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Humanistic Culture

Challenging Translation of ‘The Raindew Waltz'

In the afternoon of 23 September, when Brother David Liu came over to Singapore to have the launch of his new Book ‘Journey of the Heart’, the Singapore translation team (with 11 of them participated in the subtitle translation of Da Ai drama series ‘The Raindew Waltz’) took the opportunity to hold a gathering and at the same time, have an interactive session with the real protagonist.


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When Brother David Liu is in Singapore for his new book launch, the translation team which translated the drama that features his life story took the opportunity to hold a gathering and have an interactive session with him. (Photo by Alvin Tan)

Watching the fun of father and daughters happily dancing and singing on the video; how am I suppose to translate the jolly Chinese song with lyrics as “dimples and smiles” into English? 

Beautifully named ‘The Raindew Waltz’, this drama produced by Tzu Chi’s Da Ai TV features the life story of David Liu, the former CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, and his wife Echo Chien, the incumbent CEO of Tzu Chi Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Branch. The couple left Taiwan in the early 1980s and worked up a successful textile business in Malaysia, but they gave it all up to Tzu Chi subsequently, turning their factory into Tzu Chi Malacca Branch and became full time Tzu Chi volunteers. On the recommendation of Brother David Liu, the translation team of Malaysia and Singapore had the good opportunity of taking up the task of subtitle translating for this 40-episode drama series.

Back in late May when the Singapore team received the invitation for the translation assignment, team leader Li Ming Hui was worried that the team might not be able to complete the task with limited volunteer force and on such tight dateline (the project was due in end July). However, with the encouragement of Brother David Liu, both the Malaysia and Singapore team shared 20 episodes each for translation with courage and determination. The two teams completed the task in two months’ time as scheduled.

In the afternoon of 23 September, when Brother David Liu came over to Singapore to launch his new book ‘Journey of the Heart’, the Singapore translation team took the opportunity to hold a gathering to thank the volunteers involved in the project and at the same time have an up close and personal session with the former CEO.

Recalling when the Singapore team received the assignment in late May, the team called upon more volunteers to help out in the task. The Tzu Chi youth group (or Tzu Ching), most of whom are effectively bilingual, took up 10 episodes of the drama series. Despite many of the volunteers being working class or students, and at the same time shouldering other responsibility in Tzu Chi activities, everyone diligently put in their efforts and worked laboriously towards completing on schedule. Although many of the volunteers were doing this for the first time, it is very touching to note the effort put in by the team.

Photography volunteer Chua Teong Seng, who works in an Electronic company and is familiar with the use of Google Site as a translation platform, was happy to help set up the online site for the translation project as a working platform which proved to be most helpful. Mr Andrew Bogue, the husband of volunteer Susan Ong, was happy to be the native editor and took on the responsibility of native editing solely for all the 20 episodes through emails when he moved back to England. Although Andrew only read through the English subtitles, he was enjoying thoroughly on the interesting story lines and was amused seeing Brother Liu living under a “petticoat government” before Sister Chien met Tzu Chi (and later coaxed him into joining her).

Through the gathering, the volunteers shared their fun and challenges on the translating task. Although the volunteers are no professional translators, they treated the episode assigned to them wholeheartedly and enjoyed every bit of it as a chance to learn. The Master’s Jing Si Aphorism, “If we can put our heart into our work, then we can become a professional with any skill we wish to master” best describes this.

Volunteers Tan Phaik Hui and husband Lai Tong Heng both shared the assignment of one episode which lasted 40 minutes. The duo has no translation experience but bravely volunteered to help out. They took a whole two weeks to finish the episode, gaining valuable experience and are now “able to comprehend the difficulties faced by translation volunteers”.

Yeap Szu Ling, a senior with the Tzu Ching group, took on the responsibility of coordinator for the Tzu Ching translators. Szu Ling has had the experience of volunteering in Da Ai Drama translation when she was studying in Michigan. She has contributed in many ways on her experience and techniques in the translation project. She shared of her most memorable part being the song translation sang by Brother Liu about “dimples and smiles”. Although it was a humorous shot, it made her cracked her head real hard to come out with the English translated lyrics.

In performing a job of translation, it needs more than just plain translation skills. Very often, cultural difference in languages poses a challenge to the translator. Sometime, it’s like translating a language that does not exist in the other. In one of the episode, the use of Chinese idiom “Jin zhu zhe chi, Jin mo zhe hei” (which means “bad company corrupts”) can literally be translated to something no one could understand. When Brother Liu’s daughter, Ting Ting, whose command of the Chinese language has deteriorated having long studied in international schools and misinterpreted the word “zhu” as “pig” and “chi” as “thorns”, literal translation will definitely leave the audience puzzling.

Typical of Brother David Liu, the drama contains many of his humorous and witty remarks that were challenging to the translation volunteers. Although this was tough at times, the volunteers have also acquired a deeper understanding of these wise words through the process of translation.

David Liu and Echo Chien have both spent more than 20 years cultivating kindness in a foreign land in Singapore and Malaysia, inspiring and helping people of all races. With the English subtitle on ‘The Raindew Waltz’ drama, it is hoped that more people, especially the non-Chinese, will be able to enjoy this real life story of someone who has selflessly make a difference with their lives.

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Volunteers Tan Phaik Hui and husband Lai Tong Heng (2nd & 3rd from right) both shared the assignment of one episode. The duo has no translation experience but bravely volunteered to help out.(Photo by Alvin Tan)

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Yeap Szu Ling (centre), a senior with the youth group, took on the responsibility of coordinator for the youth translators. Szu Ling has had the experience of volunteering in Da Ai Drama translation when she was studying in the United States. She has contributed in many ways on her experience and techniques in the translation project. (Photo by Alvin Tan)

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The translation volunteers pose a picture with Brother David Liu (seated in centre). (Photo by Alvin Tan)


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