Table of all translations of the fox's secret here.
The Fox's Secret:
L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Translating into Chinese (2)
|(Chinese translations)||▶ Here is my secret. It is very simple||▶ One sees clearly only with the heart||▼ What is essential is invisible to the eyes|
|French-based Chinese versions (popup)|
|English-based Chinese versions (popup)|
|Versions of unclear origin (popup)|
|B. EXCEPTIONAL PATTERN|
|C. VOCABULARY CHOICES|
|▶ Fr ▶ En ▶ Ja|
|L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux | What is essential is invisible to the eye|
Translators use two patterns to translate the word l'essentiel 'what is essential'. (There are two translators who don't use any word to translate 'essential' in this sentence, because it already appears in the previous sentence.)
běnzhì de dōngxi
THE ESSENCE OF THINGS
shìwu de běnzhì
'essence of things'
Despite the apparent conceptual gap between the two, in actual use the difference is not large. The larger difference is found between words used for 'essence' or 'essential'.
Type I, 'essential things' accounts for two-thirds of translations. The most common words used for 'essential' are 重要 zhòngyào meaning 'important' (11 occurrences), and 本質 / 本质 běnzhí / běnzhì meaning 'of the essence' (11 occurrences).
'Thing' is mostly 東西 / 东西 dōngxi 'thing' (30 occurrences), the normal everyday word for 'thing' in Chinese. It's not a particularly refined term and referring to people it is pejorative.
Those using Type II, 'the essence of things', mostly translated 'things' as 事物 shìwù 'things' (more philosophical than 東西 / 东西 dōngxi) while 'essence' was most commonly 本質 / 本质 běnzhí / běnzhì...
1) Type I: 'Essential things' (32 translations).
2) Type II: 'The essence of things' (13 translations).
In addition, in some translations words meaning l'essentiel also appear in the preceding sentence (On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur)...
Five of these use 事物的本质 shìwù de běnzhì 'essence of things'. So putting it all together, a total of 24 translations use the word 本質 / 本质 běnzhí / běnzhì, about half the total.
This is well ahead of the total 11 occurrences for the second most common expression, 重要 zhòngyào 'important'.
In translating l'essentiel, there is a difference between translations based on the original French and those based on the English of Katherine Woods.
Expressions of Type I, those meaning 'essential things' (本質的東西 / 本质的东西 běnzhí de dōngxi / běnzhì de dōngxi, etc.) or 'important things' (重要的東西 / 重要的东西 zhòngyào de dōngxi etc.), are favoured by translators from the French (20 in French-based versus 11 in English-based translations)....
English and French originals
Within the 20 occurrences, there is not a huge variety of expression. Compare this with the variety in translations from the English using the same pattern:
Although only 11 translations from the English use Type 1, there are 8 different ways of expressing 'essential'!
Type II, that of 事物的本質 / 事物的本质 shìwù de běnzhí / shìwù de běnzhì 'the essence of things', is more common in translations from the English.
There are only three in translations from the French:
The reason for this difference can only be surmised. Could it be due to a difference in how l'essentiel and 'what is essential' are grasped or perceived? Could it be that l'essentiel is much more likely to be interpreted as 'essential things', while 'what is essential' is more likely to be interpreted as 'the essence of things'?
Although most translators use 眼睛 yǎnjing 'eye' for 'eyes', 肉眼 ròuyǎn'naked eye' accounted for about a quarter.
Les yeux / 'the eyes'
眼睛 yǎnjing is the normally expected word for 'eye'. It is interesting how many translators use 肉眼 ròuyǎn meaning the 'naked eye' or 'physical eye'. Normally 肉眼 ròuyǎn means 'naked eye', unaided by instruments such as telescope or microscopes. Here, it means the physical eye, as opposed to the 'heart'.
One translator uses 我们的肉眼 wǒmen de ròuyǎn 'our naked eye'.
In Chinese, of course, eyes are not expressed as plural. 眼睛 yǎnjing could be 'eye' or 'eyes'. The only translator to even hint at duality is the one that uses 雙眼 shuāngyǎn 'both eyes'.
There is also some variation in the word used to render 'with' (where translators use an instrumental). Some translators add a word meaning 'only' ('only with the eyes')...
As we saw, 27 translations make 'eye' into the agent of the sentence, slightly more than the 25 that use the instrumental 'with the eye'.
Most of these use 用 yòng, although there are few others:
A few translations use words meaning 'only', i.e., 'only with the eyes'. Specifically, these are (in combination):
37 out of 48 translations use a straightforward negative potential 看不見 / 看不见 (or 看不到) kàn-bu-jiàn (or kàn-bu-dào) to translate 'invisible'. However, there is some variation in this.
A few translators use 无法看见 wúfǎ kànjiàn 'no way to see' or 'not possible to see' in preference to the negative potential. 不可能看到 bù kěnéng kàndào 'not possible to see' is also found.
In addition, there are, of course, a few translations, as we saw above, where the negative element is paired with 是 shì, as in 不是能看得到的 bù shì néng kàn-de-dào de 'is not able to be seen'. In addition, there is the pattern dealt with below using 非...所见 fēi ... suǒjiàn 'cannot see'.
Unlike the great variety of resultatives in the preceding sentence used to render on voit bien 'one can see rightly', in translating invisible this sentence features mostly simple resultatives like 看見 / 看见 kànjiàn or 看到 kàndào, meaning 'to be able to see'.
One translator doesn't use a resultative. The verb used is 见 jiàn, 'to see'.
Although the vast majority of translations use the normal negative resultative pattern (看不见 kàn-bu-jiàn 'cannot see'), there are enough alternative patterns to make it interesting.