Commentaries from the Judges (Japanese-to-English Division)

James Davis   Ruth McCreery    Ken Wagner


James Davis

General Comments

    This passage was technical in nature, and very specific knowledge was needed in order to understand the content. Without some understanding of the content, it would have been impossible to translate the passage effectively. Congratulations to all five of the finalists for capturing the key elements of the passage!

      The most difficult sentence in this passage was the final sentence in Part 2:
      In the first two-thirds of this sentence the author describes the method for constructing and using the device that is the subject of this paper. In the final one-third of the sentence the author mentions advantages associated with use of the device. One portion of the description reads その気泡が急激な圧力変化によって圧壊する威力で細胞を加工する.
      The term 加工 is generally associated with treating, processing, or machining a surface or a material. In this context, however, the focus seems to be on cutting the exterior portion of a cell in order to modify the cell in some way. Thus, “ablation” seems to be a good choice for this context. (The word “ablation” appears in Fig. 2 and in other papers by this author.)
      The verb 圧壊する is associated with crushing an object or breaking an object through the application of pressure. In principle, the verb 圧壊する can be used as either a transitive verb or an intransitive verb. In this sentence the noun 気泡 serves as the subject of the verb 圧壊する, thus forming a modifying clause (その気泡が急激な圧力変化によって圧壊する) that describes the noun 威力. If this analysis is correct, then in this particular instance 圧壊する is used as an intransitive verb. This suggests that the bubbles “collapse” or “are crushed” as a result of an abrupt change in pressure. The use of the particle で following the noun 威力 indicates that the 威力 that arises when その気泡が圧壊する is used in order to 細胞を加工する. Some finalists thought that the bubbles crushed the cell or caused the cell to collapse, but that understanding is not consistent with the grammatical structure outlined here.
      For a sentence this long, many translations are possible. One option would be the following: “When using this scalpel/knife the glass electrode served as the active electrode, the cells to be ablated were brought into contact with the opposite/return electrode, and a voltage was applied/impressed across the two electrodes. Under these conditions extremely small bubbles were continually released from the tip of the glass electrode in the form of a high-speed stream. The cells were ablated using the force that resulted from the collapse of those bubbles as a consequence of an abrupt change in pressure. This method has the advantage that even though the force (generated by the collapsing bubbles) is sufficient to enable the ablation of relatively hard materials, no thermal damage is inflicted on the surface that is ablated.”
      Additional comments on selected points in the individual translations follow.

      This is an excellent translation.
      “Surgical procedures” would be better than “surgical operations” for 外科手術.
      “Minimally invasive” would be better than “low invasion” for 低侵襲.

      Most of the content was conveyed both accurately and naturally. These are essential attributes of an excellent translation.
      The text refers to the “電気分解による無秩序な気泡の発生” as one of several problems faced by the researchers at an early stage of their work. Later in the same paragraph the author refers to the eventual discovery that “これまで無秩序に発生していた気泡に指向性が存在している.” Based on this information—and the images in Figure 1—it appears that one goal of the research was the production of a stream of bubbles of a uniform size, velocity and direction. In this context, “random” or “disordered” would be better than “unpredictable” for 無秩序な. (The researchers were confident that bubbles would be generated. However, they needed better control of the size, velocity and direction of those bubbles.) These two portions of the text could read, “the random generation of bubbles as a result of electrolysis” and “there was directionality (Fig. 1) associated with the bubbles that had previously been generated randomly,” respectively.

      The term 接触抵抗 refers to “contact resistance,” not “contact pressure.”
      “Concept” would be better than “conception” for 着想.
      The phrase “errant gas bubbles” does not capture the intended meaning of 無秩序な気泡, as mentioned above. In contrast, the phrase “the gas bubbles that had previously been generated in a disorganized fashion,” which appears later in the translation, is well done. However, it would be better to use “bubbles” instead of “gas bubbles.”
      The phrase “trialing a design” should be “testing a design.”

      The term “health care professionals” usually refers to doctor, nurses, and other professionals who provide health care directly to patients. In this context the implied subject in the first sentence of Part 1 is probably “researchers.”
      The final clause in the last sentence of Part 1 reads “...、さまざまな分野を横断する知識が求められる. The translation reads “..., has established technical knowledge which can be utilized across a variety of fields, ...” The verb 求める has a number of meanings, including “to seek,” “to want,” “to demand,” and “to search for.” The verb 横断する usually means “to cross,” “to extend across,” or “to span.” In this context the clause in question could be translated as “..., demands knowledge that cuts across a variety of different disciplines, ...” or “..., requires knowledge that spans a variety of different disciplines, ....”
      In this context蒸散 refers to “vaporization,” not “radiation.”
      The following sentence appears in the second paragraph of Part 2: “高速度カメラを用いてその気泡を確認したところ、サイズの揃った一列の高速気泡列であることがわかった.” The translation of this sentence reads, “When using high-speed cameras to confirm the existence of this discovery, researchers were able to determine the size and speed of the bubbles in the linear stream.” The phrase その気泡を確認した refers back to the previous sentence, in which the author stated, “これまで無秩序に発生していた気泡に指向性が存在している.” Thus, the purpose of the camera was to confirm the directionality of the bubbles. The phrase サイズの揃った is a modifying clause—with の replacing the subject marker が—that describes the高速気泡列. Based on this understanding the sentence could read, “When we used a high-speed camera to confirm the directionality of the bubbles, we learned that there was a high-speed stream of bubbles of uniform size in a single line.”

      The word “Preface” is appropriate for a book. However, for a paper in a journal the standard term is “Introduction.”
      In this context 蒸散 refers to “vaporization,” not “transpiration.”
      It is not clear where phrase “at the pinnacle of innovation” came from. The phrase “... についての着想に至り” means “we conceived the idea of ...” or “we developed the concept of ...”
      The term “coagulation” has a specific meaning. The text refers to “付着するタンパク質.” Possible renderings include “the deposition of protein (on the electrode)” or “proteins that adhere (to the electrode).”
      The heading for Part 3 reads “加工・インジェクションから針なし注射器へ. When this heading is rendered “The Advent of the Needle-Free Injector,” too much information is lost.


Ruth McCreery

              “Field-specific knowledge” is the JAT mantra, long championed by Bill Lise, that this year’s contest text calls to mind. No translation, whether about politics, folklore, or automotive parts, is possible without understanding what the text is saying, i.e., without knowledge specific to the subject matter. A report of research results in an emerging field, however, acutely highlights that need. Happily, our finalists took up the challenge, producing translations that, for the most part, indicate their understanding of the text in the appropriate terminology.
              The finalists began well, with strong translations of Part 1, although all seemed to find マイクロナノ somewhat difficult to deal with. 30E avoided the term entirely, a deft, and acceptable, solution, since it did not affect the meaning of the paragraph. 9E coined the term “micronano,” while 12E alone used the standard micro/nano. 12E also provided “picture a space the width of an average human hair at about 100 micrometers” for 人間の髪の毛一本の太さは約100μm程度である. Adding “picture” indeed encourages the reader to visualize how small micro/nano-level spaces are, but the tone is somewhat informal for a research report. All of the finalists handled the など in the last sentence well, although 10E’s “including” and 12E’s “not limited to” give a better sense of the range of fields being referred to than the default “such as” in 30E and 6E.
              In Part 2, 30E and 6E provided thoughtful translations (“continuous improvement” and “continues to be improved”) of another often painful term, 完成度. 9E’s “continues to be perfected” is preferable to the literal “degree of perfection,” which 12E unfortunately chose. 30E’s “low invasion” for 低侵襲 here and in Part 3 is an oddity, perhaps an unconscious attempt at parallelism with “high resolution.” “Minimally invasive,” as in the translations by 6E, 9E, and 10E, is preferable. 30E also uses, for ガラス_絶縁_膜で覆ったマイクロ電力を作成, the phrase “using fabricated electrodes covered with glass insulation film,” which makes one wonder where unfabricated electrodes are to be found. A better translation is 6E’s “using a specially prepared micro-electrode wrapped in insulating glass film,” though 12E’s “encased” seems more appropriate than “wrapped.”
              A more critical point in Part 2 is understanding what is happening with those bubbles: 気泡が急激な圧力変化によって圧壊する 威力で細胞を加工する in the last sentence. If it is the force generated by bubbles collapsing under sudden changes in pressure that acts on the cells, then 30E has managed it well with “The target cell is modified by the force of bubbles collapsing due to the sudden change in pressure.” 6E, 9E, and 10E interpreted 圧壊する 威力 as “a crushing force” applied to the cell instead of a force generated by the bubbles’ collapse. 12E may be closer, in the rather wordy “Due to the radical change in pressure the bubbles immediately collapse. It is the force of this impact that penetrates the target cells,” but “this impact” is undefined, and “penetrate” is a strange choice for 加工する. Oddly, although the term “ablation” appears in Figure 2, only 6E used “ablate” here.
             Part 3’s title also raises the question of the translators’ referring to sources of information in the text itself. The article uses “injector” for 注射器 in the English version of the main title, but 30E and 6E used “syringe” in Part 3. “Needleless Syringe” is more powerful than the author’s “Needle Free Injector,” but is this device in fact a syringe? (Or will the definition of syringe mutate?) If the translators are deliberately rejecting the author’s choice of English terms rather than merely ignoring the title before them, they must be prepared to negotiate over such changes in the future. Another term provided in the figures is “oocyte,” which would be preferable to 30E’s use of “egg.” 12E overreaches here, describing it as a “porcine oocyte,” introducing information from later in the article.


Ken Wagner

The source text of the Japanese-to-English section of the Twelfth JAT Translation Contest for New and Aspiring Translators was “Needle Free Injector by Electrically Induced Bubbles” (「電解誘起気泡による針なし注射器」). As usual, the contest passage presented the challenges of understanding technical subject matter and transferring the meaning of non-technical Japanese. There were meandering sentences that needed to be divided up. The basic mechanism of the device, cavitation, was described rather sketchily and the translator had to fill in a few blanks. The English-language title on the article was obviously unusable, the available web references by or about the author were pure translationese, and only abstracts were available online for the references cited in the article, leaving the contestants on their own to write or find detailed descriptions of the device.

Before reviewing the translations of the five finalists, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the contest – there was no guarantee of winning anything and a considerable amount of work was involved. And I would like to congratulate the winner Kei Simmel, second place finisher Raymond Claghorn, and finalists Benjamin Wilson, Brandi Jones, and Kristin Armstrong.

Kei Simmel

Kei Simmel combined good writing with the highest level of accuracy to win this year’s contest. E30 understood that the bubbles are what collapses as a result of pressure changes and that the force generated by the collapsing bubbles causes the wear on the cells. The description of the scalpel and experiment were clear and straightforward.Kei did a very good job of recasting many sentences into readable English. Kei used “chaotic” for “無秩序,” fire for “発射,” vaporize for “蒸散,” and “interactions” for “相互作用.” This gave the translation a technical feel.

Unfortunately, Kei misconjugated a verb in first sentence (“recently … developments … are accompanied by” rather than “have been”), which strikes a discordant note in the English reader’s ear. Since this happens at the outset, the passage never has the pleasant feel of Raymond Claghorn’s translation. (Raymond reserved this error for the middle the passage.) Although I, too, believe in the steamroller approach to sense-for-sense translation (sometimes the words just get in the way), Kei liberally omitted text or changed and reduced the amount of information conveyed for the sake of smoothness on up to five occasions. The paramount example was the omission of the phrase containing the author’s catchphrase “micro/nano” and re-emphasizing how small the working environment is (「マイクロナノ」という非常に小さな空間で).

However, Kei displayed the best understanding of the subject matter and presented it in readable prose, demonstrating superlative potential for growth as a technical translator. Congratulations on winning this year’s contest.

Raymond Claghorn

Raymond Claghorn’s translation was my favorite to read as a stand-alone English text. The other judges viewed the writing favorably as well. Raymond accomplished this with clear, straight-forward statements that struck the native English-speaking ear as very natural. Long, meandering Japanese sentences were neatly divided into manageable parts. Raymond maintained a smooth, pleasant flow while still cramming in every tidbit of information from the original text.

Raymond as one of the contestants who used “minimally invasive” rather than “low invasion” for “低侵襲” and “fire” for “発射.”There was some awkward usage and word choice such as “spans over a variety” rather than “spans a variety,” “the mechanism … remains … unchanged” rather than “the mechanism … has remained … unchanged,” and “cells … evaporate” rather than “cells … vaporize.” Also, some of Raymond’s writing had a non-technical feel, for example, saying “interplay” rather than “interaction” between cells and the laser, bothering to use the term “moniker,” and the descriptions of the shortcomings of the early versions of the bubble scalpel. There were a few minor understandings as well..,..

Unfortunately, Raymond mistranslated the author’s extremely sketchy description of cavitation, which required a knowledge of or research on cavitation to translate. “Bubbles ablate the cell by means of a crushing force caused by rapid pressure fluctuations.” The description of the scalpel’s construction was just slightly off

With his or her excellent writing style, feel for both languages, and ability to tackle tough technical topics Raymond appears to have superlative potential for growth as a translator.

Benjamin Wilson

Benjamin Wilson was ranked third among the five finalists. Benjamin’s translation conveyed the majority of the information in the text. Benjamin used clear, natural English in most instances, but the writing was not quite as smooth as that of Kei’s and Raymond’s. The bubbles’ behavior requires some research and interpretation to convey clearly. Although the first description of the bubbles’ behavior was somewhat ambiguous, the second description was accurate. However, the description of the scalpel’s construction contained some errors. Nonetheless, Benjamin produced a translation that compared favorably with some thirty other contestants and conveyed large amounts of information in a clear manner, demonstrating the potential to grow as a technical translator.

Brandi Jones

Brandi Jones also wrote some very readable English and conveyed a great deal of the information in the source text. However, there were quite a few misunderstandings of both a technical and non-technical nature, but, as one of the top five finishers in this year’s contest, the translation was a valiant effort that deserves recognition and showed Brandi Jones is on the right track to further development.

Kristin Armstrong

Kristin Armstrong displayed some very pleasant English-language writing, organized the information into easily digestible units, and conveyed a great deal of the information in the source text. However, Kristin made a number of errors, including misunderstanding non-technical terms as well the complex technical descriptions in the text. Nonetheless, it was a good early effort at technical translation, showing potential for growth.