Dec 18, 2017

ATA 58 Session Summary - J-6: “Bye, Felicia.” Tackling Allusions, Slang, and Pop Culture References

“Bye, Felicia.” Tackling Allusions, Slang, and Pop Culture References
Presented by Yoshihiro Mochizuki
University of Michigan
ATA 58th Annual Conference Session J-6
Saturday, October 28, 3:30pm-4:30pm 

Summary (Contributed by Shiori Okazaki):
This interactive session examined various examples of allusions and other references in both English and Japanese, and discussed how to best translate them. The session was originally conceived by Ms. Motoko Oshino Matthews. The presenter was Mr. Yoshihiro Mochizuki, a Japanese Lecturer at the University of Michigan.   
The session began with a discussion on the definition of allusions. Mr. Mochizuki explained that it is a “reference to another text” that requires “further interpretation . . . based on the meaning of the alluded-to text.” Allusions add layers to the text, allowing the reader to enjoy both the current text and what is being referenced; they make the text memorable, ironic, or funny; and by creating a shared secret between the writer and the reader, they provide a sense of mischief. On the other hand, the weaknesses of allusions are that not everyone understands them, and it may seem as if the author is showing off their knowledge.  
Translating allusions from English to Japanese and vice versa require a different set of skills and knowledge: allusions in Japanese draw upon poetry or idioms, appear more often in literature, and seek to be funny or playful; allusions in English draw upon the Bible or Shakespeare, appear more often in journalism, and are used to showcase knowledge or writing technique. When translators do not understand allusions, it may lead to literal—and incorrect—translations.  The best way to translate allusions is to replace the image in the source language with a similar image in the target language. This is easiest when similar expressions exist in both languages, e.g. “back to square one” and 振り出しに戻る. Other translators have sought to replicate the impact of the allusion by finding close alternatives. One translation of Soseki’s Botchan replaces a reference to Fukuda Chiyo-ni’s haiku with the better known “Old Pond” haiku by Basho. This is much more effective than a precise translation with footnotes that interrupt the readers’ thoughts.     
Following a workshop, where the audience divided into small groups and dissected the allusions of various English and Japanese passages, the session concluded with a discussion on resources and methods for translating allusions. Resources include 日本語俗語辞書 and Urban Dictionary. Recommendations for translators are: thoroughly look up words and phrases, even if you think you understand them; consult multiple sources; and keep abreast of modern expressions and contemporary culture with movies, television shows, music, and social media.

Dec 11, 2017

ATA 58 Session Summary - J-5: Japanese Interpreting and Translating in the North American Automotive Sector

ATA 2017 JLD Session Review
Getting “Gung Ho!”: Japanese Interpreting and Translating in the
North America Automotive Sector

Presenters: Denise Fisher, Mary Goudreau, Paul Koehler, Shizuka Matsunaga, and James
Review by Allyson Larimer

This group of panelists held a wealth of experience in the Japanese automotive industry. James and Denise both had long careers with Honda R&D in Ohio and later transitioned to freelance interpreting. Paul works as a contractor to Honda R&D in Los Angeles. Shizuka
and Mary both work at major Honda suppliers, with experience both translating and interpreting, and managing other translators.

Each presenter gave an overview of what their work load was like in an average day. Most do a mix of translating and interpreting each day. Some were expected to work primarily into their A language, while others did a both. However, in most of the companies the panelists represent, there were people on staff who specialized in one discipline (either translation or interpretation). They pointed out that this kind of specialized position was more common in larger companies. Smaller suppliers were more likely to seek someone who could both translate and interpret in both directions. They also discussed the fact that Honda had more language support staff, whereas Toyota, Nissan, and other Japanese companies tend to rely more on contractors.

The panel discussed some of the benefits of working in-house in the automotive sector. All presenters emphasized the appeal of working on a long term project that ends in the creation of a new car that goes into the market. Shizuka mentioned the flow of work; getting to follow a problem from its discovery to its resolution. Jim mentioned the benefit of having engineers around who can explain the technology to you. Because of the benefit of getting to work one-on-one with engineers and other translators, all panelists recommended working in-house at some point in one’s career, particularly for those who are just getting started or want to build a new specialty.

Dec 4, 2017

ATA 58 Session Summary - J-3, J-4: Translating Sex and Gender: Part I, Henry James; Part II, The Tale of Genji

“Queering Translation” – Translating Sex and Gender: Part I, Henry James (J-3)
Date: Friday 10/27/17
Presenter: J. Keith Vincent
Summary by: Sarah Alys Lindholm

Professor J. Keith Vincent, chair of the World Languages and Literatures Department at Boston
University, was a distinguished guest speaker invited to ATA58 by the Japanese Language Division. He
presented a two-part series of sessions on sex and gender in literature which drew attendees from both
inside and outside of the JLD.

In this first session, he began by giving us his personal background, as well as background on the
theoretical frameworks he would be using to analyze the literature of Henry James and Murasaki

Two significant things happened while Professor Vincent was a graduate student at Columbia at age 23:
he began reading the Tale of Genji in Classical Japanese, and he came out as gay. This was in the 1990s,
so he started reading queer theory at the height of the world’s fear of AIDS as the “gay disease.” Today,
he teaches both Japanese literature and sexuality studies at Boston University. His approach to analyzing
works like Genji and their translations is grounded in a hybrid of two theoretical frameworks: “LGBTQ
Studies” and “Queer Theory.”

LGBTQ Studies vs. Queer Theory
LGBTQ Studies (originally known as “Lesbian and Gay Studies”), is the older of the two frameworks. It’s
referred to as “minoritizing” in the sense that it was thought of as a field for minorities which only
applied to minorities. By contrast, Queer Theory is “universalizing”: a way of understanding literature
and culture that is relevant to everyone regardless of their individual sexual orientations.

LGBTQ Studies began in the 1970s-80s by asking questions that no one in the mainstream had been
asking: What is the construct of gay identity? Who built “the closet,” and who is it really for? In this
framework where we work to define and illuminate the nature of identity, translation is a tool to that
end. New translations offer the hope of understanding and restoring gay identities historically left out of
literary canons; older English translations of foreign-language works might alter homoerotic passages, or
even omit them altogether, and modern translations of these works can render what has been erased
visible once more.

Meanwhile, Prof. Vincent tells us, the Queer Theory framework regards translation as an impossible
task: “The impossibility of translation is a metaphor for the impossibility of a stable identity.” Pursuing
this task, however, can revitalize a static source text. As an ongoing and uncertain practice, translation is
an inherently “queer” practice. Queer Theory focuses as much on not retroactively or inappropriately
assigning identities as it does on bringing erased identities to light.

Problems of Translation
We have already discussed older translations’ tendency to obscure LGBT Q identities. Another concern
when translating queer texts is the issue of warping and distorting the text by translating a neutral word
in a pejorative way, or vice versa (for example, the Japanese translation of Leo Bersani’s book Homos
omits the pejorative “homo” from the title, while “openly gay” is rendered as “shamelessly gay” within
the body of text).

Combining Two Theories
Professor Vincent prefers to combine elements of both LGBTQ Studies and Queer Theory. As LGBTQ
Studies emphasized, it’s important to specifically uncover the aspects of gender and sexual identity that
have been overlooked or obscured in the past. But in the Queer Theory model, gay identities shouldn’t
be coopted and applied to identities that were inexplicit in the source text. Avoiding this requires a more
nuanced and interrogative approach. This type of framework advances both translation and literary
theory. In Prof. Vincent’s opinion, “translating can make you a better queer theorist, and reading queer
theory can make you a better translator.”

Case Study: Henry James’s The Beast in the Jungle
This session concluded with a case example analyzing Henry James’s The Beast in the Jungle. Henry
James’s writing is “notoriously vague,” and therefore susceptible to multiple interpretations. What did
the character May mean when she used words like “queerness” and “gaiety” in connection with
Marcher, since those words had different popular meanings when this novella came out in 1903 than
they do now?

At the time, critics’ reading of the text was that Marcher “failed to marry” May. The LGBTQ Studies
reading, on the other hand, is that James’s vagueness is hiding his sexuality. In this reading, Marcher is
gay and May is his beard or his fag hag. Eve Sedgwick’s later reading of it through a Queer Theory lens
pegged the text as about men who worried that their sexuality was “not straight enough”—but she did
not necessarily assume that Marcher was gay. Professor Vincent invited attendees to look at Japanese
translations of relevant passages and to evaluate them with these competing theories in mind.

Bersani, Leo. Homos. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 1995.
Butler, Judith P. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Crimp, Douglas, and Leo Bersani. AIDS: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press,
1987. **This was Prof. Vincent’s first reading in the field.
Sedgwick, Eve K. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York, N.Y: Columbia
University Press, 1985.

Sedgwick, Eve K. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.