Sympathy versus Empathy

August 30, 2011 by totalityservices

Get a Free Quote

Our Accreditations

  • ATA Logo
  • ATC Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • DIN EN 15038 Logo

Recent Updates

Translating specialist terminology: Part I What to do when a product has no direct equivalent

Every translator knows that a standard dictionary has its limits, and never is this truer than when translating specialist terminology in a domain with a specific vocabulary. In an ideal scenario the translator will have direct experience of… Read More

The following is a blog written for us by Lily, a native Chinese , who is working with us as an intern over the next couple of months:

 

Recently, I was reading an article entitled “Overcoming the Golden Rule: Sympathy and Empathy” (MJ Bennett). It was quite amazing to find that sympathy and empathy have such a profound difference in the English language. I wasn’t aware of the theoretical foundation underlying these two terms before, because in the Chinese language, we talk more about “Sympathy” (tongqing) in our daily life; while the word “Empathy”(gongming) is much less frequently used or, more often appears in literary critiques.

Besides, in Chinese culture, when we talk about sympathy, the person who we are sympathetic about is usually in a suffering or negative situation (he or she needs help from others) or even in an inferior position (e.g. a beggar). Empathy is relatively neutral, more cognitive and less emotional in a Chinese language context. When we talk about empathy in real life situation, it is similar to the concept of “reminiscent sympathy”. For instance, if we say “the novel arouses my empathy”, in a Chinese context, it means I have the same experience as the characters in the novel (the experience can be either positive or negative).

Sympathy and empathy also have something to do with intercultural communication. According to the article, sympathy is based on the assumption of similarity and single reality. It has some disadvantages that may hinder communication. In contrast, the underlying assumption of empathy is to recognize and understand the differences. Empathy will facilitate communication. I agree with this point, but the problem is how to develop empathy in real world communication? The steps like suspending self and allowing guided imagination sound quite abstract and very hard to put into practice. What’s more, how can we know what the other person is thinking or feeling since we are not him or her and each person is different? If we fail to participate in the other one’s feeling how can we be empathic?

In the tradition of Chinese culture, we are taught at a fairly early age to stand in another person’s shoes when we have some problems in coping with that person. Perhaps Chinese culture attaches more importance to collectivism. Hence, we assume everyone is similar, and try to use the strategy of “were I you, what would I do?” to solve various problems in the real world.

Share This Post

Comments

Add Comment








Andreea Mohan

Taylor Wessing LLP

We are very pleased with the services provided by Rosetta Translations. They always send very prompt responses, transparent prices and deliver their work product at the highest standards.

More Testimonials

Jackie Brook, Sr Product Manager

American Express

Thank you very much for your prompt and efficient service.

More Testimonials

Conor McLarnon

Maximus Crushing and Screening

I have translated multiple projects with Rosetta now and I cannot emphasise how great the service they provide is; quality, turnaround time and pricing is the best I have found yet. The qualities of translations we receive are of the highest standard and communication from the start of a project to the end is consistent.

For a company looking into translations, I would highly recommend Rosetta as first pick, as the support and service they provide is first class.

More Testimonials

Get a Free Quote

© 2022 All Rights Reserved
Rosetta Translation, 133 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QA · 0207 248 2905