I had no idea how much trouble I’d bump into when I first learned that this translation project was my mission-to-be-accomplished. My previous experience in translating was not limited: I had been working as a translator for many occasions and mostly it was between Mandarin and English, but none of those experiences included anything that requires rigorous language like this one.
I had my first problem on the very first line of the title: “Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, Metahumanism, and New Materialisms” - how do I translate these terms into Mandarin, I asked myself. Moving on, “‘posthuman’ has become an umbrella term… movements”. And how do I translate the “movement” here? I had thought that the real difficulty was to understand the article, and underestimated the difficulty of the re-articulation part. It was the moment when I realized that being fluent in a language doesn’t make you a good writer in that language.
Our languages have limitations, and somehow they somewhat make up for each other’s deficiencies. There are things that can be easily said in one word in one language but can only be indirectly described in another. Emotions, for example. There is a word in Chinese, 委屈, which directly describes that feeling you feel when you are wronged by someone. Implications, for example. Some words have implications only fluent speakers can fully understand. Why are certain words derogatory slurs, or why do certain words have certain connotations in that specific context? In Chinese, both “sex” and “gender” can be translated as “性别”, and the difference between them would be completely overlooked without us putting on a lengthy sentence to explain. Sense and reference (in the Frege sense), for example. While two phrases can have the same referent, they can differ in sense. However, in translation, both phrases are sometimes translated into the referent for the sake of clarity and simplicity.
Another major obstacle that I had was with sentence structures. Sentence structures differ, which sometimes makes literal translations rather confusing, and for an academic paper, the less confusion the better. The difficulty that I had was that both sentence structures made sense in my head. When I read my own Chinese translation, I tended to focus on the meanings instead of the confusing sentence structures. I wouldn't have recognized the wrongness coming out of my keyboard if it weren't for the reviewers (shout out to Chiarina Chen, Yuan Yi, and Andrew Zhang).
Posthumanism is a philosophy that integrates humans and technology, the past and the future, tradition and non-tradition, and it is a topic that we should be talking about more in China. I did some research online to make sure that I got the terms translated correctly, and, during my research, I found that while there were some discussions about Posthumanism in China, there were not enough discussions about Posthumanism in Chinese. I hope my translation of Professor Ferrando’s paper can help, though certainly limited, with the development of Posthumanism in China, and can make the process easier for someone who wishes to learn more about this philosophy. We have so much we can contribute to Posthumanism as Chinese: our traditional values versus our modern values, our rapidly developing society and technology within the past 100 years, and the more and more frequent discussions of Posthumanism-related topics on our social media. Our voices can add so much to the already aspiringly existing content of Posthumanism, and I cannot wait to help it grow.