Example 3: Making it real
The word 実現 is fundamentally associated with the process of converting an abstract entity (such as an idea or a concept) into a concrete entity (such as an object or a numerical result). Authoritative dictionaries offer meanings such as “realization,” “attainment,” “actualization,” “materialization,” and “fruition,” but the inherently broad range of application for this word forces the translator to select a translation that fits the specific context in which the word appears. In a technical paper that describes different types of glass we encounter the following sentence:
図 1 に太陽光エネルギー波長分布と、上記光学特性を実現する材料の候補としての、銅イオンを有する合わせガラスを透過したエネルギー分布を示した。 (4)
In this instance the direct object of the verb 実現する is 光学特性, which means “optical characteristics.” A student submitted the following translation:
“Figure 1 displays the sunlight energy wavelength distribution. Also displayed is the transmitted energy distribution of a glass laminate containing copper ions, as a candidate material that can actualize the optical characteristics mentioned above.”
This student translated 実現する as “actualize.” The verb “actualize” is a valid word, but the combination of “actualize” and “optical characteristics” sounds more like marketing jargon than the objective of an R&D project. A newly developed material would be expected to “display,” “exhibit,” or “provide” a desired property. Thus, the sentence could be translated like this:
*** Fig. 1 shows the energy vs. wavelength distribution for sunlight and the comparable distribution for the light that is transmitted by laminated glass containing copper ions. Such a glass is one candidate/option/possibility as a material that displays/exhibits/provides the above-mentioned optical characteristics. ***
In a technical paper that describes a new type of LED we find this sentence:
半導体の中で最も短い波長で発光することが理論的に予測されていた窒化アルミニウム (AlN) を用いた発光ダイオード (LED) の動作を実現し、波長 210 nm の遠紫外光を観測することに成功した。 (5)
Here the direct object of 実現し is 動作, which could mean something along the lines of “action,” “movement,” “demeanor,” or “operation.” A student proposed this translation:
“Luminescence of the shortest wavelength among semiconductors has been implemented through the action of a light emitting diode (LED) which uses aluminum nitride and which followed theoretical predictions. There have been successful observations of far UV light with a wavelength of 210 nm.”
The student translated 実現し as “implemented.” Although we implement such things as “rules,” “policies,” and “guidelines,” we do not generally implement a property, such as luminescence. Returning to the direct object of 実現し, we see that the 動作 in question is the 動作 of a particular type of light-emitting diode. In such a situation we might say that we “achieved operational status (for the LED)” or that we “successfully operated (the LED).” If we incorporate the second option, which sounds more natural, the entire sentence could read like this:
*** We successfully operated a light-emitting diode (LED) using aluminum nitride (AlN), the material that is predicted theoretically to luminesce at the shortest wavelength among all semiconductors, and we were able to observe far-ultraviolet light with a wavelength of 210 nm. ***
It is worth noting that if we use the word “successfully” as part of the translation for 実現し, we need to consider how to translate the final phrase (観測することに成功した). A literal translation could read “we succeeded in observing ...,” but in order to avoid unnecessary repetition it would be better to use the phrase “we were able to observe ...,” as indicated above.
The following sentence appeared in a paper dealing with robotic technology:
In this instance the direct object of 実現する is ハイパヒューマン技術, which we may safely translate as “hyper-human technology.” A student provided the following translation:
“In order to materialize hyper-human technology that exceeds human abilities, it is necessary to accurately grasp human abilities themselves.”
This student rendered 実現する as “materialize.” The verb “materialize” is a valid word, but this is not the proper context for its use. Among other tasks we may “develop” technology, we may “advance” technology, we may “refine” technology, and we may “employ” technology, but we do not “materialize” technology. The writer’s use of ために suggests that ハイパヒューマン技術を実現する is a goal or an objective to be reached in the future. The use of the connective form (把握して) and the auxiliary verb おく indicates that this action (把握する) is being carried out in order to attain some future objective. The introductory word まず places emphasis on the necessity (必要) of carrying out this action “first” in order to ultimately reach the stated objective. The verb 把握する often means “to grip (something)” or “to grasp (something).” The verb “grasp” itself can refer either to the physical act of holding an object in one’s hand or to the mental act of gaining a deep understanding of a concept or a situation. In this instance the writer is referring to a mental act, and that point should be made clear in the translation. A translation that incorporates all of these thoughts could read like this:
*** Before we can bring to reality/commercialize/successfully develop/implement hyper-human technology—technology that exceeds the capabilities of humans—we must first gain a detailed understanding of those very capabilities. ***
Based on the content of the sentence alone any one of the four alternatives provided here for 実現する would be reasonable. Careful reading of the entire paragraph in which this sentence appears would be needed in order to determine which of the alternatives is best.
In this example we have seen the same verb (実現する) combined with three different direct objects, and we have chosen a different translation for 実現する in each case. The range of possible translations for 実現 makes this word a useful tool for teaching students the importance of context in determining the intended meaning of a word or phrase.
Example 4: Level of emotion
A book about the Japanese economy contains the following sentence:
Two students offered the following translations:
“While staring at these factors, the government, the Bank of Japan and people from civilian companies in charge of analyzing the economy worry themselves everyday.”
“With this glaring down upon us, economic analysts within the government, the Bank of Japan, or private businesses are troubled on a daily basis.”
The verb 悩ませる typically indicates “distress,” “anxiety,” or perhaps even “torment.” The range of emotions covered by this verb is quite broad, but the specific expression 頭を悩ませる suggests a level of emotional stress on the high end of this range—much higher than these two translations indicate. The verb 睨む could mean “to glare at (someone)” or “to watch in a disapproving manner,” but it could also mean “to look intently at (something),” “to concentrate on (something),” or simply “to bear (something) in mind.” The pronoun これら refers to trends in economic indicators that the author had described in earlier sections. From the context we understand that it is through the process of analyzing these economic indicators that the 景気分析担当者 are 頭を悩ませている. The first student assumed that the 景気分析担当者 work only for 民間企業, but the second student assumed that all three nouns (政府, 日銀, and 民間企業) modify the topic. In fact, the government, the Bank of Japan and corporations employ economic analysts, so the second interpretation is probably correct. The second student misunderstood the direct object of the verb 睨む, but the first student recognized that the analysts work with data. The first student translated 民間企業 as “civilian companies,” while the second student chose “private businesses.” Usually, the word “civilian” is used in contrast to “military,” but that distinction is not relevant in this instance. It is not clear whether the English phrase “private businesses” is intended to refer specifically to “privately held companies”—i.e., those companies whose stock is not traded on public exchanges—or whether the student intended to encompass any non-governmental company or corporation. The term 民間企業 usually carries the second meaning; a phrase such as “the private sector” would eliminate any confusion in this regard. A translation that takes all of these features into account could read like this:
*** Every day economic analysts in the government, the Bank of Japan, and the private sector rack their brains as they carefully watch these trends. ***
(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.