All six finalists did a good job of conveying the overall meaning of the contest passage, and we wish all of them success in their translation careers. This section will be devoted to specific words and phrases in the passage that proved to be difficult for multiple finalists or points of general interest in the context of translation.
When we create a translation we must make choices—one after another—in order to convey to the target-language reader the same message and the same tone that exist in the source text. The contest passage is not an academic document. It is not an article drawn from a peer-reviewed journal. However, the author is an academic, the article is filled with academic terminology, and the tone of the document is very much that of an academic conveying to a general audience his thoughts on a particular question. Thus, we must approach the translation—and the multitude of choices related to individual words and phrases—with an academic mindset, to a degree.
The first question that arises when translating this article is the following: How should we translate 国際政治学 and 国際政治学者? A literal translation of 国際政治学 would be “international politics,” but the official English name for the 日本国際政治学会 is “Japan Association of International Relations.” A glance at the “About JAIR” page (https://jair.or.jp/en/about.html) on the JAIR website reveals that the JAIR appears to view “international relations” and “international politics” as essentially interchangeable terms. From a Japanese perspective this may be acceptable. However, from an American perspective the scope of the term “international relations” is much broader than that of the term “international politics.” From an American perspective “international relations” may include economic, social, and political relationships. It may include official, informal, and private relationships among entities or individuals. Thus, “international relations” encompasses issues quite far removed from politics or policy matters. In this article the author focuses on war and international conflict. Given this context, it is probably better to translate 国際政治学 as “international politics” and 国際政治学者 as “experts in international politics” or “researchers in international politics.”
Now that we understand which people the author of this article is thinking about, we need to consider what question the author is posing. The second half of the title reads 何ができるのか. Five of the six finalists fell into two camps in this regard. E02, E42 and E46 offered variations of “what can ... do?” On the other hand, E32 and E56 proposed variations of “what good is/are ...?” The first option is a literal translation; there is absolutely no problem here. The second option requires a bit of thought. At first glance this option may seem to carry a connotation that is unnecessarily negative. However, after reading the final paragraph of the article, we understand that in this article the author is pushing back against a perception that research in this field is largely irrelevant. From that point of view the title can be seen as a rhetorical device through which the author challenges the reader to defend the inherent value of research in this field. In the body of the article the author himself works to defend the value of such research and arrives—in the final paragraph—at a clear endorsement of such work. Thus, both of these options are valid interpretations of the second half of the title of this article.
Yet another question arises in connection with the following phrase from the third paragraph on page 14: “外交史と地域の研究者.” For 外交史 “diplomatic history” would be the best choice for two reasons: the meaning is an exact match, and the concise English term can be smoothly incorporated into many different sentences. “History of foreign policy” and “history of foreign affairs” would also be reasonable, but these phrases may be more difficult to use in the other instances in which 外交史 appears in the text of this article. In this context 地域 could refer to “area studies” or “regional studies.” (E42, E52 and E56 opted for “area studies”; E02, E32 and E46 went with “regional studies.”) From an American perspective “area studies” is the preferred term. For example, the U.S. Dept. of Education offers FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students at U.S. universities who are “undergoing training in modern foreign languages and related area or international studies.” (The underlines are mine.)
The author’s use of the term 下部構造 in connection with Marxist history could be tricky, but all six finalists did well. The best translation is probably “substructure” (E02, E32, E52) although “base” (E46, E56) and “modes of production” (E42) are also used in academic circles to describe this concept in Marxist thought.
E02’s translation is a very solid effort. For example, 中堅世代の研究者 became “mid-career researchers,” and 一朝一夕 became “spring up overnight.” In addition, E02 expressed 一方 in the fourth sentence of the third paragraph as “meanwhile.” The word 一方 often appears in connection with some form of contrast or opposition. In such instances “on the one hand,” “on the other hand,” or “however” would be fine. In this instance the author describes the actions of two groups of researchers. The author acknowledges that the actions are different, but the author does not see these actions as being in opposition to each other. Rather, the author sees the actions of the two groups as complementary in the way that they contribute to progress in this particular academic discipline. E02’s choice of “meanwhile” accurately represents the author’s viewpoint.
However, E02 did miss the mark in some instances. For example, in the final sentence of the first paragraph on page 15 the author refers to 過去の戦争の原因. E02 expressed this as “the causes of past wars.” Distinguishing singular from plural in a Japanese text can be a challenge. However, this sentence concludes a paragraph that is devoted solely to World War II and Japan’s involvement in it (i.e., “the Pacific War”). In this context it is reasonable to assume that this phrase refers specifically to World War II. If so, this portion could read, “the cause of that war.”
A similar issue arises in the final sentence of the fifth paragraph on page 15. Here the author uses the phrase 政治指導者. E02 referred to “political leaders.” However, the only 政治指導者 mentioned in this paragraph is President John F. Kennedy, so it is reasonable to assume that this phrase refers to him. If so, this portion could read, “a political leader.”
The third paragraph on page 15 contains the phrase 日本外交を考察する. E02 rendered this as “understanding Japanese international relations.” As mentioned in the general comments section, 外交 is really limited to “diplomacy” or “foreign policy.” “International relations” is probably be too broad for this context. Also, the verb 考察する suggests that someone investigates something or considers something, but this verb does not necessarily imply that someone actually gains anything from the process of investigating or considering. Thus, a better option for this phrase would be “investigating Japanese diplomacy” or perhaps “looking more deeply into Japanese foreign policy.”
E32 included several excellent turns of phrase in this translation. The opening sentence of this article contains the phrase 国際政治や安全保障. E32 expressed this phrase as “international politics and global security.” The source text does not actually contain a word corresponding to “global,” but the context clearly indicates that this is the intended meaning. In a discussion of the Japanese people’s attitude toward the Japanese government’s policies leading up to World War II the third sentence in the first paragraph on page 15 includes the clause 自国の政策がどのように決まっているかを知ることができなかった. E32 indicated that the Japanese people “had no window into how their own government’s policies were decided.” The phrase “had no window” expresses concisely the author’s point; namely, that the decision-making process was kept hidden from the citizens.
However, E32 had difficulty with a number of features of this article. In several places, including the title, E32 rendered 国際政治学者 as “geopolitical scholars” and 国際政治学 as “geopolitics.” The field of geopolitics—typically rendered in Japanese as 地政学—focuses on the influence exerted by geography within the realm of international politics. If “international relations” is too broad for 国際政治学, as mentioned in the general comments section, then “geopolitics” is too narrow. “International politics” is still the best option for 国際政治学.
In the opening paragraph the author tells us that the experts in the media 最新の情勢分析や自らの見解を活発に発信している. E32 told us that these experts “actively disseminate the latest developments along with their own analysis.” This translation separates the 情勢 from the 分析 and ignores the 見解. This portion could read, “actively share up-to-date analysis of the situation (in Ukraine) and their opinions (regarding the war).”
In the third paragraph of the article the author tells us that area studies researchers 国際政治学の議論を体系的に吸収して、それを生かそうとした. E32 understood this to mean that these researchers “systematically sorted through the general arguments of international political theory.” Switching from “geopolitics” to “international politics” was a good move, but “sorted through” is not a good rendering of 吸収して. It would be better to indicate that these researchers “systematically absorbed/internalized the debates among researchers in international politics.”
In the second paragraph on page 15 E32 decided to include in the translation the romanization of 太平洋戦争への道. The reasoning behind this decision is not clear. Because this is the title of an eight-volume set of books, it is a proper noun, but so is the full name for the JAIR, for which E32 did not include the original Japanese pronunciation. E32 also included a footnote, providing information about the English translation of the set of books. All of this information is helpful to the reader, but these elements should not be part of the translation of the article. Footnotes are common in academic documents, but—as was mentioned in the general comments section—the contest passage is not an academic document. In the general comments section it was stated that we must approach this translation with an academic mindset, to a degree. The caveat “to a degree” was included because the contest passage is not an academic document. Generally speaking, in the world of commercial translation, supplementary information—i.e., information that is not stated or implied in the source text—should not be included in a translation without first discussing the matter with the client or contracting agency. (For this contest, the contest organizer functions in that role.)
The first sentence in the fifth paragraph on page 15 includes the title of Barbara Tuchman’s famous book on World War I. E32 rendered the title as “Guns of August.” The full title is “The Guns of August.” In the final sentence of the same paragraph the author uses the phrase 政治指導者. E32 referred to “world leaders.” However, the only 政治指導者 mentioned in this paragraph is President John F. Kennedy, so it is reasonable to assume that this phrase refers to him. If so, this portion could read, “a political leader.”
E42 exhibited excellent comprehension of the source text and produced a very solid translation but stumbled in a few places. E42 opted for “mid-career” (中堅世代) and “area studies” (地域), both recommended options, but also went with “international relations” (国際政治学). (“International politics” would be a better choice, as mentioned in the general comments section.)
The information about the author appears in the translation as “Political Scientist Masaya Inoue.” E42 followed the order in which the author’s field of specialty and the author’s name appeared in the source text. The instructions indicated that the translation should be “complete, accurate, and as natural as possible.” In this instance it would be more natural in English to present the author’s information as “Masaya Inoue, political scientist.”
In the final sentence of the third paragraph of the article E42 did an excellent job describing the activities of the two groups of researchers within the JAIR, but E42 chose to express 一方 as “On the other hand.” As mentioned in the comments for E02, there is really no conflict between the activities of these two groups. In fact, the activities of the second group build on the activities of the first group. “Meanwhile” or perhaps “At the same time” would be a better choice for 一方 in this context.
In the second paragraph on page 15 E42 decided to include in the translation the romanization of 太平洋戦争への道. The reasoning behind this decision is not clear. Because this is the title of an eight-volume set of books, it is a proper noun, but so is the full name for the JAIR, for which E42 did not include the original Japanese pronunciation. Simply translating the title would have been sufficient.
In the final paragraph of the article the author mentions 実学, which E42 rendered as “the applied sciences.” This translation may be too narrow. The core concept behind 実学 is the ability to put knowledge to practical use. Some sources offer “practical science” for 実学, while others suggest “practical learning.” In this context “practical learning” would be a better choice.
This translation is plagued by awkward phrasing and by word choices that miss the mark. Phrases such as “catch our eyes with their activeness” and “They are actively transmitting,” both of which appear in the opening paragraph, distract the reader from the message the translation is supposed to convey.
E46’s translation of the second sentence in the second paragraph reads, “New-generation international political scientists actively play such roles on media facing crises, which I would say shows the thickness of academic layers in Japan.” The phrase “on media facing crises” suggests that the problem lies with the media. That is certainly not the meaning the author intended. The phrase “the thickness of academic layers in Japan” is an excessively literal rendering. One option for this sentence would be this: “The fact that a new generation of researchers in international politics who can perform this function arose/emerged in the media at a time of crisis is surely a testament to the depth of academic talent in Japan.”
The fourth sentence in the fourth paragraph on page 15 contains the phrase 優れた研究. E46 expressed this as “Good studies.” This translation completely misses the mark. The intended meaning is “Excellent research.”
In the first sentence of the following paragraph E46 refers to “opening everts.” E46 probably intended to write “opening events.”
The final paragraph of E46’s translation reads, “We often come across criticism of what are the points of studying past events or narrow regions, as studies with tangible outcomes are more favored these days. I, however, want to emphasize it is those studies that are in fact the surest ways to understand the modern complex world.” The first clause of the first sentence is very awkward, as is the phrase “modern complex world,” but a more serious problem is the reference to “those studies” in the second sentence. The only reference to “studies” in the first sentence—and thus the only possible antecedent of “those studies”—is a reference to “studies with tangible outcomes.” Thus, this translation suggests that the author favors “studies with tangible outcomes” over “studying past events or narrow regions.” In fact, the opposite is true. The author is actually defending research on diplomatic history and area studies. One option for the final paragraph would be the following: “As a result of the current emphasis on practical learning, we often hear criticism of this form: what meaning is there in research on events from the past or research on narrowly defined regions of the world? On the contrary, I wish to emphasize that conducting such research is the most reliable/effective way of understanding the complex modern world.”
E52’s translation is characterized by some excellent turns of phrase, but E52 missed a number of key elements of this passage.
When confronted by the figure of speech 一朝一夕 in the discussion of experts who could appear in the media, E52 stated that such experts “are not exactly a dime a dozen.” However, in the following sentence E52 referred—correctly—to “the depth of talent in Japanese academic circles.” This combination may strike some readers as a contradiction. The noun 一朝一夕 literally refers to a brief period of time. In discussions of the development of skills or the acquisition of knowledge 一朝一夕 is often rendered as “overnight.” That would be a reasonable option in this context. It would be better to say that such experts “cannot be developed overnight.” (This alternative is entirely consistent with “the depth of talent in Japanese academic circles,” and it reinforces the author’s intended purpose: to illustrate the collective effort expended over many years in order for Japan to reach this enviable position.)
E52 expressed the title of this article as “The Power of International Relations in the Face of War.” The overall approach to the title (i.e., “The Power of ... in the Face of War” is completely consistent with the author’s intended purpose in writing this article and fits very well with the concluding sentence of the article. Unfortunately, E52 chose to translate 国際政治学 as “international relations.” As mentioned in the general comments section, “international politics” would be the best option.
On the other hand, in the second sentence of the third paragraph the author introduces JAIR as 国際政治研究に関する国内最大の学会. E52 described JAIR as “Japan’s largest academic society in the field of political science.” In the first paragraph on page 15 the author refers to 日本の国際政治学の方向. E52 again translated 国際政治学 as “political science.” As mentioned in the general comments section, “international politics” would be the best option for either 国際政治 or 国際政治学. (The international dimension is central to the entire article.)
In the final sentence of the first paragraph on page 15 the author refers to 過去の戦争の原因. E52 expressed this as “the motives behind wars of the past.” Distinguishing singular from plural in a Japanese text can be a challenge. However, this sentence concludes a paragraph that is devoted solely to World War II and Japan’s involvement in it (i.e., “the Pacific War”). In this context it is reasonable to assume that this phrase refers specifically to World War II. If so, this portion could read, “the motives behind Japan’s involvement in that war.”
In the following paragraph E52 decided to include in the translation the romanization of 太平洋戦争への道. The reasoning behind this decision is not clear. Because this is the title of an eight-volume set of books, it is a proper noun, but so is the full name for the JAIR, for which E52 did not include the original Japanese pronunciation. Simply translating the title would have been sufficient.
In the fifth paragraph on page 15 the author introduces The Guns of August and refers to that book as a 名著. E52 described the book as “a renowned work of literature.” This book is certainly renowned, but it is not a work of “literature,” it is a volume of history.
In the final sentence of the same paragraph the author uses the phrase 政治指導者. E52 referred to “those political leaders.” However, the only 政治指導者 mentioned in this paragraph is President John F. Kennedy, so it is reasonable to assume that this phrase refers to him. If so, this portion could read, “a political leader.”
In the title of this article E56 translated 国際政治学者 as “global political analyst.” This translation fits very well with the content of the article. E56 also recognized that the efforts of the two groups of researchers within the JAIR are complementary, not contradictory, and translated 一方 as “meanwhile.”
However, not all of E56’s choices were as successful. In the opening sentence of the article the author refers to 国際政治や安全保障の専門家. E56 described such people as “experts in global politics and military security.” “Global politics” is a good choice, but 安全保障 typically refers to “national security.” (The term “military security” does overlap with “national security,” but “military security” more commonly refers to law enforcement within the realm of the military. The use of “national security” avoids any risk of misunderstanding.)
In the first sentence of the second paragraph the author presents the key characteristics of the people who can successfully appear in the media, as described in the preceding paragraph. E56 stated that “a seasoned analyst is not made overnight, much less one who is well-versed in the geopolitical affairs of Russia, Ukraine, and all of Europe, and who can explain the relevant issues in layman’s terms.” Most of this translation is accurate. The issues here are the inclusion of the word “seasoned” and the distinction that is made between an “ordinary” seasoned analyst and a seasoned analyst who possesses the special attributes described in the second half of the translation. In this sentence the author is only describing one type of expert, and there is no reference to "seasoning.” This portion could read, “an analyst who is well versed in the international situation in Europe, including Russia and Ukraine, and can explain the relevant issue in layman’s terms cannot be made/developed overnight.”
In several places the author mentions 外交史研究者. E56 refers to these researchers as “foreign affairs historians.” Although this term is acceptable, “diplomatic historians” would be a smoother alternative. (The combination of “diplomatic historians” and “area specialists”—in either order—is particularly effective.)
In two instances E56 added information that was not present or implied in the source text. In the second paragraph on page 15 E56 provided information about the English translation of the eight-volume set devoted to Japan’s diplomacy in the years before World War II. This information is helpful to the reader, but it should not be part of the translation of the article, as mentioned in the comments for E32. In the following paragraph the author mentions 昭和戦前期の日本外交. E56 expressed this as, “Japan’s foreign policy in the pre-war period of the Showa era (1926-1945).” The issue here is the inclusion of specific years. No years are given by the author, so no years should be included in the translation. In fact, different organizations use different years as the endpoint of the “pre-war” period in Japan, and we do not know which year the author would have used if he had provided specific dates. One very practical reason for not including in a translation any information that is not present or implied in the source text is to avoid exactly this type of error. If the supplemental information included by the translator is wrong, the credibility of the entire translation comes into question. Additional thoughts on this point are included in the comments for E32.
The contest passage was an editorial from Chuo Koron, a magazine targeting educated readers, much like the New Yorker or The Atlantic. The editorial proposed that international relations and Japanese foreign relations experts could contribute, albeit indirectly, to avoiding and preventing wars by providing good scholarship that people can learn from. The editorial was written by a professor of international relations in tones that were decidedly non-inflammatory.
For a Chuo Koron editorial , this piece contained a large amount of concrete information and very few abstractions. The meaning was often clear, but the editorial still provided plenty of opportunities for contestants to display their translation skills.
One of the two main challenges of the article was finding natural sounding English for the Japanese terms 国際政治学(者) and 外交史(研究者). The closest translations “international political science” and “diplomatic history” are terms that don’t come up in conversation every day, while “international relations” and terms involving Japanese foreign relations sound more natural. The definition of “diplomacy” is roughly “managing a country’s international relations” and there is indeed a journal called Diplomatic History (but it bills itself as a journal about “American foreign relations”). Another source defines “diplomatic history” as the history of international relations between states. There is an International Political Science Association, but it is not concerned with international relations. The terms “international political science” and “diplomatic history” can sound stilted and unnatural, which is especially true using these terms for their practitioners “international political scientists” and “diplomatic historians” (tactful members of the history department?) With all of the artifacts of the source language that can seep through in a translation, it’s good to avoid stilted or unfamiliar terms whenever possible.
In fact, the 日本国際政治学会, chief protagonist of the editorial, avoids this problem entirely by using the English-language name “Japan Association of International Relations.” That should reinforce the notion that these two terms are stilted in modern lay usage. An appealing rhetorical device would be to use the literal terms sparingly for variety while relying mostly on standard-sounding terms involving international relations and foreign relations.
The finalists’ translations were highly accurate overall. People took different approaches to make their translations pleasant to English readers, but the effort in that direction was evident all around. There were many good turns of phrase in the six final translations. Unfortunately, not all of them are mentioned here.
E02’s translation is accurate and pleasant to read, featuring several extremely well written lines. E02 sought to retain the tone of the original.
E02 dealt nicely for the most part with the major obstacles of 国際政治学(者) and 外交史(研究者). The contestant translated “国際政治学” as “international politics,” “international political science,” and “international political research” and “国際政治学者” as “international political scientists,” only using “international political science” and “international political scientists” once each. “外交” was translated as “diplomatic relations” and “Japanese international relations” and “外交史研究者” as “foreign policy researchers” and “researchers in foreign relations,” "thankfully never once as “diplomatic historians.”
E02 translated the first paragraph accurately and in a highly readable manner, correctly “seeing” rather than “watching” experts on TV.
E02 did a particularly good job in the second paragraph with [competent people] “do not spring up overnight,” “the emergence” [of such people] “highlights the depth.” “Depth” is the perfect translation for “層の厚さ” in “アカデミアの層の厚さ”. However, E02 said “the depth of the academic field” instead of academia in general.
In the third paragraph, “attempting to shed light on the dynamics of international politics through empirical analysis of policy-making processes based on historical records” is faithful and succinct.
In the fourth paragraph, perhaps the most insightful translation in the contest was “shared” in “a concern shared by many was the question of why Japan had rushed into a reckless war” for “一様に関心を持った” in “多くの人々が一様に関心を持ったのは”. Later in the paragraph, “a widespread [intellectual desire]” was natural English for “広く生じた”.
In Paragraph 8, E02 wisely translated 心像 as “thinking.”
E02 had very few mistranslations or awkward phrasing.
E02 may have missed in the mark in Paragraph 3, saying the JAIR “was first established” for 創設当初 when the “当初” refers to who were members in the beginning.
Book titles offered a research challenge. In the fifth paragraph, 太平洋戦争への道 seems to be mistranslated as “The Road to the Pacific War.” WorldCat lists JAIR’s eight-volume set as “JAPAN'S ROAD TO THE PACIFIC WAR.” This can be confirmed quickly by checking the titles of the individual sections on the Japanese Wikipedia page and comparing them to the sections of the set translated by James William Morley listed on WorldCat or a major university library.
In this same line, E02 translated “集大成” as “result,” when the dictionary definition of “culmination” seems like the perfect description for an eight-volume set resulting from years of research. In Paragraph 8, E02 said “in spite of all the countries involved not wanting it” instead of straightening it out to “in spite of none the countries involved wanting it.”
E02 inserted page numbers of the original Japanese in the left margin. While this is a nice touch, such formatting can be a nuisance to layout people who will be working to put the file in print or online later.
E32 submitted a superbly accurate translation that conveyed the original meaning of the text to the reader. The translation retained the tone of the original and was not bogged down with overly stilted language.
E32 made a valiant effort to get the funky out of 国際政治学(者) with “geopolitical scholars” and “geopolitical scholarship.” That is definitely a good move in terms of technique. Unfortunately, geopolitics seems to be a subspeciality of international relations (“the study of the effects of Earth's geography on politics and international relations”). Used out of context, it sounds kind of flashy, like something from a James Bond movie. Anyone reading an article like this might be sensitive to an arcane and seemingly petty distinction like this. Otherwise, E32 provided natural renderings for 国際政治学 (international relations and international politics) and 国際政治学者 (scholars of international politics and scholars of world politics). However, E32 got stuck in the literal with 外交史 and 外交史研究者 (diplomatic history and diplomatic historians).
In Paragraph 1, “current generation of researchers” conveys pretty much the same meaning as the strained “mid-career”.
In Paragraph 2, the subject and verb ended up at opposite ends of the sentence in the “experts are not created overnight” sentence. E32 was one of few to handle this nicely by inserting dashes to set off the verbiage between the subject and verb: “experts like this— …—are not created overnight.” Later in the paragraph, E32 nailed the “アカデミアの層の厚さを示していよう” phrase with “is a testament to the depth of academia in Japan”.
In Paragraph 3, E32 wrote JAIR was “focused on international politics” for the weak “に関する” in “国際政治学に関する”. While perfectly natural-sounding in Japanese, “一方で、地域研究者は、自らの専門とする地域で起こった現象をより深く理解するために、国際政治学の議論を体系的に吸収して、それを活かそうとした。” can be difficult to express in English, down to the use of “phenomenon.” A literal translation of “absorbed the arguments of (議論 …吸収して)” seems especially stilted to English readers. E32 teased the meaning out of this phrase with “sorted through the general arguments of international political theory as a tool”. (“Regional studies scholars, on the other hand, systematically sorted through the general arguments of international political theory as a tool to help them better understand phenomena occurring within their individual region of interest.”)
In paragraph 6, E32 said Japan’s Road to the Pacific War used “primary source documents,” wording right out of the WorldCat blurb on the collection, although the same title as in WorldCat was not used.
In Paragraph 8, using the syntax “For example, consider [Barbara Tuchman’s book]” clears away the clutter of translation to make a clear English-language statement. “Seminal work” is an excellent choice for “名著”. From my English-speaking perspective the repeated occurrence of “facing” in the piece sounds like Japanese usage. E32 avoided this with “at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis”. E32 also wisely translated 心像 as “mentality.”
The entire ninth paragraph is nicely written containing the pithy phrase “one of our most powerful tools for understanding the complexities of the modern world”.
Laudably, E32 did not seem to make any errors that would obscure the meaning to the reader. Most errors were trivial.
In Paragraph 1, E32 said the author “watched” instead of “saw” people on TV.
In Paragraph 5, 太平洋戦争への道 is translated as “The Road to the Pacific War” rather than Japan’s Road to the Pacific War; the publisher as Asahi Shimbun Company rather than The Asahi Shimbun Company, and later Guns of August rather than The Guns of August.
In Paragraph 7, “directly prevent the outbreak of war or cause a war to end” is wordy (directly prevent or stop a war). Everyone seemed to get the “Cuban Missile Crisis” right, but very few, including E32, used the proper style of naming the president (President Full Name), which would be US President John F. Kennedy in this case in Paragraph 8.
The insertion of a footnote, especially for unsolicited information, might be a distraction to a later layout person.
E42 submitted a pleasant-sounding, appropriate, and highly accurate translation. According to my marking system, E42 only made half the “errors” (meaning transfer errors and awkward or literal usage) of the other closest candidates and had a comparable number good turns of phrase.
In Paragraph 1, E42 “saw” rather than “watched” experts on TV. The frenetic feel of “活躍が目覚ましい” seems to be difficult to capture. E42 did the best job of communicating the feeling by punching up the next sentence with “don’t stop at … even social media is buzzing with their takes”.
In Paragraph 2, “clearly and simply” is good for “わかりやすく.” “Clearly” alone could include explanations using technical jargon that is incomprehensible to the layperson.
In Paragraph 3, E42 also added “theory” and then used the context-appropriate synonym “assimilated” in the quintessentially Japanese expression “国際政治学の議論を体系的に吸収して” (“area studies researchers systematically assimilated the debates in international relations theory”).
In Paragraph 4, retaining the construction “方向を定めたのは、なんといっても” (“More than anything, what determined this course”) preserves the force of the statement, although a translator might normally edit out that construction in other contexts. Using the term “World War II” feels seems appropriate in print (vs. the “Second World War”).
In Paragraph 5, “poured their energy into [Japan’s Road to] ” conveys the mood of “精力的に行い” in a way that using “精力的に” as an adverb doesn’t seem to and works well in the parallel construction “poured their energy into joint research and comprehensively analyzed”. E42 translated “集大成” as “culmination”.
In Paragraph 6, “making full use [of resources]” captures the sense of “駆使した”.
In Paragraph 7, it seems like “命を救い” could be impactful, and E42, unlike some others, retains the word “save”, if not the expression “save lives”.
All of Paragraph 8 about The Guns of August (rendered correctly and referred to as “masterpiece”) is translated well in straightforward declarative sentences. The line “U.S. President John F. Kennedy famously read the book as he faced the Cuban Missile Crisis” is particularly evocative to the English reader and comes through even more clearly with the proper naming of the US president, which readers unconsciously expect to see. E42 called “心像” “thinking”.
Paragraph 9 is faithfully translated.
When it comes to criticisms, E42 didn’t really deprive the reader of any of the important meaning of the original text.
In Paragraph 4, like many other contestants, E42 translated both Japanese and Russian “国民” as “citizens”, but kanji-using languages use expressions like 国民, 県民, 都民, and 市民 much more liberally than in English, and in many cases they can just be translated as “people” or the demonym.
In Paragraph 5, E42 translated the eight-volume set as “The Road to…” instead of “Japan’s Road to”.
To my ear, E42 ran afoul of 外交史(研究者), translating “外交史(研究者”) as “diplomatic historians” and the somewhat better “researchers of diplomatic history”. E42 referred to Japan’s record of pre-war foreign relations as “the Japanese diplomacy that led to the Pacific War” and “Japan’s diplomacy in the pre-war period”. It seems like the reader’s subconscious, if not consciousness, would be less distracted by terms like “Japanese foreign relations” and “the history of Japanese foreign relations”.
To end on a positive note, E42 did a great job with 国際政治学(者), translating “国際政治学” as “international relations,” “the study of international relations,” “international politics,” and “the field of international relations” and “国際政治学者” as “international relations scholars.”
E46 submitted an extremely accurate translation.
E46 used some decidedly good wording in the translation. In Paragraph 4, “prevailed widely” is a good turn of phrase for “広く生じた”. “The studies culminated” uses “集大成” as a forceful verb in Paragraph 6. In Paragraph 7, “even though in hindsight” and “historical lessons-learned” are good turns of phrase and “may not directly prevent or stop wars” is clean and to the point.
E46 stayed with literal translations of 国際政治学(者) and 外交史(研究者) that did not always reflect common English usage, translating “国際政治学” as “international politics” and “international political studies” and, more conspicuously “国際政治学者” as “international political scientists” and “scientists of international politics”) (This last is not standard English usage.). The same was true of “外交(史研究者)”, with E46 translating “外交” as “Japanese diplomacy,” “外交史” as “diplomatic history,” and “外交史研究者” as “researchers of diplomatic history” (this last is stilted English usage).
While E46 definitely conveyed much of the concrete information in article in an accurate manner, their English usage did not conform to standard patterns in the more abstract and conceptual parts. Examples include “catch our eyes with their activeness,” “human resources” (in this context), “roles on media facing crises,” “the thickness of academic layers,” [Russian and Japanese] “nationals” (in this context), “makes us to re-think” and “mental images.” Please refer to the translations of the other finalists for examples of translations of the phrases.
E52 did what a translator is supposed to do – remove the vestiges of Japanese grammar and usage and convey the meaning of the original text. After some debatable renderings in the opening paragraphs, E52’s translation was very accurate. The reader was not deprived of any of the important information in the original text. However, E52 actively reframed a large number of sentences to the point that some may feel that the tone of the piece was lost.
In the process, E52, nonetheless, produced a large number of pleasant and accurate translations.
In Paragraph 2, E52 reunited the subject and verb in the “don’t grow on trees” sentence by setting off the remainder of the sentence with dashes (“pundits of this caliber—…—are not exactly a dime a dozen”). E52 translated “わかりやすく” as “in layman’s terms”. “[T]he depth of talent in Japanese academic circles” captures the English expression “depth” in “アカデミアの層の厚さ,” but is wordy. By using the phrase, “Those in area studies,” E52 avoided repeating “scholar” or “expert” again. E52 navigated around the quintessentially Japanese expression “国際政治学の議論を体系的に吸収して、それを活かそうとした” with “by applying a systematic integration of international relations theory”, although this translation is a bit overblown.
In Paragraph 4, “same (burning question lingered)” handles “一様に” nicely, although “burning” is a bit overwrought. The Russian “国民” were referred to simply as “people”. “[W]idespread …” was natural English for “広く生じた”.
In Paragraph 5 and other places, E52 didn’t unnecessarily translate “に属する” literally (“JAIR’s”). E52 appropriately referred to “外交” as “foreign policy” instead of “diplomacy”. E52 also translated the eight-volume set as “Japan's Road to the Pacific War,” the way it’s translated in library catalogues and by booksellers.
Paragraph 8 is nicely arranged and “[Pres. Kennedy was] famously known to have” is an excellent turn of phrase.
In Paragraph 9, E52 nicely avoided “practical science” for “実学” with “the practical in academia” and seemed to evoke the idea of “stale” for “古い” with “poring over the events of times past” .
In Paragraph 1, E52 translated “a variety of experts in fields ranging from international relations to national security” for “国際政治や安全保障の専門家.” This suggests that there were experts from many different fields, when the experts were probably limited to the fields mentioned in the article. “[E]stablished academics” judiciously avoids the strained “mid-career,” but loses the idea that these are the new guys on TV.
In Paragraph 3, “fluctuations” is an interesting choice for “動態,” and “goings-on” valiantly circumvents “phenomenon,” which sounds hackneyed in English, but may conspicuously be the wrong register in this location in this translation.
In Paragraph 4, “the driving force” is a little overwrought for “のは” . “[T]he same burning question lingered at the forefront of many people’s minds” is more dramatic than the original text.
In Paragraph 7, “By comparison, then, it may be fair to say that the pursuit of historical or regional research can neither directly prevent war nor stop an ongoing one” adds a lot of extra words.
E52 had mixed results with国際政治学(者) and 外交史(研究者), translating “国際政治” as “world politics” once. “国際政治学” was translated as “international relations” (without anything indicating “the study of”), “the study of international relations,” and “political science” (without “international”). E52 translated “国際政治学者” as “international relations” (only) and “political scientists” (without “international”). Students and faculty in academic institutions might refer to the study of international relations as simply “international relations” but “study,” “field,” or the like should be included for the general public.
E52 mixed things up in a favorable way with 外交(史研究者), translating “外交” as “Japanese foreign policy” (twice), “外交史” as “diplomatic history,” and “外交史研究者” as “scholars of diplomatic history” and “diplomatic history scholar”.
E56 also submitted an accurate translation that conveyed the important information to the reader. E56 combined research and well-crafted writing to make a translation that was pleasant to the reader. In the process, however, E56 may have been a little overzealous, straying slightly from the tone and register of the original.
On the positive side, E56 avoided the “facing” expression in the title with “when war comes knocking” although the register of this expression might not be appropriate.
In Paragraph 2, E56 actually did re-unite the subject and the verb in the “don’t grow on trees” sentence with “a seasoned analyst is not made overnight, especially one who…,” and used the pithy expression “seasoned analyst” and the natural English “layman’s terms”. E56 translated “層の厚さ” in”アカデミアの層の厚さ” as “depth” in the natural-sounding phrase “testifies to the depth of the Japanese academic sphere”.
In Paragraph 3, E56 used the word “discussions” to make the “議論” of “議論を体系的に吸収して” sound palatable while cleaving close to the original. In Paragraph 4, “in all corners [of Japanese society]” is not a bad way to translate “広く生じた”.
In Paragraph 5, the use of an evocative verb in “poured themselves body and soul” vividly expresses the idea of “精力的に…行い,” although the register is may not be right for this particular Chuo Koron editorial. E56 translated the eight-volume set as “Japan’s Road to…” consistent with catalogue and booksellers’ listings.
In Paragraph 6, E56 used the term “primary sources,” again right out of the WorldCat blurb on “Road to” in WorldCat and added the dates for the pre-war Showa era, but included the period up to 1945, after the war was in progress.
In Paragraph 7, E56 took pains to restate their version of the editorial’s title when asking what an international relations expert can do, which is a striking rhetorical device. In Paragraph 9, E56 avoided “practical science” for “実学” with the reasonable-sounding “practical fields.”
With 国際政治学(者) E56 wisely tried to avoid terms involving “international political science,” using instead “global politics,” “global political analysts,” and “global political studies.” Indeed, “global politics” sounds much better, but appears to be a broader field of study, a pretty fine distinction, but one that readers of this editorial might be aware of. With variations of 外交史研究, E56 used the better-sounding “foreign policy”, but “foreign policy” and “foreign relations” are different, another extremely fine distinction. E56 went with the literal “diplomatic historians” and “researchers of diplomatic history” for “外交史研究者.”
Otherwise, E56 did not commit any grave errors of meaning transfer or give any over-the-top interpretations of the text. Any criticisms would be due to an over-zealous attempt to punch the article up. This can be seen by comparing the translations of E02, E32, and E42, which were moving without adding conspicuous embellishments to the original.