On Translation—An Expanded Edition

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Co-authored by Eugene Nida and JIN Di, On Translation was first published in 1984 by the China Translation and Publishing Corporation in Beijing. It is widely recognized as a classic in translation theory with a practical orientation.

Following the theoretical framework Nida had developed over decades of work on translation and semiotics, the two authors offer an easily comprehensible analysis of the complex problems involved in translation. After a critical review of the historical development of translation theory in the light of modern information theory, they elucidate the most fundamental principles of translation in accordance with the concept of dynamic equivalence. The treatment is closely related to actual translation practice, and the principles elucidated are applicable to all types of translation, though most of the examples analyzed are taken from translations between Chinese and English.

This new and expanded edition has two main parts. Part I is the complete text of the original work as published in the early 1980s. Part II consists of six of Professor Jin’s more recent essays, which provide further insights into the principle of equivalent effect and its applications in literary translation. Particular attention is paid to practical procedures and the extremely complex relationship between creative translation and real fidelity.

Appended is “A Translator’s Life,” an interview conducted recently in Ireland that reveals much about Professor Jin’s background and career as a renowned translator and translation theorist.
Pub. Date
Mar 1, 2006
352 pages
152 x 229 mm

This book is the outgrowth of the first author’s years of experience in lecturing on translation theory and practice at Nankai University and the Foreign Languages Institute of Tianjin

This book is the outgrowth of the first author’s years of experience in lecturing on translation theory and practice at Nankai University and the Foreign Languages Institute of Tianjin, China. His personal experience as a translator and translation consultant has enriched the presentation with significant examples of translation problems and solutions. The second author has contributed the theoretical framework, as reflected in a number of his books and technical articles.

The primary purpose of this volume is to provide a theoretical orientation and practical help to translators dealing with the numerous difficulties involved in translating from English into Chinese and from Chinese into English. In addition, this material can be useful to personsconcerned with the broader implications of interlingual communication, since the underlying basis for the principles and procedures is essentially sociosemiotic in that the concept of dynamicequivalence in translating focuses on the meaning for receptors.

The pinyin system is followed in this book in the transliteration of Chinese words, but for the convenience of people not familiar with the system, usually a hyphen is placed between syllables (e.g., pin-yin).

The first author wishes to express his special thanks to the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia for making possible his research and study in the United States. He is also indebted to Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University formaking academic facilities available to him.

He is also grateful to the Warden and Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford University, for the Visiting Fellowship they offered him just at the time when this work was being completed. It gave him an opportunity to discuss the problems involved with many scholars in England, particularly Sir William Empson, Mr. Rom Harre, Dr. David Hawkes and Professor Rodney Needham, who read the typescript and made valuable suggestions for improvement. Likewise, he is deeply indebted to Professor and Mrs. Hans H. Frankel of Yale University for reading and commenting on the typescript as well as offering him their generous hospitality in their house while he was working on it.

A special word of appreciation is due those colleagues and friends who read and commented on various parts of the work before the final, co-authored stage, without whose kind encouragement it might never have reached it.

A word of thanks is also due Dr. Louis Dorn and Mrs. Leila Wright who have provided so much valuable help in the editing and typing of the manuscript.


Jin Di
Tianjin, China

Eugene A. Nida
Greenwich, Ct., USA


Part I—On Translation

  1. More Freedom for the Translator
  2. Tackling the Task
  3. Translating Means Communicating
  4. Overcoming the Barrier
  5. Orientations in Translating
  6. The Target Area
  7. Taking the Text Apart
  8. Meaning by Context
  9. Translation Procedures

Part II—Supplements    

    I.    The Great Sage in Literary Translation
   II.    Contra-Bly Stages of Translation  
  III.    翻譯的步驟
  IV.   惱人的抉擇
   V.   Literature and Exoticism
A Translator's Life—An Interview with Jin Di