The judges of the 5th annual JAT translation contest for new and aspiring translators have made their final decision, and the results are as follows:
The semi-finalists, in order of the numbers assigned to their entries, were:
4. Alexander Farrell
17. Miyako Dubois
25. Grayson Shepard
30. Mark Kelly
79. Darryl Wee
83. Jonathan Merz
After much deliberation, the judges awarded prizes as follows:
First place: No. 83, Jonathan Merz (Wakayama, Japan)
Second place: No. 25, Grayson Shepard (Kanagawa, Japan)
Many thanks to everyone who applied. Choosing the winners was a difficult task, given the number of entries and their level. I observed the judges' deliberations via e-mail, and they they took their responsibilities very seriously. Even if you didn't win, I hope you found the contest to be a challenging and worthwhile exercise, and I hope that some of you will try again next year.
Commentaries from the Judges
The stated purpose of the contest is "to cultivate new talent in commercial non-literary translation." In judging, I was trying to find the person with the most talent to become a top commercial translator, not the person who produced the best translation at this stage. Simple misinterpretations are likely to disappear with experience, so I regard them as less of a problem than if this were an actual commercial translation. I’m much less willing, however, to be lenient on translators who submit a translation that doesn’t seem to have got a final read-through, or who produce a translation that doesn’t seem to have considered the document’s context and purpose. Each of the entries commented on below has its own merits and displays the signs of a competent translator. All the finalists have the potential to be good commercial translators and are to be congratulated on their efforts.
The passage for translation is part of a website report on a survey conducted by the local branch of a government agency. The Japanese is generally easy to read, well-structured, and quite accessible. The translation should be, too. Unlike previous contests, but like many commercial translation projects, the genko had some errors and inconsistencies. It also assumed a familiarity with local conditions and subject matter, which had to be interpreted for the target audience - readers of an international organization's Internet presentation on efforts to reduce marine pollution.
Most of the entrants handled the task well, including the problems in the genko. The only real issue was with Q6 ("港内の清掃は定期的に行っておりますか"), where the follow-up question was the only one in the questionnaire that wanted details for NO answers ("ロ 行っていない") instead of YES answers ("イ 行っている"). The problem was that one of the NO answers "②定期的に行なっている" contradicted the NO. Some entrants concluded that the NO (ロ) was a typo for YES (イ), but answer ② didn't really work for that either. I don't know for certain what was actually intended, but since only two Co-ops answered with NO, I wondered if a superfluous line break had turned two answers into three. Conflating answers ② and ③ to give "定期的に行なっている組合員、又は委託業者に委託して行なっている" might work - the Co-op doesn't do regular cleaning itself, it gets either members or professionals to do it instead.
Specific points for #04
This translation gave a good overall impression, but there were places where a better grasp of who was doing what would have helped. For instance Q3 asked "Does your association encourage the proper disposal of ..." but the response had the same subject for "encourage" and "dispose." Similarly, there were contradictions between different parts of the genko. Q9 has "let them float" and "let them sink" applying to the same object ("residue"? "nets"?), and the questionnaire is titled "Questionnaire on the .. Plan," but doesn't really seem to be asking about the "Plan." This translator writes well, and has potential to be a good translator. Further improvement would come from making a habit of reading through the genko several times and actively thinking about what it all means before starting to translate.
Specific points for #17
This translation was let down by grammatical errors and misuse of English, such as the "regulate" in "regulate industrial waste disposal methods," which produces a translation meaning "impose controls on disposal methods" instead of "put in place a system for proper disposal/collection" for "受入態勢を整える." There were places where a better grasp of who was doing what would have helped. For instance, in the second paragraph "they (did a survey)" is confusing. "We (did a survey)" would have made the relationships clearer. Likewise, using "fishermen" for both "漁協組合員" and "釣人" makes it difficult to tell who's being complained about in Q11. The translator seems to have a good grasp of the genko text, so in addition to doing lots of target-language reading to improve grammar etc., improvement would come from making a point of taking a closer look at the larger context - in this case, the rest of the website and similar websites - to gain a deeper overall understanding of the topic.
Specific points for #25
This was perhaps the most accurate translation, and certainly had very few actual mistranslations. I particularly liked the phrasing of Q4 ("Does the co-op instruct fishing crews to bring their on-board garbage back with them?). However the translation trailed the winner on readability and overall impression. The translator has a good understanding of the genko, so improvement would probably come from reading lots of well-written English on the same subject and in the same sort of style as the project. That would help in spotting places where it's OK to move away from the literal text of the Japanese. For instance, think about whether "In order to improve anti-littering initiatives in the future" actually needs the "in the future" at the end.
Specific points for #30
I liked the way that this translator handled the percentages, and particularly the format distinction for Q2, which was the percentage of members, not the percentage of respondents like the other questions. Like the overall winner, this translator made a clear distinction between the current survey and the previous one in the second paragraph, but spoiled it with "the first past" instead of "the first part." A more careful read-through would eliminate that sort of typo. Otherwise, the overall impression is good. Improvement would come from practicing editing the finished translation to make it sharper. This has a word count that is 13% higher than the translations produced by the winner and runner-up, so it might be an idea to go back and try to reduce the count by 10%-15%.
Specific points for #79
There were several points where I particularly liked this translator's choice of words. Examples include the question in Q3, and in Q11, "etiquette" for "マナー," and "has become general practice" for "現状である." However, there were also discrepancies such as "in-harbor maintenance while the ship is on the berth" (either "in-harbor" or "... berth," not both) and the disconnect between the uses of "How?" between question and response in Q.5 (How do you supervise ...?/How is garbage etc. disposed of?). These would probably have been caught by a more careful read-through. Improvement would probably come from leaving the translation for a while before coming back to do the read-through with a fresh mind.
Specific points for #83
I liked this translation because the translator had obviously thought carefully about the topic and worked out how to say the same thing in natural English. The introductory paragraphs are particularly good at making a clear distinction between the current survey and the previous one, and I liked the “investigation to find out how people ... perceived the marine litter situation in their area. Compare that with the same part by some of the other finalists: "survey ... to examine the awareness of marine pollution," "survey to see what [people] think about garbage in the ocean." I liked the simplicity of "seaweed nets" (Q9) and phrasing such as "sorting garbage" (Q4) and "does your cooperative have a policy in place for..." (Q3). Improvement would probably come from making a point of re-reading the genko and then doing a read-through of the translation with a fresh mind to catch oddities such as "survey of ... gear shops was also conducted" ("also"?) and "driving into the harbor" (splash?).
Several different field-specific conceptual and terminology challenges were hidden in the seemingly innocuous survey questionnaire on marine litter used as this year's Japanese-to-English contest passage. Lodged in deceptively short sentences and often shorter responses were words and ideas from the fields of commercial fishing, aquaculture, Japanese commercial fishing organization management, and marine environmental protection. A considerable amount of leg work would have been required to research each of these areas and render a translation that was appropriate in tone and register as well as technical parlance.
This year's contest finalists deserve praise for extracting the meaning from the questionnaire and its responses and continuing to lead the reader in the right general direction in a manner that was generally pleasant to read. They maneuvered around a couple of confusing typos left in the text, and went through several levels of depth in research to find correct official names and terminology. Admirably, no one took the bait of transferring the down arrow (↓) into English to mean "see below."
In the world of commercial translation, it is still possible to get largely incorrect or incomprehensible translations, so the candidates, none with more than three years experience, are on the right track in their development as translators.
This year's winner, Entry No. 83, produced far-and-away the most accurate and succinctly expressed translation. The evaluation system that I use assigns negative points for errors (e.g., misunderstanding, syntax, technical terminology, register), positive points for displaying subject familiarity or good writing, and has an "artistic impression" score (the general visceral reaction I get from reading the translation after not having seen the Japanese text for a while). Entry No. 83 only had one-half to two-thirds the error points and had two to three times the positive points of the second and place finishers. The translation featured a clean title (Anti-Littering Measures), clear introduction, and smoothly worded questions and responses. Entry No. 83 called bilge water "bilge water" which sounds so much better to my Pacific coast ear than just "bilge," the term used by four of the other six finalists.
The second place winner, Entry No. 25, actually prompted the best visceral reaction when I read the translation after not having seen the Japanese text for a while, and there were considerable fewer error points than the other four finalists.
The third place winner, Entry No. 30, produced the second best visceral reaction when I read it independent of the text, but on closer examination had quite a few errors and clearly fewer positive points for subject familiarity or outstanding writing.
Since Entry No. 83, Entry No. 30, and Entry No. 25 will be immortalized on the translation contest web page, I would like to mention here, before it's too late, that I rated Entry No. 4 slightly above Entry No. 25 and Entry No. 4 was my choice for third place. I found significantly (in a non-statistical sense) fewer errors in Entry No. 4 than Entry No. 25, but the judges eventually agreed that Entry No. 25 edged out Entry No. 4 overall.
A few specific items I might note are:
Certain parts of the English version of the questionnaire could have been more in the register of the fields of fisheries bureaucracy and industry and marine environmental protection bureaucracy. The questionnaire was, after all, issued by a marine activities-regulating bureaucracy to organizations in the fisheries industry. An example of such jargon can be found in Chapter 18 of the Preliminary Report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy - Governors' Draft. Reading a few pages of that will get you in a marine bureaucratic mood in short order. It was on the first page of hits returned by searching +"marine litter" +"commercial fishing" on Google. (Other judges may feel that a general tone is fine for this piece.)
The name of the organization that issued the questionnaire (第十一管区海上保安本部) posed a terminology challenge. Although the Eijiro online dictionary glosses this without the number as "Regional Marine Safety Headquarters," the organization's own website, which can be found by simply pasting the character string into Google, identifies the organization as the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters. The site provides a link to the main Japan Coast Guard page that contains enough English-language information to confirm the current English name is Japan Coast Guard. There is, however, conflicting information on the web as to the name this organization, and Japanese organizations frequently change their English names over time for various reasons, so this simple name presents a bit of a research problem. Two of the six finalists chose the wrong name for this organization. Ironically, the 11th Regional HQ website is the site where the contest passage could be downloaded.
Another terminology challenge, and somewhat of a technical challenge, was what to call the fisheries cooperative associations (漁業協同組合) in the face of some seemingly contradictory evidence on the web.
The Japanese Wikipedia entry for 漁業協同組合 provides a link to a list of all 34 local cooperatives on and around the main island of Okinawa and suggests that the standard English is fisheries cooperative. The webpage of the national federation of local fisheries cooperative associations (JF Zengyoren) mentions both "fisheries cooperatives" and "fisheries cooperative associations" at the local level. However, there is quite a bit of English-language evidence in the form of academic and bureaucratic literature to suggest that "fisheries cooperative association" is the accepted term, including the fact that the abbreviation FCA is accepted. Of the six finalists, two actually used fisheries cooperative association, one used fisheries cooperative, and the other terms used varied from fishermen cooperative societies and fishery cooperative to fishing industry association.
Another interesting challenge was the question (No. 9) on how people disposed of the residue from cleaning the mozuku nets. The translations of Response No. 2 to this question differed greatly. This response was "2) Haul in the nets, clean them in the drying area, and then flush [hose] the residue back into the water. (回収して網干場で洗浄し海に流している.) The "flush or hose into the water" proved especially troublesome for the finalists, with the top three finalists rendering it as "allowed to flow out to sea," "rinse it in the sea," and "dispose of the residue in the ocean." This conjures up very different mental pictures of the process. I would picture large concrete-paved work areas to lay out gear on, and high-pressure industrial hoses for knocking the residue off and flushing it out to sea. In fact, there is a nice video of a person hosing off a mozuku net on youtube (watch this or search モズク網洗浄 on youtube). The water is flowing off the edge of the dock, and a couple of swipes with the stream of the hose would get it all back in the ocean.
Regarding the word mozuku itself, most of the six finals either mentioned it was an edible seaweed or provided some type of note describing it and identifying it by scientific name. The contest winner chose to drop the term mozuku entirely, which may have been a judicious editing move, considering the translation instructions given with the passage.
The purpose JAT Translation Contest is to encourage new and aspiring translators with no more than three years of experience. The six finalists produced translations that were clearly superior to those of the other contestants and demonstrated potential for growth in the craft.
I congratulate them for their accomplishment and hope that they will continue to stay active in the field.
First, my compliments to the finalists. The overall quality of translation was excellent, and I predict promising careers as professional translators for all of you.
I also complement the organizers of the contest, and particularly the people who selected the test translation. This is a challenging piece, with considerable room for the translator to demonstrate his or her ability to provide a clean, clear, and accurate translation.
Each finalist made at least a few errors. My picks for first and second place were those passages that I felt most clearly communicated the meaning of the Japanese with the fewest errors and areas of potential misunderstanding.
I have been a professional translator for over 25 years, and it is not uncommon for clients to have me evaluate a newer translator's work. So I approached these translations from that perspective.
I made two hypothetical assumptions: (1) that this is a commercial translation, performed for a paying client, and (2) that the client wants to know the content of the questionnaire from a technical/scientific perspective (rather than, for example, a scholarly linguistic analysis of the language used in Japanese questionnaires).
Given this perspective, clearly some errors are more important than others. Errors that cause a misunderstanding of content, or that cause the reader to question the validity of the document, are more serious than errors that are simply awkward.
I would like to focus on three points in the Japanese document that I thought were particularly challenging.
Four finalists translated this as "littering", one as "throwing trash into the ocean", and one as "garbage dumping". I found over 500 entries online for "marine littering", which I would recommend in this context.
This was translated as "port" in some cases and "harbor" in other cases. Confusion ensued when translators did not distinguish between "in the port" (meaning within the physical area of the port, including roads, buildings, and trash receptacles), and "in the harbor" (meaning in the water).
Thus, in Question 11-3, "港内に家庭のゴミを捨てているのが現状である" was in some cases translated to imply that families were bringing their garbage to the port facility and dumping it in trash bins there, rather than dumping their garbage directly into the water. My reading of the Japanese is that some people are dumping garbage directly into the water, but there may be is a mixture of behaviors (dumping in the water and dumping in the port facility trash receptacles). For a commercial client I would add a translator's note asking for clarification, or use a workaround that does not specify where the garbage is dumped.
This is an excellent example of Japanese words that "look like" they should be English but are actually not. A direct translation of "poor morals" suggests that fishermen are having or promoting illicit sexual encounters at the port or onboard their boats, and "bad manners" suggests rude speech and actions. Refusing to take care of their own garbage and trash would be better described as "irresponsible", "thoughtless", and/or "inconsiderate".
1) No. 83
An elegant and easy-to-read translation. I particularly appreciated the phrasing of the questionnaire elements (for example, "If 'Yes', describe:" is a very readable translation of "イと答えた方はその内容"), and the use of "you". The extra care given to layout contributed to readability.
See comments above regarding "littering" and "manners". Also, "inconsiderateness" would be better rendered as "lack of consideration".
2) No. 25
A very good translation clear and accurate. I particularly appreciated the phrasing "In the second round" for "この調査の第２弾として", and your clear translation of the responses to Question 4.
See comments above for "littering" and "morals and manners". In Question 9-3, your translation of "Clean the net and then let it sink naturally" implies that the net is sinking, rather than the residue cleaned from the net; "let the residue sink naturally" would be clearer. I also wonder if you considered that "ロと答えた方はその内容" in Question 6 might be a misprint for "イと答えた方はその内容", which seems to make more sense in the context. In a commercial translation, I would probably add a translator's note here.
No. 04: A good translation, but less clear and somewhat more confusing than the two winners. For example, you reformatted the responses, changing them from bulleted lists to "Those who answered 'Yes' … " My personal experience is that bulleted lists are generally easier to read and process, particularly at speed. In Response 9-a you wrote "Leave them to sink … ", which at first made me think you meant the nets. "Leave it to sink … " is correct if you are referring to the residue. Also, in the second paragraph of the introduction you translated "この調査の第２弾として" as ""The survey was conducted a second time," but actually this is the second round of a single survey, which is important if the client also had the first round translated or might want to consider having it translated. Good catch on the possible typo; I agree.
No. 17: A good translation, and laid out very nicely, but with enough grammar and vocabulary errors that the questionnaire is difficult to read. For example, "dispose the garbage" should be "dispose of garbage", ""extremely worsening" should be "Growing much worse", and "remaining dirt on the fishing nets" should be "residue on the fishing nets" ("dirt" means "earth", and would only be on fishing nets if they were dragged along the ground). I liked your last sentence, "Increasing numbers of people drive to ports to throw away their garbage"; this is a nice workaround of the problem I described above, because it doesn't specify whether the garbage is thrown in the water or dumped on the ground or in garbage receptacles at the port, while still making it clear that there is a problem.
No. 30: A good translation, clear and easy to read, with attractive layout, but some awkward expressions kept me from putting it in my top two. Just for example, "incorrectly throwing away trash" might be better phrased as "improperly disposing of trash". In terms of content, "throwing it away in the port instead of taking it home" implies to me that fishermen are throwing their trash away in receptacles; if that is the case, "at the port" would be more accurate than "in the port". On the other hand, if they are throwing trash directly in the water, "dumping it in the harbor" would be more accurate. You could "write around" this by saying, for example, "leaving it at the port". I prefer your title to simply "littering", but "marine littering" is also a good alternative (see comments above).
No. 79: A good translation, and attractively laid out, but with some errors in content and usage. For example, you translated "この調査の第２弾として" as "the second survey", but "second half of a survey" or "second part of a survey" would be more accurate. Also, in Question 4 you also translated 指導 as "ensure". That implies that the port authorities make sure that owners take their garbage home, rather than simply telling them to do it. I like your title; "garbage dumping" is more accurate in this situation than "littering" in my opinion, although "marine littering" appears to be coming into wide usage.
A final word
Reading these translations, I noticed again what a difference a little extra formatting makes. In today's market, readers are in a hurry. And this is even more the case if the customer is passing the translation on to someone else, whether a news reporter, a prospective stockholder, or an employee at a regulatory agency. To be effective, a good translation needs to be clear and readable as well as accurate and grammatically correct. I recommend that all new professionals invest an hour in their word-processing software, learning to use style sheets. Your clients will thank you.
Again, my congratulations to all contestants on a job well-done.