Tag Archives: Japan

It's odd, isn't it, the jobs you can find yourself doing. This was a restaurant menu that came from someone who I don't remember. But I do remember that it paid fairly well. Not having much knowledge of cuisine, I found this a bit of a challenge (although fairly interesting - the one consistently good point about translation work is learning something new with each job). As you will see, some parts are still awkward - but the client insisted that the English be as close as possible to the Japanese! And the customer is always right (even if their customer is baffled).

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Quantification is a component of extreme importance in the field of technical translation. Numbers, in their many and varied guises, are responsible for a galaxy of translation mistakes. In English, small quantities are customarily counted in dozens; in Japanese, as tens, hence sūjū and jūsū, which are usually correctly, if not always appropriately, translated as “several tens” and “ten and several”, respectively. Although both are accurate in their expression of numerical value, both are alliteratively unnatural. A more effective translation would be “a few dozen” and “just over a dozen”, respectively. Just to confound things however, terms like sūman are usually translated appropriately, i.e. as "tens of thousands".

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All the following terms express future continuation, but their differences and degrees of appropriateness pose substantial challenges for technical translators:

shōrai (将来), kongo (今後), kongo mo (今後も), kongo tomo (今後とも)

For all three terms, the most frequently encountered English rendering is “in [the] future”. However, in most cases this is an over-translation. These terms, despite their standard, dictionary definitions, amplify a statement by suggesting, quite strongly, (to native Japanese speakers at least) emphasis or determination. As a result, these terms are usually best exempted from the translation. Forcing the translation can result in unintended meaning loss or meaning change.

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Overused transitions represent a multifaceted, seldom effectively tackled problem. Japanese uses transitional words and phrases much more frequently than in English. In Japanese, fewer than two dozen account for the majority of transitions in expository writing. These have fewer than a dozen common equivalents in English, and they are far too often word-swapped, i.e. translated mechanically on the basis of dictionary correspondence, not vernacular appropriateness.

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