I had seen the word phenomenal translated into Chinese words with an equivalent meaning "of phenomenon" in more and more text especially regarding sports. For example,
LeBron James had a phenomenal performance last night
is translated into Chinese words with equivalent meaning of
LeBron James had a performance at the level of phenomenon last night
Needless to say, that is not right in any language. However, this translation of the word phenomenal from English to Chinese is getting popular. And it becomes one of those new internet words that no Chinese reader truly understands but they sort of get it just because they have seen it many times in the same context of praising an exceptional performance of some player.
Initially I laughed at the translation. It must be a joke, I thought. Someone started this not knowing phenomenal means "exceptional, especially impressive, fantastic". But to my surprise, this translated word sticks and its Chinese version is being reused more and more popularly by the day, especially in online text. And most of these usages were not in the context of a translated English text but original writing in Chinese. I have seen more and more main stream Chinese media start to use the (Chinese version) word as if it is an accepted Chinese word.
This makes me wonder. And I actually looked it up in the online English dictionary. To my surprise, two meanings of the word phenomenal were given.
- Of, relating to, or constituting phenomena or a phenomenon.
- Extraordinary; outstanding
I was not aware of the first meaning before this. Now my new theory is the translation at word level is OK. But given the context, the second translation should be picked instead of the first one.
Maybe the first translator looked up the word in a English-to-Chinese dictionary and picked the first translation. He might be in a hurry and did not do proof-reading and no one questioned him. Apparently the second meaning should be picked in the context. (EDIT: or maybe the dictionary he used did not have the Chinese version of the second meaning) Maybe a lot of careless translators did this in a long period of time, and in the end the Chinese readers sort of accepted the word.
Well, the question here is if the two meanings are sort of related, or the second meaning (which is more popular in English writings I assume) is derived somehow from the first meaning. And maybe, the translators were correct and the guilty party is myself! What do you think?