Words and 言葉
by Jim Davis
“Two Roads Diverged ...”:
Making Good Choices in Japanese-into-English Translation
The following three short sentences form the concluding paragraph in the same article:
The phrase 偏差値 literally refers to a “deviation value” in the context of statistics. However, the context in this paragraph is modern Japanese education. If we think about the ways in which students in modern Japan compete, test scores and entrance exams come to mind. In an earlier paragraph the writer disparaged the education received by Japanese officers at the Army War College before WWII because of a lack of creativity—those officers were trained using problems that had already been solved. By pointing out the similarity between that specific example of prewar education and modern education the writer seems to be applying the same critique to modern education. From that standpoint the first sentence could be translated like this:
Modern Japanese education, which stresses test scores above all else, is similar in some respects. (6a)
Modern Japanese education, with its excessive focus on exams, is similar in some respects. (6b)
The key phrase in the second sentence, which represents a rhetorical question, is 偉才の異端児. In order to combine both attributes (偉才 and 異端) for these children, the sentence could read as follows:
Can Japan become a society that allows
extremely talented children who don’t fit the typical pattern to emerge and thrive? (6c)
brilliant children who don’t conform to expectations to emerge and thrive? (6d)
unusually capable children who don’t fit the mold to emerge and thrive? (6e)
brilliant children who stand out from the crowd to emerge and thrive? (6f)
Strictly speaking, the source text does not contain a word that corresponds to “allow.” However, the emphasis on the negative impact of conformity is clear from the preceding sentences. For this reason the phrase “a society that allows ... to emerge and thrive” is consistent with the intended meaning of the paragraph. The final sentence adds urgency to the questions raised throughout the article. We encountered the verb 突く in Example 2. In that instance the verb meant “to attack” or “to take aim at” the vulnerabilities of the Internet. In this instance the verb is 突きつける, which means “to thrust (something) before (someone)” or “to thrust (something) at (someone).” In this instance the direct object of the verb is 挑戦 (“challenge”). The final sentence could read
Cyberwars confront Japan with just such a challenge. (6g)
It is also possible to combine the noun 挑戦 and the verb 突きつける in this way:
Cyberwars challenge Japan in exactly this way. (6h)
Because the noun “challenge” has become the verb “challenge,” the adjective こんな (“just such a ...”) has morphed into a prepositional phrase (“in exactly this way”). Option 6h is more concise, but it lacks some of the sense of urgency of option 6g.
The following headline and opening sentence appeared in a different newspaper article:
サイバーエージェントがブログやゲームなどのネットサービスを手掛ける「Ameba （アメーバ）」事業の人員を、１６００人から８００人に半減する構造改革を１日付けで実施した。 (7)
The initial portion of the headline (サイバー藤田氏) may seem confusing. However, the subject of the opening sentence is サイバーエージェント (“CyberAgent,”), which is the name of an Internet company in Japan. The CEO of サイバーエージェント is 藤田晋. This name appears in the second sentence, which will be used as Example 8. This simple example illustrates the importance of reading—or at least scanning—a document to gain a good sense of the content before beginning to translate the document. We now understand that the phrase サイバー藤田氏 actually refers to “Fujita of CyberAgent” or “CyberAgent’s Fujita.” The spacing within the headline indicates that there are two components: サイバー藤田氏、再び大勝負 and大量配置転換の勝算. This suggests that a colon will be needed in the translation to separate the two distinct thoughts. The term 大勝負 refers to a “do-or-die game” or a “critical contest.” The term 配置転換 is the combination of 配置 (“arrangement” or “deployment” of people or resources) and 転換 (“conversion” or “change”). The opening sentence of the article indicates precisely what this 大量配置転換 involves. The term 勝算 often refers to a “chance of winning (a contest)” or “the odds (of success)”. Newspaper headlines are often difficult to translate because a great deal of information must be conveyed in a limited amount of space. If we put together the information we have, the headline could read:
CyberAgent’s Fujita Once Again at Critical Juncture: Major Redeployment/
Realignment/Reallocation of Personnel Provides Chance of Success (7a)
The phrase “at critical juncture” seems appropriate for a company that is undergoing a significant transition in a changing market. The choice among “redeployment,” “realignment” and “reallocation” is a matter of individual preference and writing style.
The opening sentence is a bit long, but it is not difficult. It is included in this example primarily because it provides information that is essential in order to understand the intended meaning of the headline. The verb 手掛ける has many meanings (e.g., “to handle,” “to manage,” “to work with”). In the context of a company and Internet-based services the best options would probably be “to provide” or “to host.” The opening sentence could read
On August 1st CyberAgent implemented/carried out a restructuring/reorganization in which the workforce in the “Ameba” business unit, which provides/hosts Internet services such as blogs and games, was cut by half from 1,600 people to 800 people. (7b)
Before proceeding any further it is worth noting that the spelling of the business unit mentioned in this article is “Ameba.” A word with similar spelling will appear in a subsequent example.
The following sentence appeared in the same article immediately following the sentence that appeared in Example 7.
This sentence contains several figures of speech, which often require extra thought on the part of the translator. The word 手塩 literally means “table salt” or a “small plate.” However, the phrase 手塩にかける indicates that someone is “personally involved” in the upbringing of a child, the grooming of a successor, or some kind of selection process. The verb 育てる is most frequently used in the context of “raising” a child. However, in this instance the direct object is 注力事業. The word 注力 literally means “focus (of attention)” or “commitment (to something),” and the word 事業 refers to a “business” that a company is engaged in or to a “business unit” within a large enterprise. Thus, the term 注力事業 describes what many people in the business world refer to as a “core business” or a “flagship business.” The conjunction が indicates a contrast of some sort between the first half of this sentence, which consists of a single clause, and the second half of this sentence, which consists of the middle clause and the final clause. The first half could read
Ameba is the core business (unit)
flagship business (unit)
centerpiece of the company
and was nurtured by company president Fujita Susumu personally. (8a)
The term “centerpiece” accurately describes the place of Ameba within the overall corporation, even if that is not literally what the source text says. The combination of “was nurtured” and “personally” represents the phrase 手塩にかけて育てた and describes Fujita’s involvement with (and commitment to) this particular business.
The word 陰り normally refers to a “shadow” or “cloud” in the figurative sense (i.e., something that interferes with happiness, peace or tranquility) or to “gloom.” In this instance the 陰り is related to the 成長 (“growth”) of the business. The second half of this sentence could be rendered
However, as the shift toward Internet access from smartphones continues, growth prospects for Ameba have dimmed. (8b)
However, as the shift toward Internet access from smartphones continues, dark clouds threaten Ameba’s growth. (8c)
However, the continuing shift toward Internet access from smartphones has cast a shadow on Ameba’s growth. (8d)
Each of these options employs a different image to express the sense of worry or gloom conveyed by 陰り. In addition, a different structure is used in each case. Option 8b employs passive voice (“prospects ... have dimmed”). In contrast, option 8c employs active voice (“dark clouds threaten”). In the source text the second half of this sentence takes the form of two clauses linked by the conjunction 中, which indicates that the action described by the final clause occurs against a background that is described by the middle clause. This two-clause structure is maintained in both option 8b and option 8c. However, in option 8d the action described by the middle clause (ネット利用のスマートフォン（スマホ）シフトが進む) has become the subject of a single clause. To accomplish this, the pattern “as the shift ... continues” has been converted to “the continuing shift ....” and it is this shift that “has cast a shadow.” Each option offers its own advantages.
(to be continued)
Jim Davis is Professor and Director of the Technical Japanese Program in the Dept. of Engineering Professional Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.