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I found this sentence and its translation on tatoeba.org. Is there a better way to translate it into English?

這是外行的想法。

That's a layman's idea.

I looked up 外行, and it does mean amateur or layman, but I've never heard anybody use the phrase "layman's idea" in English. Perhaps a better translation would be as simple as, "That's a dumb idea." Or does the Chinese phrase emphasize that it's a bad idea because the person is inexperienced? If so, perhaps it would be best to translate as, "That's a rookie mistake."

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A rookie's opinion sounds better. A suggestion by a rookie/amateur doesn't necessarily culminate in a mistake/blunder. –  deutschZuid Jul 12 '12 at 23:27
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

English is not my mother tongue, but I would translate 外行的想法 as "unprofessional opinion" or "amateurish opinion". 外行 is the opposite of 内行, which means expert, adept, experienced, an expert, a professional, so the emphasis is as you mentioned on the fact that the person is not experienced.

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It surely sounds like your mother tongue. –  deutschZuid Jul 12 '12 at 23:28
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Agreed. The original sentence doesn't sound belittling (although blunt) unless it's intentionally used against a real professional. –  NS.X. Jul 12 '12 at 23:29
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外行literally means "outsider." But it can easily be interpreted as "layman" or "non-professional."

外行的想法, would be "outsider or non-professional way of thinking." It's something of a pejorative, because the Chinese culture places a greater emphasis on "expert" or "professional" opinions, as opposed to "whatever works."

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