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  • Writer's pictureYK CHEUNG

'Rolling plan': how should it be translated into Chinese?

'Rolling' in the sense of 'progressive / subject to periodic review', for example, 'rolling programme', 'rolling policy', and 'rolling plan', seems to have been mechanically translated as gǔndòng shì 滾動式 in commercial and administrative texts in recent years, which makes strange reading in Chinese.

The unnatural rendition is attributed to the automatic extension of the primary sense (i.e. 'something that rolls') of the adjective to its transferred meaning. Whilst the same adjective may be applicable to a wide range of contexts in English, its Chinese translation may probably expected to be more context-specific, for the Chinese language is comparatively more concrete than its English counterpart. Take 'film', 'album' and 'marriage' for example. Whilst they may all be modified by 'successful', the adjective has to be rendered differently.

To sound natural in Chinese, a rule of thumb of translating English adjectives is, very often, post-modification: place the adjective after the noun in the Chinese translation. For instance, instead of 'gǔndòng shì dì hǎiwài fāzhǎn jìhuà 滾動式的海外發展計劃', post-modification may be called into play in the translation of the following sentence:

Our country has just put forward a rolling overseas development plan.

Wǒguó gānggāng tíchūle hǎiwài fāzhǎn de jìhuà, bìng huì dìngqí jiǎntǎo xiūdìng.我國剛剛提出了海外發展的計劃,並會定期檢討修訂。

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