn’t examine the question carefully until it became involved with my work. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of translation from Chinese into English. It’s not just any Chinese, but Taiwanese Chinese. This means I have to read traditional characters (which I’m happy about — it’s good practice, and not really very hard), and it also means that I have to deal with regional vocabulary variations (e.g. in Taiwan, the word 脚踏车 (jiaotache) seems to be used much more often for “bicycle” than in mainland China, where 自行车 (zixingche) is the norm).
I thought the word renxingdao might be one of those cases of different usages, but it turned out to be universally confusing, whether I was asking mainlanders or Taiwanese.
Let me cut to the chase. In my experience, if you ask a Chinese person where the renxingdao is in the above image, they’re almost equally likely to point to the crosswalk as the sidewalk.
This is kinda hard to take, because it seems like the distinction is an important one, seeing as how one of them happens to be in the middle of the road. I asked quite a few people this morning (from both sides of the strait), and I got them all embroiled in a debate as to what exactly a renxingdao is. They came up with all kinds of alternate nomenclature for both “crosswalk” as well as “sidewalk,” but came to no conclusion as to the precise meaning of renxingdao.
Ah, language issues. The translation work continues. I’m learning a lot.
NOTE: the above image is the famous Abbey Road. The image was taken from this site.