“Two Roads Diverged ...”:Making Good Choices in Japanese-into-English Translation(Part 4)
This is part four of a paper based on the standing-room-only presentation Jim gave at the 2015 ATA Conference in Miami entitled "Two Roads Diverged ...": Making Good Choices in Japanese-into-English Translation.
You can find all blog posts in the Words and 言葉 series here.
This is the final sentence in the same paragraph that contained Example 7 and Example 8.
The topic of this sentence is 決断 (“decision”). In this context 決断 must refer to Fujita’s decision to carry out a restructuring/reorganization within Ameba. Through the use of the word いえそう the writer indicates that this decision appears to be an example of 藤田流の「アメーバ経営」. The writer did not use いえる (“can call”). Rather, the writer used いえそうだ (“could be called” or “appears to be”). This suggests that the writer is being a bit cautious in his/her characterization of Fujita’s action. The term アメーバ経営 is surrounded by quotation marks because this term, which means “amoeba management,” is a term that is widely recognized in management circles with a specific application. A later sentence in this same article indicates that “amoeba management” is a management philosophy created by Inamori Kazuo, the founder of Kyocera. It is worth noting that the spelling of the first word in this term is “amoeba.” When he named his management philosophy, Inamori invoked the image of the single-celled organism that can move in various directions by reorienting portions of its own cytoplasm. In this sentence the noun 藤田流 modifies the noun アメーバ経営. By using the term 藤田流 the writer indicates that this is Fujita’s “brand,” or Fujita’s “style” of “amoeba management.” If so, Fujita must practice “amoeba management” somewhat differently from the way in which Inamori originally proposed it. The clause 事業構造に柔軟に変化する modifies the noun 藤田流, and the clause 成長が見込める modifies the noun 事業構造. These two clauses explain the unique feature of Fujita’s brand/style of “amoeba management.” The verb 見込める indicates that there is a “prospect” or “outlook” of whatever noun appears as the direct object. In this sentence the direct object is 成長 (“growth”). Based on this understanding of sentence structure and this understanding of the key words, this sentence could be translated as follows:
This decision could be called an example of Fujita’s brand/style of “amoeba management,” in which the existing business structure morphs/is reconfigured in a flexible manner into one
from which growth can be expected. (9a)
with better prospects for growth. (9b)
with an outlook for growth. (9c)
This paragraph appears later in the article, following a discussion of Ameba, its development as a business unit, and the announced reorganization:
Throughout this article it is important to consider whether the Japanese word アメーバ refers to “amoeba” (the single-celled organism) or “Ameba” (the business unit). The first sentence provides background information about “amoeba management.” The information serves as a reference point for the second sentence, which describes Fujita’s particular brand/style of management. The first sentence could read
“Amoeba management” is a management system that was promoted/espoused by Inamori Kazuo, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera. This system
imparts authority to small units (10a)
transfers power to small units (10b)
empowers small units (10c)
(within an organization), allowing those units to manage themselves in such a way that all members of a unit participate.
The original Japanese sentence is too long to express as a single sentence in English. For this reason it has been divided into two sentences. In many instances the term 名誉会長 is translated as “honorary chairman.” However, Inamori’s own website lists his current title as “chairman emeritus,” so that is the translation used here. As we move from option 10a to option 10c the wording becomes less literal and more natural.
The second sentence includes the word 軸, which literally means “axis (in a coordinate system)” “axle (for a vehicle),” or “shaft (for rotating machinery)” However, in this instance the word 軸 is used figuratively to indicate that the Internet-based business is the “core” around which the company will grow. This sentence could read
In contrast, Fujita’s brand/style of management evokes/presents the image of a company that continues to grow while changing its form/shape in a flexible manner, just like an amoeba, around its core Internet business. (10d)
In this paragraph, in contrast to previous paragraphs, we can see that both occurrences of the word アメーバ refer to the single-celled organism.
In each of the above examples we used different sources of information to capture the intended meaning—literal or figurative—of individual words and phrases in the source text. Some of the information was found within the document in question; other information was drawn from background knowledge of the subject matter or from language-specific references. Context played in a key role in making good choices with respect to meaning. Once the intended meaning of these individual units was understood, we combined words and phrases in an attempt to reproduce the same meaning and the same impact in the target language. Some combinations were accepted; others were rejected. The process of revision frequently allowed us to move from a more literal rendering to a more idiomatic rendering of that meaning. Constraints, such as space and time, may limit the ability to revise, but the revision process is often just as important as the creation of the initial translation. In all cases we worked toward the translator’s ultimate goal: clear understanding of the source text combined with effective writing in the target language. Making good choices is essential in order to achieve that goal.
Jim Davis is Professor and Director of the Technical Japanese Program in the Dept. of Engineering Professional Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.