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"Reading is great, love reading, read excellent books." is a rough traslation of the famous saying "读书好 好读书 读好书" by Bing Xin, which is used to encourage Chinese students to read more.

In this sentence, there are altogether three . The first and the third are used as adjectives to describe "reading" and "book" respectively; the second one is used as a verb to persuade us to read.

Does anyone know an equivalent saying in English?

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To maintain the parallelism, you would want to choose a word which has both a verbal and adjectival counterpart in English. To that end, I submit this rendering:

Reading is lovely. Love reading. Read lovely books.

or:

Reading is excellent. Excel at reading. Read excellent books.

For the sake of the parallelism, there are unfortunately very few options. But these two may suffice, though the second rendering ('excellent/excel') feels a little sterile, like an educational mantra on the planet Vulcan.

If you are willing to use the 'be' verb in combination with an adjective to form a verbal phrase, then your options multiply. For example, here is a more colloquial possibility:

Reading is awesome. Be awesome at reading. Read awesome books!

The problem here is that most of these readings obscure the subtle association between reading being good and reading therefore being something one should love. For this purpose, due to the flexibility of 'love' in English, I'd submit that my first rendering ('lovely/love') is the more accurate translation, all things considered: it retains the parallelism as well as the clarity of the association between the moral quality of reading and the appreciation of that quality as such.

But your purposes may be more mundane and more loose. In some contexts, for example, the 'awesome/be awesome' rendering would be preferable.

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  • Funny how you didn't care for the second choice; I felt less enthused about the first ("lovely books" just sounds a little off to me). But your attempts to mirror the parallelism are commendable. – J.R. May 18 '13 at 17:23
  • The first reading certainly doesn't sound like common, nature, and contemporary English to me either. But then for languages this distinct from English, I have grown to accept a great deal of awkwardness in good translation work, unless you are comfortable making definite choices of direction with the text, and the necessary semantic culling to go along with that. I also imagine that the use-case in view here is an educational one, and I remember many mnemonics and similar devices which themselves do not sound natural, but still were quite effective for their purposes. – David Michael Gregg May 18 '13 at 19:13
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    I think "a great deal of awkwardness" and "good translation work" are mutually exclusive. The goal is to capture the spirit of the original, and if the original didn't have a great deal of awkwardness, then neither should the translation. – snailplane May 19 '13 at 2:20
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    Take, for example, a metaphor in a play-on-words. In Koine Greek, the metaphor "living water" was functionally equivalent to our English "running water". Imagine a Greek speaker playing with the "living" in "living water". Now, task an English speaker with translating it! Lacking an identical metaphor, the translator is forced: translate the metaphor at the cost of the play-on-words, or the play-on-words at the cost of the metaphor; fundamentally alter the text; or insert a translation note to explain the situation. This is precisely the problem with translating the text of John 4:10-13. – David Michael Gregg May 19 '13 at 9:55
  • Such problems occur more frequently the more distant are the cultures and the grammatical natures of the languages in question. Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic all result in regular, unavoidable awkwardness or plain loss of meaning when translating into the likes of English, Spanish, French, etc. This is why the most accurate translations are often awkward: they sacrifice naturalness for meaning. Thus, say, English dubs or subtitles of Japanese anime either take great liberties with the script to give natural English (sacrificing accuracy), or give an unnatural English for accuracy! – David Michael Gregg May 19 '13 at 9:59

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