Bad Sample Sentences
25 Feb 2006
I’m currently doing some editing work for a Taiwanese book on English. It’s one of those books that takes the most common English words, organizes them alphabetically, then provides a Chinese translation, English sample sentence, and Chinese translation of said sample sentence for each word. Now, since each word only gets one sample sentence, it’s important that the usage in each sentence (1) corresponds to the most common meaning of that word, and (2) provides clear usage of the word.
OK, now let’s look at two entries I was given:
1. are (v. 是): You are kindly. 你很亲切。
2. bun (n. 小圆面包) Mary always wore her hair in a bun. 玛莉总是把她的头发挽成一个圆髻。
Even if you can’t understand the sample sentence in #1, if you look carefully, you can see that the definition (v. 是) given is nowhere to be found in the sample sentence. This is because of a major difference between Chinese and English grammar. The person writing the sentence seems to be completely unaware of this point. Since the author is choosing the definitions, doesn’t it make sense to choose sample sentences in English which can be translated in such a way that the word in the definition will appear in the sample translated sentence? Well, not to some people, apparently.
I think my complaint with #2 is pretty clear. A sample sentence should use the basic meaning of the sentence, not some relatively obscure derived meaning.
Man, I thought I was going to breeze through this editing job in a few hours, but since I have to rewrite/retranslate so many of these sentences, I’ve already spent over 2 hours on vocabulary for letters A and B alone. Good thing it pays by the hour.