Dropping the you? The Asian response to imperative voice.

Subject: Dropping the you? The Asian response to imperative voice.
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 12:57:17 -0400

Richard Combs wrote (and others have noted similarly): <<When you're writing _in_English_, shouldn't your style -- sentence structure, tone, voice, etc. -- be appropriate for _English_? Shouldn't people reading a document written _in_English_ expect it to sound like it was written by an _English-speaking_ person _for_ an _English-speaking_ person? Why is cultural sensitivity a one-way street?>>

Yes, and indeed this is why so many of my Chinese colleagues claim that they have no problems with English documents: they know what to expect, and have become skilled at dealing with it. But where it's easy to adapt your approach to make it more palatable to those for whom English isn't a first language, and where doing so doesn't pose any problems to your English readers, why not do so? It takes a bit of effort initially to modify your approach, but it becomes easier with time.

<<When your doc is translated to Japanese, Swahili, Urdu, or whatever -- that's when it's appropriate to make it sound like it was written by a speaker of that language _for_ a speaker of that language. Seems to me that's one of the reasons why localization is more than just translation -- and costs so much. :-)>>

Indeed. As a translator, I'm a vigorous proponent of the notion that translation is nearly as demanding an act of writing as the original creation of the document you're translating. Sometimes more so. To me, the point is that we can go a considerable distance towards localizing our English writing just be remaining aware of our own rhetorical conventions, and particularly of nonstandard uses of English (i.e., idiom) and double meanings (as opposed to intentional puns).

Speaking of which, and sort of on topic, I have a Chinese client who greets me in English, but heavily inflected by proper Chinese formal wording: by my last name. So she always begins her letters with "Dear Hart". <g> I like her too, but probably not as much as one might infer from that opening line.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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RE: Dropping the you? The Asian response to imperative voice.: From: Combs, Richard

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