The JAT board is pleased to announce that starting today, we'll be releasing full videos of several presentations from IJET-19, for our far-flung membership to enjoy. We hope that these videos will be a good resource for those who couldn't make it to Okinawa (or who could but couldn't make it out of bed in time).
We're kicking off the series with the following presentation from JAT director-elect Chris Blakeslee:
Title: Raising Productivity with Speech Recognition
Speaker: Chris Blakeslee
Abstract: When the translation industry made the leap a few decades ago to computer-based word processing, it left its typewriters behind. The next big leap, to speech recognition, does not require leaving our keyboards behind. Not only will I introduce you to this awesome technology, I will convince you to give it a try, or another try if your first attempt (like mine seven years ago) did not work out so well. My presentation includes a rarely attempted live demo, the equivalent of a trapeze artist performing without a net. As an added bonus, I'll unveil my productivity-boosting, zero-gravity cockpit layout. Get ready to strap in!
(Note that these videos are available for members only. The password required to view the videos can be found on the JAT mailing list.)
We'll be announcing more videos as we continue post-editing over the next few weeks and months, so stay tuned!
JAT's May meeting will be held on Saturday, May 17th, from 14:00pm to 17:00, followed by karaoke. Details follow.
May Meeting: Post IJET & Annual General Meeting
Date: Saturday, May 17, 2008
Time: 13:30 – 17:00
Meeting Place: Forum 8
Address: Dogenzaka 2-10-7, Shibuya, Tokyo
Cost: Free for JAT members, JPY1000 for non-members
Speakers: Mayumi Toyota, Phil Robertson, Toby Rushbrook, Yukihiro Sato, and Ben Davis
The speakers will regale the audience with the tales of derring-do at IJET, especially the remarkable presentations put on by the plethora of volunteers, and the JAT Board will also give the report on JAT’s activities this past year for the Annual General Meeting.
A nijikai will be held after the meeting, at Punraku.
I wish to nominate myself to be a director of the Board of JAT.
The reasons why I think I am eligible for a director are as follows:
1. I have been a JAT member since the first IJET held in Hakone (that's how I remember how long I have been the member; please don't ask me in what year it was) so I know a few people and know a few things.
2. I have always been interested in the activities of JAT and have made some friends and foes among the members because my that interest. If I cared less about the activities of JAT, I would not have opined on any subjects. When a person speaks out, one can get friends and foes.
3. I can think about any issues and probably will be able state my opinions about those issues from the standpoint of a JAT member and a translator with an experience of at least 15 years. I consider myself a free thinker.
4. I can write and speak in both Japanese and in English (although my English speech may not be fluent as other people think as a director ought to be). I can hear other people's opinion in both languages although anyone who wishes to speak in English must speak rather slowly and in simple words and sentence structures. I will probably pretend that I have hearing problem if someone expresses something I don't want to hear.
5. I live in Japan, not so distant from Tokyo (door to door travel time from my home to a place in Tokyo is approximately 1.5 hours).
6. I feel I ought to tell you about my shortcomings as well so that you can make a fair judgment and deny me. My shortcomings are:
a) I am not too good clerically
b) I am clumsy and may spill liquid on paper or punch holes in wrong places
c) I am not that interested in coordinating other people or find a compromise in opposing opinions as I believe people have different opinions. Decisions by voting sound fine with me.
d) I don't want to bear any heart-wrenching decision making responsibility as it is bad for my health and I care for my health.
e) I may be irresponsible in some cases as I am volunteering for this job primarily for my curiosity.
f) I may get tired too easily
g) I don't like to be exposed to smoke or to attend any meeting where someone smokes
With over a decade as a JAT member without ever having served as a director, my time has probably come. It has occurred to me that I may even enjoy repaying my debt to the JE translation community by donating my time toward keeping JAT running smoothly, and do think the current cast of characters now serving as directors would be fun to work with. I hereby throw my hat into the ring, but promise not to begin dancing around it until the last vote is cast.
Nationality: Dual (British/Irish)
I would like to apply for the position of director with the intent of serving as Tokyo Activities Committee (TAC) liaison if possible. JAT can be a useful resource for its members and its role will become more important as the environment the translator has to work in becomes ever more perplexing. The advent of so many new technologies and potential ways of working can be bewildering. I would like to volunteer to put my technical background to good use in helping investigate new technology and show that new technology is not something to fear. I would keep a close eye on all the new technology that becomes available and how such technology can help keep translators competitive and hopefully make their efforts more profitable. Hopefully we can keep it fun at the same time, as the typical translator already has more than enough stress to deal with in their day job . . .
I have had the privilege to serve on the JAT Board for the past two years (as President for the past year), and feel that another two years would enable me to help make JAT an even better organization to serve our members. Last year, with the help of the Board and other JAT members, I was able to see to it that we finally get a professional opinion (actually, three) on tax-withholding issues faced by those of us who live outside Japan and earn income from clients based in Japan. My hope if I get re-elected is to continue to see that JAT serves members both in Japan and abroad, perhaps by working on a more systematic effort to organize local meetings outside Tokyo, where traditionally, successful meetings have been held thanks to great work by mostly Tokyo-based members.
I have been a JAT member for many years and I have benefitted greatly from all of the wonderful things that JAT has done for me and the rest of the JAT membership, including the sponsorship of the fabulously successful IJET conferences, and I think it is about time to repay this debt by volunteering to serve on the JAT Board.
If elected, I hope to be able to continue to provide such services and benefits to the JAT membership and offer what help I can to allow this fine organization to continue doing what it does best.
I have served on several IJET organizing committees and these experiences have always been positive. I look forward to a similarly positive experience from serving on the JAT Board if elected.
As 2.7 percent of the JAT membership may know, I served as a JAT auditor
for the past two years. This was a valuable opportunity for me to
understand a bit better what makes this organization--whose member I've
been for more years than I care to remember--tick. I familiarized myself
with the teikan and the Bylaws and hit the directors over the head with
them at every possible opportunity. I did look at and tried to
understand the figures on our financial statements and verified them as
best as I could (and am glad to report that I detected no misuse of
funds). I also listened in and took part in board discussions on all
matters pertaining to the running of the organization, although as an
auditor I do not have a vote when it comes down to actually deciding
things. Because of this last fact, I originally intended to run for
director this time around, but decided to run for auditor once more. I
think I can still achieve something that way, and now that I know at
least some of the ropes, I thought I'd try pulling on them some more. I
intend to work towards the highest degree of openness possible in the
dealings of the board, and I will endeavor to keep JAT members informed
of what is bubbling beneath the surface.
Congratulations to all the finalists and winners, and thanks again to the contest organizers (Mike Sekine and Karen Sandness) and judges (Junko Ogawara, Emily Shibata-Sato, Yukari Ishihara, Malcolm James, Steven Venti, Ken Wagner, Kiyoshi Chimasu, and Sophie Natsusato) for their hard work.
In an illustrated presentation, Frederik L. Schodt will discuss how Tezuka Osamu created his most famous manga and anime character, and also created the template for the current global manga and anime revolution. The translator of the 23-volume Astro Boy manga, Fred will also comment on the process of localizing the Tetsuwan Atomu/Astro Boy manga, as well as the original anime.
Date: Saturday, March 22, 2008
Time: 14:00 - 17:00
Meeting Place: Forum 8, Room 1206
Address: Dogenzaka 2-10-7, Shibuya, Tokyo
Cost: Free for JAT members, ¥1000 for non-members
Frederik L. Schodt is a San Francisco-based writer, translator, and conference interpreter. He has writtenextensively on Japanese pop culture, technology, and history, and he has translated numerous manga. In 2000, he won the special prize of the Asahi Shinbun's Osamu Tezuka Culture Award, for his work in popularizing manga overseas. He frequently served as Osamu Tezuka's interpreter on his trips to North America from 1978 into the eighties.
JAT's March meeting will be held on Saturday, March 15, 2008, from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, followed by karaoke. Details follow.
Subject: Pre -IJET Networking - Japanese and English Business Correspondence for What If Situations and President's Reception
Moderators: Kiyoko Sagane and Lisa Hew
Date: Saturday, March 15, 2008
Time: 14:00 - 18:00
Meeting Place: Tanto Tanto Shibuya (restaurant), 8F of Tokyu Bunkamura
Cost: JPY4,500 (JPY4,000 for JAT members)
翻訳者がきちんとした背景調査を行ったかどうかは、例えば、”merger of equals”を「対等合併」として訳せているか、”Chrysler”を何と訳しているかどうかである程度伺える。前者については、最終審査に残った6人中5人が訳せていることは良い。後者については、In the heat of summer 1997, Daimler Benz purchased Chrysler for 37 billion dollars in a reported business merger of equals. Now, not quite 10 years later DaimlerChrysler is selling Chrysler for a reported 7.4 billion dollars for 80% of the firm.の文章をみてみると、最初のChryslerと2番目のChryslerをまったく区別せず両方とも「クライスラー」とした応募者が2名、2番目のクライスラーを「クライスラー株」とした応募者が2名、2番目のChryslerを「クライスラー部門」と訳せていた応募者は2名のみであった。今回の課題文は、専門家向けのビジネス文書ではないが、事実を正確に記す慎重さが求められる。
読解力では、例えばIf the loss of 30 billion dollars in business value is not bad enough apparently the entire purchase price being paid by the buyer Cerberus will be placed into Chrysler and not retained by Daimler.の前半は、筆者の皮肉が含まれていることを感じ取らなければならないが、これをまったく文字通り訳してしまった応募者が2名いた。また、 Don't wait until even the "business challenged" can tell you must sell.の訳については、文意をまったく理解できていない応募者が3名、残りの3名は文意はまあまあ理解できているが、括弧をつける場所を間違えていたり、精度に欠けていた。ちなみに "business challenged" とは、｢経営に無知な人間／疎い人間｣といった意味である。また、In the name of efficiency Daimler didn't let Chrysler keep dancing the dance that got it to the ball.の訳についても苦労の跡が見られたが、ここは｢舞踏会｣などという表現を使うようでは不合格。この文章以前の情報からわかるように、クライスラー社がデザイン力で成功していたにもかかわらず、ダイムラー社はそのデザイン力を発揮させるチャンスを与えなかったという文意が読み取れなくてはならない。
日本語力という点では、Exciting new product lines were eagerly accepted by the market. の訳について全員が苦労していたようであるが、このような文章の場合、「熱烈な歓迎」「熱狂的に受け入れられた」などのドラマチックな表現は不自然である。「圧倒的な人気／支持」などと表現を工夫できるようになりたい。また、「Exciting new product lines」についても、冗長な表現が多く見られた。
さて、課題文に「ビジネス」ものが登場したのは今回が初めてです。普段、日経新聞やビジネス・業界誌（紙）、あるいはビジネス関係のサイトやブログなどをあまり読んでいない方にはとっつきにくかったかもしれません。”Purchase” を”購入”（21番）に、あるいは”privately held business”を「私有企業」（29番）（「私有企業」は「国有企業」との対比で中国関連の文章に登場することが多い）としたのは、慣れていなかった例でしょう。まずはGoogleで検索したり（クライスラー、ダイムラー、サーベラスの3つの単語で検索するだけで、「買収」に関する記事などが数千件みつかります）、雑誌や新聞記事を探したりして、少なくとも数十ページ分をまず読み、雰囲気をつかまれることをお勧めします。
”When Daimler purchased Chrysler a new design center had been completed allowing Chrysler to bring cars on the market in three years or less./ ＜その２パラグラフ後に出てくる＞What happened to the design studio again? ” ここでは最初の a new design centerと次の the design studioが、同じものを指していると訳文からすぐわかるか？をみました。21番（デザインセンター・再び気になるのはデザインセンター）と61番（新しいデザイン拠点 / 先ほどのデザイン拠点）が訳語を統一させていましたが、他の方々は、24番（設計センター・設計所）、29番（デザイン・センター/ デザインスタジオ）、35番（新デザインセンター/前述のデザインスタジオ）、38番（設計センター/ 設計部門）と表現が異なっていました。英語では最初が“…a design center” 次が “…the design studio again”と theがつくので同じものだとすぐわかりますが、“center“ と“studio“を直訳すると「あれ、これって何だっけ？」と前を読み返すために、読者が数秒ロスしてしまう可能性があります（ただし、自動車業界の人ならばすぐわかるかもしれません）。正確さや厳密さが要求される学術文書や法律文書ではありませんので、なるべくさらっと読める工夫が必要だと思います。
もう１点は ５パラブラフ目に登場する “affordable car style”で、訳文から「値段が安い・予算内」だとすぐわかるかどうかです。「手頃な」だけですと、日本語では「手頃なサイズ（大きさ）」などの言い方もありますので、ちょっと迷ってしまいます。
21番は最初、私にとっての１位候補でした。"business challenged," “the ‘crossover’ or mix of SUV and Minivan”などで意味を取り違えたところや、ビジネス文書に慣れていないとすぐに分かる表現はあったものの、日本語としてとてもおかしな表現は見当たらなかったからです。しかし、全体的にみると、訳文が冗長で（一番短い人より400字程度多い）読みにくかったのが減点対象となりました。たとえば最初の文章「ダイムラー・ベンツが370億ドルでクライスラーを買収し、対等合併を行うことが報じられたのは1997年の真夏のことだった」では、１つの文章に「こと」を2回使わないようにする等、訳文を引き締める工夫を重ねればよいかと思います。
24番は、最初に引用した”purchase/購入”がこの分野に慣れていないと察せられる一例でしたが、不自然な文章の流れ（「…価格設定で重要となる。上昇サイクルで…」）、おかしな日本語表現（「活気に満ちた新製品ライン」、「成長する計画もなければ」、「報道が街に流れた時」、「有能な社員は大切な商売道具である」）も減点対象となりました。“Chrysler was a low cost provider”のところはよく解釈できていました。今後は、英語だけではなく、日本語の文章もたくさん読まれることをお奨めします。「言葉の誤用（誤用にご用心）」http://starscafe.net/kotoba/misuse/ などというサイトも役立つかもしれません。
29番は、“Now, in 2007, Chrysler has revenues of 62 billion dollars … with no projected growth and no current cash flow for financing.”の“cash flow for financing” の意味をうまくつかめていない人が多かったなかで、「資金調達のためのキャッシュ・フローもない」と訳せたのはよかったと思いますし、 “business challenged” も解釈できていました。しかし”In a merger originally billed as a marriage of equals…” の「当初は対等な連合と宣伝された統合」など不自然な表現や、”Compare that to the current industry weakness…” の「この状況を現在の業界の弱点と…報告を伴う弱点だ」というぎこちない訳などが減点対象となりました。
35番は、「意訳」コンテストでしたら1位となる可能性もありましたが、あくまでも、解釈をなるべく加えず、意訳もなるべくせず、それでもなおわかりやすく訳出するのが目的の「翻訳」コンテストでしたので、何か所か減点対象となりました。最初見落としたのですが（他の審査員の方から指摘されて気がつきました）、ドルを「円」としてしまったところもありました。あと日本語表現ではがんばったものの、原文の意味が取れていないところがかなり多かったです。”Jeep was very close to the Marlboro Man in American mystique”を「ジープはかのマルボロマンの車」としたのは、情景が目に浮かんでくるようではありますが、バツです。（ちなみに”Jeep”と “Marlboro”で画像検索をしたところ、なぜかMickey Rourke とDon Johnson主演のアクション映画”Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man” のポスターが出てきました）。
そして結局61番が１位となったわけですが、一番悩んだのは、「過剰整備（「設備」だと思われる）」、「医療や退職費用負担よる（「による」だと思われる）、「お手頃な車という座も失ってしまったのです（ここだけ「ですます」調になっている。また”affordable”も訳し足りていない）」などの、誤字・脱字・チェックし忘れをどの程度減点するかでした。また”in a reported business merger of equals”（「対等合併」と称して）、”Daimler, in 2007, finally brought out a Hummer competitor…“（ダイムラーが、ハマーを競合としてようやく意識し始めたのは…）など、かなりの減点対象となるところもありました。結局、プラス点とマイナス点を総合的に判断し、紙一重で１位としました。
21番は、「余裕のなさは買い叩かれるもと」、「才能は事業の要、流出させることなかれ」など、個人的には気に入った表現もあったものの、文脈に即していない用語選択や「カバー可能」など、口語的と思われる表現がありました。「スタイリッシュ」という外来語は日本語として定着しているか、「アメリカの伝説」とはどういう意味なのか、など、もう少し突き詰めて考えてみてください。「Daimler didn't let Chrysler keep dancing the dance that got it to the ball」を「ダイムラーはクライスラーがヒットを産み出して来た従来のやり方を継続させようとしなかった」と訳し、意味はとらえているものの、「ヒットを産み出して来た」の部分が「超訳」となっている点に気をつけてください。残念なのは、文章が冗長的で読みづらいため、稚拙な印象を与えている点です。自分で声を出して読んでみる、人に読んでもらって聞くなどして文章を洗練させると、「英文和訳」から「翻訳」に脱皮できることでしょう。
35番は、文章がかなりこなれており、工夫して訳していると感じましたが、意訳が多く、原文にない補足もいくつか見られ、審査中、何度も原文に戻って確認する必要がありました。「…is not bad enough…」の構文を変えて「～最悪の自体に見舞われることになる」と「超訳」されていますが、素直に原文どおりの構文で訳しても良いのではないでしょうか。「アメリカの三大自動車メーカー（ゼネラル・モーターズ、フォードモーター、クライスラー）」に見られるような補足も、親切心からなのかもしれませんが、この文章の読者層は一般ビジネスマンなので不要でしょう。むしろ「ジープはかのマルボロマンの車」の部分の方が、今日の日本の読者間で一般的な知識であるか疑問なので（グーグル検索でもヒットは少ないですね）、あえて補足をするならここではないでしょうか。「人材の実力を発揮させることなく」、「トレンドから距離を置いた」などは誤訳と判断しました。「28億円」の単位間違えや「2006年まで」の部分で「three years prior to」が抜けている (意図的?) などのミスも残念です。
After much deliberation, the judges awarded prizes as follows:
First place: No. 62, Monica Farrell
Second place: No. 33, Sarah Bull
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.
The passage for translation is part of a page giving plain language summaries of chapters of a government report. The Japanese is easy to read, well-structured, and quite accessible. I'd like to think the English could be, too. However, there are some paragraph-length sentences gave the translators problems.
Three of the finalists wrote their translations from a different time perspective from the genko, which was dated December 2001. Two of the finalists translated "要約" in the title as "abstract," but that’s not really appropriate for a chapter summary. Both of those errors could have been avoided by simply taking the URL at the top of the passage, looking at the full page on the Internet, and thinking more about the context of the part being translated. The "効果" in the title was also problematic. Four of the finalists used "effects," but two used "effectiveness," which seems a better fit with the rest of the passage. It's always a good idea to go back and do a reality check on the title when you reach the end of a passage.
Specific points for #33
I liked No. 33's translation for its clear writing, which makes it easy to understand. Examples include "the new curriculum guidelines to be fully implemented from the 2002 school year," and the treatment of Paragraph 3 (see comments on No. 62). However, there are places where this goes too far, sacrificing accuracy for readability. For example, "immediately after warning labels are introduced people remember their contents, but ... the percentage of people who still remember the contents after a month decreases" reads well, but the "still" shifts the emphasis and increases the risk of misinterpreting this phrase to refer to recollection after an interval of one month instead of recollection after a month of continual exposure. Contrast this with "consumers could recall the contents of a warning label immediately after its introduction, but one month after the introduction that percentage dropped." (No.64) There are also comprehension errors, as seen in "noticing the social factors that trigger smoking" and "in order to expand economic activity beyond the borders of multinational corporations."
No. 33's natural writing style is an excellent basis for translation, and I expect him/her to become a very good translator as experience brings greater comprehension of the Japanese.
Specific points for #39
No.39 was generally good, and read well, but suffered from grammar and logic problems in the English. Look at Paragraph 3: "Another study shows the correlation between increases in price and its affect on consumption. Raising the price of tobacco products exceeding the rate of inflation and growth in average income leads to a decrease in tobacco consumption, particularly among minors and lower income groups." The translation is correct, but it has the following problems:
- Word choice: "affect" should be "effect". (Interestingly, No.39 used "effect" correctly in the title.)
- Logic: There's always a correlation between an action and its effect, so perhaps this should have been "correlation between price and consumption"?
- Word choice: "Raising the price ... exceeding the rate of inflation" should be "... in excess of the rate of inflation"
On the other hand, there were some places where the phrasing was inspired, reading naturally, but still conveying the full meaning of the Japanese. "Programs focusing on developing skills to counteract the pressure from such social factors" is a good example. Also, No. 39 was the only finalist to actively acknowledge the way the last paragraph uses "各国" to signal a contrast between what's happening at the national level and what's happening at the international level.
Specific points for #52
I took an instant liking to No. 52 for being the only finalist to find a proper place for "cigarettes" in a text where the focus was on "tobacco."
However, there were a number of translation errors (for example, "According to healthcare providers and others, smoking cessation counseling" for "医療従事者などによる禁煙指導") and over-literal translations ("research and reporting being done").
I liked the phrasing of "this correlation is particularly strong for minors and low-wage earners," and the brevity of No. 52's treatment of Paragraph 3 (see comments on No. 62).
Specific points for #53
Although No.53 appeared to misunderstand the passage at several points, he/she had a nice turn of phrase, as seen in "Another device" in Paragraph 2. The translation was let down by poor checking, though. A proper read-through before submission would have caught the following errors in the English:
Para 2: "have been the focus much study" (should be "...focus of much ...")
Para 2: "warnings in form of photographs" (should be "... in the form of ...")
Para 4: "advice that direct targets the habits" ("... directly targets ..."?)
Para 6: "The prospects ... are well under way" (?)
Specific points for #62:
The overall winner, but tended to be wordy, which sometimes made the text a little less comprehensible. For example, compare three different versions of Paragraph 3:
No.62: Additionally, with regard to the effect of tobacco price hikes on tobacco consumption, reports indicate that tobacco consumption declines when the rise of the price of tobacco exceeds the rate of inflation as well as the income increase rate. This decline is especially connected to inhibiting tobacco consumption among minors and people in lower income brackets, according to reports.
No.33: Reports regarding the effect of prices increases on tobacco consumption claim that when price hikes for tobacco products exceed the rates of increase for other products and for wages, the result is a decrease in consumption; particularly among under-age smokers and people in low-income groups.
No.52: Meanwhile, it has been reported that when the price of cigarettes rises faster than the rates of inflation and income, cigarette consumption declines and this correlation is particularly strong for minors and low-wage earners.
For this paragraph, No.62 takes 30% more words than No.33 and 73% more words than No.52 to say pretty much the same thing. These translations are all 'correct' but take different approaches. No.62 would benefit from practice at editing his or her own translations to cut the number of words by 15% or so without sacrificing accuracy.
Errors included the logical error in "unless the format of warning labels changes, it is ineffective to change only the content of the warnings" ("only" introduces a contradiction), "the new Courses of Study that will be implemented as the standards for educational courses ..." ("standard"?), and there were over-literal translations such as "This decline is especially connected to inhibiting tobacco consumption" and "negotiations are currently in progress" ("currently" is superfluous).
I particularly liked the overall accuracy of this translation, and expect the translator to keep improving as experience brings more confidence to step away from a very literal approach.
Specific points for #64:
Had some nice ideas but poor execution. I liked the attempt to write the text in a readable manner, but there were too many places where the English would have benefited from a critical read-through before submission. Examples include:
Subject-verb agreement: Para 2: "an obligation ... are among techniques" (should be "obligations" or "is among techniques")
Subject-verb agreement: Para 5: "the new course of study ... stipulate ..." (should be "should be "stipulates" or "stipulated")
Word choice: Para 5: "stipulate that ... education be taught" (a lofty ambition, but inappropriate here)
Unnatural phrasing: Para 7: the ... WHO ... decided to request the initiation of the development the Framework ... (it's the string of nested structures that's unnatural, but I also marked this down for missing an "of" before "the Framework" and for mistranslating what was decided)
This translator would do well to practice reading with a critical perspective. Either persuade an experienced editor to give feedback, or, as one of the EJ division judges suggested, get someone else to read the translation out loud.
In 1954, two British physicians published findings suggesting a causal link between smoking and untimely death. Twelve years later, in 1966, the US Surgeon General required the first warning labels on cigarettes in the United States. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization announced that tobacco use could kill one billion people in the 21st century, up from a scant million in the 20th century. Once viewed as glamorous and even healthy (with claims of relieving stress and promoting good digestion, for example), smoking has been vilified by the medical community as a major health hazard for decades. This has given birth to a well established medical discipline of smoking cessation treatment and a public health campaign against tobacco use waged on national and international fronts. This in turn has spawned its own body of writing with its own unique jargon, an example of which was the passage for the Japanese-English portion of this year’s contest (namely, 「たばこ対策への介入事例とその効果」要約) .
The purpose of the JAT Translation Contest is “to foster, recognize, and reward excellence in commercial, non-literary translation between Japanese and English by new translators.” One method of assessing technical translation, proposed by the American Translators Association, breaks the translation process into three areas: source language comprehension, target language writing, and “translation technique.” (I simply cite the ATA’s approach because I am familiar with it.) The last, translation technique, includes proofreading to ensure the translator has avoided mistakes and research to ensure that the vocabulary and usage are appropriate and, especially in the case of Japanese, to help the translator interpret any vague passages.
The たばこ対策 passage used technical vocabulary sparingly (it had almost a general sound), but did contain some of the key vocabulary of the anti-smoking field. This included the terms smoking cessation, cessation counseling, warning labels, tobacco consumption, rotation (of warning labels), and the proper names of an organization and a publication. In fact, the publication (an agreement, actually), the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, adopted at a WHO World Health Assembly, was one piece of research material that yielded, in addition to its own proper name, the vocabulary and feel of anti-smoking public health writing. A little more Googling with the vocabulary available in the Framework Convention provides all of the information needed to set the right tone and employ the right vocabulary for the translation.
Monica Farrell (Entry 62) employed all of the field-specific vocabulary cited above, a low number of source comprehension errors, and workmanlike writing to win this year’s contest. Each of the six semi-finalists selected had his or her own strength, and some produced very likable English prose. However, Monica showed the willingness to do the amount of research that I would think would lead to consistently accurate and appropriate translations and serve as a basis for continued growth as a translator.
Sarah Bull (Entry 33) produced perhaps the most readable translation. However, the number of comprehension errors was comparable to that of Monica’s and Sarah took a more neutral approach, not employing some of the key terms of the smoking cessation field.
I, for one, could not see an immediately apparent winner among the six semi-finalists provided to the judges by the JAT screeners. Several readings and careful analysis of the texts were necessary to produce the finalists and the winner. Each contestant showed different strengths, and the judges found it difficult to select a winner. Considerable negotiation was necessary, with each judge presenting arguments for his selection. That serves as evidence of the competitive quality of all of the semifinalists’ translations.
Good translation is a little bit like pornography: very hard to define but easy to recognize when you see it. This is especially true for commercial translation, which unlike literary translation, is almost always compared side-by-side with the original in evaluating “translation accuracy.” Personally, I think that “translation accuracy” is an ill-conceived and poorly defined concept. For example, how does one quantify translation accuracy? Advertisements for translation software often cite translation accuracy as a percentage, but what does it mean to be “90% accurate” versus “80% accuracy,” and just where is the borderline between “usable” and “unusable” or “acceptable” and “unacceptable?”
While it probably isn’t possible either to fashion an axiomatic definition of or to establish quantitative standards for evaluating translation accuracy, it certainly is possible to list a few of the characteristics that are essential to a professional quality translation.
Perhaps the first thing that need be mentioned is that the translation should contain all the same factual information that the original does. Certainly no translation could be considered accurate or complete if an important piece of information was missing. There are times, however, when certain information explicit in the original need not appear in the translation if the conventions of the target language preclude its inclusion. An example very commonly found in Japanese to English translation might be the inclusion in parenthesis of the acronym for the name of an organization even though the acronym is not used anywhere else in the document. This occurs in this year’s contest text where the World Health Organization is mentioned in the final paragraph. Is there any real need to include WHO in parenthesis there?
The opposite can also be true in cases where information implicit in the original need be explained to the target readers. This year’s text, for example, mentioned a dairoku gakunen, which could be translated as “sixth year of schooling,” but given the diversity of nomenclature in the various school systems found in English speaking countries, I heartily concur with those who rendered this as “6th year of elementary school.”
Clearly, one of the first skills that a successful translator must develop is the ability to recognize what should or shouldn’t be translated.
Another characteristic to consider is whether the translation conveys the necessary information in the same tenor and tone as the original and as appropriate for the target reader. A good example of this from this year’s contest was the word youyaku in the title. Even professional translators will disagree over whether to include a word such as summary or abstract in the title itself, or perhaps to leave it out of the title altogether, and simply make clear in the topic sentence of the opening paragraph that what is being given here is a description of the content rather than a reproduction of the chapter itself.
In fact, one of the most difficult aspects of judging a translation contest is the fact that there is rarely only one “correct” translation. Rather, there are usually a number of possible approaches, and the question of whether a given approach is appropriate for a given problem is one that can only be answered in the context of what the translation is for, who the target reader is, and how much time can be allotted to translating the problematic passage.
One last issue I would like to comment on is the question of how literal a commercial translation should be. Translators who specialize in patents or legal documents, both of which are often subject to word-by-word scrutiny, understand the expediency of producing a commercial translation with a one-to-one correspondence to the original. Such an approach might not produce the most readable translation, but is an effective way to assuage a client’s fears that something is either missing or mistranslated, and in many cases makes it easier for the end-user to use both the original and the translation side-by-side.
This level of linguistic correspondence is in sharp contrast to the more figurative approach taken in commercial translations for publication, especially in documents where the use of idioms as well as hyperbole, parallelism, and other rhetorical techniques make word-by-word translation inappropriate. At this level, evaluating translation accuracy can be far more complicated, sometimes bordering on the subjective.
It may seem strange that “accuracy” can be considered to be something less than completely objective, but when editing for readability or when evaluating word choices, composition, and other stylistic considerations, the question of whether a translation accurately reflects the tenor and tone of the original is one on which even experienced translators can occasionally disagree.
There was much to praise in all of the final entries in this year’s contest, and one problem with a contest is that the need to pick a winner leads to excessive nit-picking of otherwise competent work. All of the finalists showed talent and are to be congratulated for their efforts.