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December 5, 2011

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Jobs' love letter sparks contest

THE biography of Apple Inc's supremo Steve Jobs included a love letter he wrote to his wife. It was written 20 years after they married.

The letter was one of the highlights of the book among Chinese readers after the Chinese version was released.

The sincere and simple letter offered readers a glimpse of the emotional side of Jobs, who was known to be extremely secretive about his private life while still alive.

In addition to the official translation of the letter in the Chinese version of Jobs' autobiography, many amateur translators were keen to contribute their own entries on the Internet.

Shanghai Daily initiated a translation competition via microblog two days after the Chinese copy hit the market on October 24, mirroring an Internet campaign to perfect the Chinese version. Six contestants stood out among 73 participants. They were chosen after two rounds of strict selections lasting a month.

Hu Xingwen, a translator of global communications at Shanghai International Studies University, was awarded first prize.

"The honor is an utter surprise," Hu said when given the award by Zhang Ciyun, editor-in-chief of Shanghai Daily and one of the four final judges of the competition on Wednesday.

The contestants poured their enthusiasm into the translations, said Huang Yuning, one of the contest's final judges and director of the literary editing department of Shanghai Translation Publishing House.

She also said the rhetorical and ornamental language adopted by quite a few contestants was not appropriate in this case as the original letter was quite colloquial.

He Gangqiang, the final judge and dean of the translation department of College of Foreign Languages and Literature at Fudan University, said that translators should adhere to the original "modest, concise and bright" style.

He said, "The first prize winner did the best in overall arrangement, wording and phrasing and most importantly, respected Jobs' style."

Li Fang, the second prize winner and a translator of science books, said the competition presented a good opportunity for her to display a precise and unadorned translation style.

Shanghai Daily's Zhang suggested translators take into account the life and educational background of Jobs.

"The original letter was not written in Shakespeare style or in Internet language," Zhang said. "The letter simply conveyed Jobs' deep affection for his wife without losing literary grace. Keeping the style consistent throughout is essential in a translation."

"The difference between English and Chinese is also a matter of different cultures and traditions," he added.

The original text:
We didn't know much about each other 20 years ago. We were guided by our intuition; you swept me off my feet. It was snowing when we got married at the Ahwahnee. Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times, but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown. We've been through so much together and here we are right back where we started 20 years ago - older and wiser - with wrinkles on our faces and hearts. We now know many of life's joys, sufferings, secrets and wonders and we're still here together. My feet have never returned to the ground.

The First Prize winning work:

Judges Have Their Say

Zhang Ciyun
Editor-in-chief of Shanghai Daily

The translator dealt with the three parallel 'times' in the letter in a clever way, especially the tricky 'bad times' by highlighting its connotation.

Huang Yuning
Director of the literary editing department of Shanghai Translation Publishing House, writer and literary translator

The translator fully understands the original letter and adopts a proper natural style. The overall quality is slightly superior to other works.

Mao Jian
Famous writer and columnist

The translator is adept at using simple language without any unnecessary words while retaining the correct meaning.

He Gangqiang
Dean of the translation department of College of Foreign Languages and Literature at Fudan University

The translator embodies the modest, concise and bright original style and also did a good job with several specific phrases.


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