1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    company motto

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ohmyrichard, Feb 4, 2009.

    Hi,everyone.
    These days I am invited to give lectures on English writing to adult students on an in-service training programme. Yesterday morning, during recess, one of the students asked me about how to translate a company motto. The company, a building material manufacturer, intends to place the English translation of the motto right under its Chinese equivalent on its Brief-Introduction webpage. Its classical Chinese motto is "言行九鼎 德通天下",which is usually used to describe a paragon of virtue and literally means "He always lives up to his words and enjoys high public regard." In my view, although a company seeking prosperity can be compared to a man who always wishes for respect from others, it may be a better idea to have the literal meaning of the Chinese motto slightly altered to suit this business situation. I plan to translate it as "Honesty is the best policy and quality matters most, we believe." I won't have the English translation corresponding word for word with the original version, for literal translation oftentimes confuse and mislead the readers. Rather, I think this treatment works best: the Chinese version will be intended for the Chinese readers while the English version will be instantly understood by international visitors of the webpage. I would like to have your comments on the acceptability of my English translation on the part of native speakers.
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    From the English you have provided (for sadly I don't read Chinese) perhaps a better translation may be 'True to their word: quality through and through' or perhaps just use one of these mottos as the two don't link very well together. Have two mottos!
     
  3. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks. But I find it a little hard to understand "quality through and through". Would you please explain it a little bit more?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  4. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    From: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/through_and_through

    Adverb: "through and through" - (idiomatic) Completely; entirely; fundamentally.

    "He moved from Cincinnatti to San Francisco, but he's still a Bengals fan, through and through."
     
  5. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    I think the phrase "lost in translation" applies here. Something like, "Always maintaining honesty and prestige" or "Stiving for" or "... are important", ect. "Honesty" and "prestige" seem like the two key words there, IMO.
     
  6. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The correct idea must be determined from the motto's purpose. If it is for external, marketing type use where the brand is associated with the motto (or rather slogan), then my approach may be better.

    If the motto is purely for internal use within the company, to act as its core principals or as a beacon of motivation, then I agree Penny, your approach would be the better. Kind regards
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Richard, to me your interpretive translation does not say the same thing as the direct translation you provided. Honesty is a much broader and unfocused term than always living up to one's word.

    A good equivalent might be, "His word is his bond, and he earns respect."

    Also, "I believe" weakens a corporate motto. It hints that an acceptable alternate view can exist. Strong assertions are the stuff of corporate mottos.
     
  8. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    I agree with the "I believe" part weakening the motto. I pretty much thought the same thing when I read it. I also agree that "honesty" is not the same thing as living up to your word. People who keep their word are honest, but not all honest people live up to their word. That first part says to me, "If I say I am going to something, I do it." That's determination and dependability, not honesty.

    Maybe you could go with one of these:

    Dependable and Proud

    or

    Hard-working, Dependable, and Proud

    or

    Determination and Pride

    or

    Hard work, Determination, and Pride
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    "He always lives up to his words and enjoys high public regard."

    Richard, from time I spent in Hong Kong, I learned that Chinese expressions often combine a sentiment with a moral consequence. By the way, that language format is a very endearing quality in your culture. If you wish to capture the same theme in English translation, then it should (as Cogito says) be kept short and powerful, and it must capture the essence of the original Chinese expression.

    Let's analyze the original statement.

    "He always lives up to his words.." This clause is about keeping promises.

    "...and enjoys high public regard." This clause is about the approval you receive for keeping promises.

    If I was to create an equivalent sentiment in English, one specifically designed for business application (as Gannon pointed out), then it would read like this:

    Corporate motto: "Promises made; promises kept. Ask any of our customers."

    A two part expression like this addresses both issues. First, it borrows from a common English language phrase (promises made; promises kept) that means the speaker always strives to keep promises. Second, it directly connects the first value (keeping promises) with public approval in the form of satisfied customers, which, for the business world, is the equivalent of public recognition.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I saw the motto as a mission statement for the employees, whereas I think others are looking at it as an advertising slogan.

    Mission statements are concise statements of official priorities that employees are expected to take to heart in their day to day work.

    Advertising slogans, of course, are intended to make potential customers look favorably on the company. They can be, and usually are, considerably more vague, because they don't have anything to do with policy. In fact, if they are too precise, customers may try to treat them as part of the contract of doing business with the company.
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    An English language motto is, as you are aware, not intended for a Chinese speaking employee group. It is clearly aimed at foreign, English speaking, potential customers of the company. Hence, my focus on retaining the general theme, only expanding it into a marketing format as a company ideal.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, Dean, but I don't agree. A company that is going multinational, or hoping to do so, will want translations of its mission statement for English-speaking offices. Ad slogans, on the other hand, are not entrusted to translation. They are selected by marketing teams who look for the greatest impact on the target markets rather than on a faithful and accurate translation.

    The point remains, though, that we have to know what kind of slogan Richard is referring to.
     
  13. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure we disagree...

    Richard said, "The company, a building material manufacturer, intends to place the English translation of the motto right under its Chinese equivalent on its Brief-Introduction webpage. Its classical Chinese motto is "言行九鼎 德通天下",which is usually used to describe a paragon of virtue and literally means "He always lives up to his words and enjoys high public regard."

    Richard specifically characterizes the statement as a "motto"...i.e. a word or phrase that expresses an ideal or goals. I am not suggesting an "ad slogan", rather I am offering an English language equivalent (for business) to the ideals expressed in the literal translation derived from the classical Chinese theme. If you want a more literal translation, it might be worded:

    "He who always lives up to his words, enjoys high public regard." This would be an almost exact translation, but the question is whether it addresses Richard's desire to "suit this business situation."

    As Richard said, "...literal translation oftentimes confuse and mislead the readers." That is why I suggested something with the same sentiment but more westernized as a "motto" for the business. I am in no way designing an "ad slogan" or advertising copy...that is (as you point out) an entirely different matter.
     
  14. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    It is for external, marketing type of use. It will be used to promote the image of the company.
     
  15. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks. Then how about "Our word is our bond, and the highest quality our constant goal"?
     
  16. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for your reply. Your understand of the first part of the motto is correct; it means "If I say I'm going to do something, I'll do it." But I am a little bit confused about the meanings of your suggestions. Do you mean that the motto will convey the message that the company claims that it itself is hardworking, dependable and proud of the quality of its products?
    Thanks.
     
  17. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for your suggestion. I may be wrong, but I get the feel that the two parts of your English translation are inconsistent in style. In my humble opinion, "Promises made; promises kept." is rather formal compared with "Ask any of our customers." As I said, I may be wrong there, for I lack the linguistic intuition you native speakers have. I would like you to enlighten me in this respect.
    Thanks.
     
  18. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    The company intends to use the motto or advertising slogan to promote its image. It will not be used to motivate its employees...Oh, on second thought, it can be used for both purposes.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Where did "quality" come from? As laudable a virtue as it is, I don't see it embodied in the literal translation of the original. Of course, not being able to read Chinese (any of the variations), I don't know if it was implied in the original motto. That is why I didn't use it in my suggestion - I was trying to paraphrase the literal translation alone.

    I'd be really careful abourtinserting values that don't appear in the original motto. As an example of why "quality" might not be what a company wants to tout, often a software company may focus on rapid deployment of a throw-away application, because in six months, applications in that area are obsolete anyway. Companies that focus on quality are sometimes viewed as slow to develop solutions that are overengineered and overpriced. So don't add your own values - stick with what the company provides in the existing motto (or proposal, if it's a request from te company itself).

    This may itself be a useful lesson to your students, to be careful to keep their own assumptions or ideals out of translations.
     
  20. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    My understanding of the second part of the Chinese motto or slogan is that one's virtue helps him to win respect from the society and that in this business situation what the company wishes to develop into is compared to a man of noble character and high prestige. A company wins respect from its customers for the high quality of its products and good after-sales service. But in my view, if we did not change the second part of the motto a little bit and made no mention of quality, the English translation would be nonsensical to international visitors to the webpage. It is my intention to make it sound concrete to them. We can also interprete the Chinese motto more accurately: it means that "We should always keep our promises and we firmly believe that a good reputation will lead to prosperity." I think we can enjoy the freedom to include "qualtity" in the translation to better suit our advertising purpose.
     
  21. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    Yes, that's basically what I was saying.

    If you don't like my initial suggestions, how about this:

    言行九鼎 德通天下
    You can count on us.

    or this

    言行九鼎 德通天下
    Your respect is our mission. Count on it.
     
  22. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks. These two translations are great!!! And I think the first of the two is even easier to remember. But in my Longman dictionary, I found the example sentence,which reads, "You can count on Dean to ruin any party." Do you think native speakers of English will never fail to take "You can count on us." as "You can always trust us to sell you the best products. " If there was any ambiguity in it, its influence would not easily erased.
    If you like, I would have your opinion again.
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  23. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is no ambiguity. The verb expression "count on" means that the outcome is a reasonable certainty. For example, if Dean is a trouble maker, then it is highly probable that he will ruin the party. By the same token, that sentence could have been writting, "You can count on Dean to be the life of the party." In both sentences, "count on" means "certainty" of outcome.

    ps...my name is Dean, so watch what you say about me! LOL
     
  24. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    Glad to help. As NaCl said, there is no ambiguity. I like the first one better too because it's simple and straight to the point.
     
  25. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks. But I never expected such a coincidence! I will telephone the Longman dictionary's editorial department and ask them to change Dean to Richard in the next edition. LOL.
    Thanks.
    Richard
     

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