Translating Nikkei: What language barrier?

CommunicateAs a follow up to my previous article, Translating Toyo Keizai, this week we explore The Nikkei (日本経済新聞, Nihon Keizai Shinbun) and the growing presence of translation software.  The Nikkei, first published in 1876 as a weekly goods pricing periodical under a different name, has come to be known as one of the premier national newspapers of Japan publishing 2.77 million morning and 1.39 million evening editions on a daily basis (January ~ June, 2014 Average) Being a financial newspaper (経済→keizai→economy), most of the articles have to do with current state of the Japanese economy but like most newspapers it caters to a wider audience by including other sections such as Sports, Life, and Health. Today’s article comes from the Technology section and is titled (loosely) From Video Calls to Interpreters, Skype Real-Time Translation Software. It’s an article about the exiting prospect of a fully-functional simultaneous translation application and the implications such an application would hold for the future of mankind. The original article published on February 4th, 2015 can be read here, in Japanese, and my English translation–along with a few comments of my own–below:

From Video Calls to Interpreters, Skype Real-Time Translation Software
February 4th, 2015
By Freelance Editor and Journalist Noriko Takiguchi

The day  we can communicate using the internet with foreigners that don’t speak our language…is finally here and there is no need to hire an expensive simultaneous interpretation specialist. If you use Skype Translator, the software automatically translates for you for free.

This is the newest capability being touted by the VoIP service giant Skype. At present, a preview version has been released (in the United States only; Japan release set for the latter half of 2015). During a video call, even when neither speaker can understand their parter’s language, all they have to do is speak in their own language. A language barrier doesn’t mean anything. The software takes your partners speech and translates it into your own language. You can speak with anyone from any country of the world, even if you aren’t very good at languages.

In order to use Skype Translator,  you must first download the latest version of Skype. Then, choose your partner and set Translation to “On”. After that all you need to do is choose the language in which your partner will be speaking.

The preview version of the software is currently compatible with English and Spanish, available on Windows 8.1 and 10 only.

A short breath after your Spanish-speaking friend finishes speaking, text appears in Spanish at the bottom of your screen, followed by translated English text accompanied by a voice that reads it out loud. While still not completely simultaneous, the conversation seems to flow fairly well as long as one speaks clearly. Even if neither party has mastered the other’s language, each can communicate plenty.

Skype already has a messaging service capable of translating over 40 different languages, Japanese being one of them. For the messaging service, input text gets displayed in your partner’s language.

However, the real selling point of Skype Translator in addition to voice-recognition and automatic translation is its powerful built-in learning capabilities. The more people the use the translation software, the better it gets at recognizing speech.

Skype Translator can also be used on other devices such as smartphones. If we can overcome even the language barrier, the world may become an even more familiar place.

(End article)

Regarding the Translation

There were several points that I struggled with in this translation not so much because it was difficult but because the original text was so plain. The article read more like a list than it did a piece of prose…and I found myself challenged to keep this translation true to the sound coming across in the text of the original piece (areas highlighted in purple) I will go over these areas quickly.

“being touted”
This is my translation of the word 搭載, which is used often to describe what kind of weapons a vehicle is “loaded/equipped/set” with. I took the idea of a weapon and imagined someone would be self-confident sporting the latest and most powerful weapon. Then I thought about how Skype is trying to actively sell themselves as the forerunner of this technology and the word “tout” came to mind. Putting it all together, I saw Skype Translator as a weapon they equipped themselves with and “being touted” was chosen.

This is my translation of やり取り. やり取り can loosely be described as a back-and-forth. やる(yaru) “to do” and 取り(tori) “to take” and because in this case the doing and taking would be of words, “communicate” was the best choice.

This is something that I added to the text and is not a direct translation. The only hint in the original text that may lead someone adding this is は(wa). は sets the subject apart, emphasizing that something new is being introduced, thus, I found it appropriate to add a similar marker in the English translation. 

“If we can overcome even the language barrier, the world may become an even more familiar place.”
The poeticism of this sentence meshes awkwardly and comes across forced in this dry instruction manual of an article. I struggled with trying to create a more beautiful sentence but instead came to the conclusion, especially considering it follows the most worthless sentence of the entire article, to simply leave it alone. 

Writing style aside, the content of this article is exciting because it hints at a world not to0 far off where people of any and every nation communicate freely with each other. That’s very exciting! On the other hand, people like me can not help but wonder if we will fail to become useful.

I look forward to your comments! Until next time,


Translating Toyo Keizai: New Words and Wedding Trends in Japan

Kyōyūkon is the new buzzword in Japan. "Shared Wedding"

No matter the country, no matter the culture, words evolve as time slips slowly on. Trends change, people change, and the way people tie the knot changes to reflect the environment. A recent study Marriage Trend Survey (Zekushi Magazine, October 2014) found that among other things a new trend was emerging in the world of weddings, calling for a new word: 共有婚 (Kyōyūkon). “What exactly is this recent Kyōyūkon trend?” asks Kyoto University graduate and journalist Yūmi Tokiwa at Tōyō Keizai news (online).

Understandable trend given the times, the kanji used sum up its meaning well: 共 (kyō) Share/Together, 有 (yū) to Be/Have, 婚 (kon) Marriage. Below is my translation the article which appeared in Tōyō Keizai on January 18th, 2015. It can be read in its original Japanese here.

Weddings, What exactly is this recent Kyōyūkon trend?

A decreasing numbers of guests and lower costs.

The wedding, the most important day of your life. Contrary to what one may believe, the movement of the economy does not hold much sway over the cost of a wedding. “Even during the financial crisis of 2008, the cost of weddings did not go down. It’s because Japanese people consider a wedding to be Continue reading

Translating: The Correct Mindset.

Lifelong Learning 生涯学習Recently, while searching for leads into new opportunities for translation and interpretation, I came across a question posted on the Japanese Q&A portal known as 教えてgoo (oshiete goo) that resonated with my feelings towards translation exactly. There are several websites in English which run on a similar platform. A question is posted, other users freely offer up answers and suggestions, and the original user chooses what they believe to be the best answer. The author of said answer receives credit and reputation in the community for providing valuable information. Whether or not any monetary transactions take place, I am unaware. What I am aware of, and have been surprised by several times to date, is the number of users that offer very detailed, specific, and thoughtful feedback (oftentimes in very polite language). Aside from websites that pride themselves on the quality of their content and manage their community well (such as the American-based Quora), it has struck me that this differs dramatically from the oftentimes shallow and too oftentimes reckless commentary found in similar websites catered to English-speaking audiences.

That aside, here is the original question posted in 2010 by user sosrsvp titled “英語の翻訳者・在宅翻訳・フリーランス翻訳で少しでも稼ぐ為には??”(What does it take to save a little money as an English Translators/Home Translators/Freelance Translator?): Continue reading

Language Independence: English Wednesdays

wednesdayLiving abroad can be an overwhelming experience. Trying to adjust to the culture, the religion, the food, and the language takes time and causes frustration. Fortunately if you have a guide who has been there before to show you around, you are strides ahead and sure to come away from the experience with a positive impression. Unfortunately, the reliance on a guide can be crippling to your independence in that country. How can someone who spends an extended period of time in a foreign country ever expect to learn the language and gain independence while at the same time enjoying all the benefits of a guide?

Two experiences come to mind. One, the year I spent in South Korea. Two, now as I play the role of guide in the United States.

Continue reading

ESL Pronunciation Practice: The Long & Short

Practice each sound, one by one.

Practice each sound, one by one.

As with any language, pronunciation is not the most important aspect. Frankly, fine-tuning one’s pronunciation ought to be every language learner’s final step. It is a step that should be pursued with passion and diligence, unquestionably, and patience. Patience is especially important because at this final step in your language-learning journey native speakers understand most everything that you say; you have finished 90% of the climb, and you want to tell your friends that you are “full bi-lingual”, but you are not at the mountaintop yet…and that last part is tricky.

Yet, I went against my old rule-of-thumb this past weekend when I picked up “Easy Pronunciation“, published by Living Language and written by Barbara Raifsnider, for my Japanese friend (Which I now use for private tutor sessions) Learning English as a second language–required in all public schools in Japan beginning in the third grade–is infamously plagued with so-called Katakana-Eigo where English is pronounced in ways that are friendly to native Japanese but quite difficult to understand for the untrained ear of a native English speaker. Continue reading

Abstract Ink: Japan in a Paintbrush

What does it tell you when arguably the most famous abstract artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, says “Had I been born Chinese I would have been a calligrapher, not a painter”? Eastern Calligraphy, with roots dating back thousands of years, has evolved from its humble and crude stone and chisel beginnings to a means of fluid communication and high art. Shodō (書道) “The Way of the Brush”, handed down through the generations, used by Japanese princes and monks alike, is to this day regarded both as a means for communication and of spiritual awakening. Though unaccustomed Western eyes may be intimidated by its complexity, what is certain is that Shodō is more than just painting: It is a connection to thousands of years of history dating back into Korea and China; it is connecting with language at a deeper level; and at some levels it is a spiritual pathway to enlightenment.


Chinese Characters on a Turtle Shell

Chinese Characters on a Turtle Shell

The story of shodo begins tens of thousands of years ago before the brush even existed. In dimly lit caves such as the ones of Zhongwei, China, our ancestors took stones to stone and chiseled away into history their everyday life: horned animals, fellow hunters, bows and arrows. Written language in the East, just as was the case in the West, was born out of pictures.

least as far back as 3,000BC one finds examples written on animal bones and that can be traced directly to characters in modern use. From here these characters and their use gradually spread until at one point roughly two thousand years when it was decreed a unification of writing was necessary and a standard of 3,300 characters were selected. It was at this time that the development of a brush gave way to more fluid characters, which in turn allowed for the development of different schools of style.

However, it was not even until the middle of the first millennium AD that the use of Chinese characters made its way across Korea and into Japan. Once there, its adopters faced the challenge of matching an already existing way of speaking with a foreign way of writing. Continue reading

Nonsense: Word Jumble

People are constantly trying to understand eachother. Let alone when people don’t even speak the same language natively, there are always misunderstandings. When beginning to learn a new language, one goes through the frustrating experience of confirming what was said again and again and again and again…breaking down the sentence into manageable pieces, until finally what one person was trying to say is mutually understood at a certain level by the person they were trying to say it to.

Sometimes, even when all the words in the sentence are completely familiar and understood fully by the listener, it is just impossible to understand. In fact, in Japan people say, “Well, even Japanese people do not know this” more often than someone might expect. Ironic, coming from a Japanese person.

What I am trying to say is, at a certain point it is necessary to take a moment let your mind just free-flow with text.

Stop reading now if you prefer sensibility. 

Behold: “A Panda in Their Soups”

Yesterday and amalgamism of peaches went swimming in a new world of yesterdays insanity.  It wasn’t too long though, before they discovered that there were notimes of human trying to be so close to the next fluff of hints.  Soo many hints, they thought, to handle the rolling twine.  Didn’t see it coming…didn’t know it was there. How did find two? Nowhere though, so they went back to the beginnnning too much. It was nice you se, to be able to try new things instead of typing to momma.  Momma didn’t Mind, if there were spots of tinges of times when….oh god, so many cabbages!

It was true, there were no ways spiraling into the misssst. So thick.. Bells tolling in the distance to Spanish music and now again the rows of singing plants. All would have been well, said the mountain, if it was not for the amalgamizing peaches.

It was none to far for the peaches, fuffling hints of what was in yesterday. Rolling, twine of the mountain’s feet. Feet!? Mountains had paws,;what silliness. Have a new world bowling pin. HIyo fawawawa ting is next-door neigbor’s twine d,o,g. Much ado about the mist, the mountain watches the twine dg roll around in it.

Flabberghast! Don’s three people buckets up had will do. Twine (burning dyin)g leaves. Leaves burnt by mountain halibut there were no chimneys! It wasn’t meant to be, maybe” thought the mountain as fluffy mist curned twine balls to Spanish music eaten dog.  So it was. Thinking it makes it. Did you see him though the way that he looked away looked away looked awaaaaay to many.

So the mightmare ending rolling singing plants.  They write melodies harmonies soups stew is what it’s made from. HIyo fawawawa purrs stoking twine while. So we pause. After starting! appreciation now again Spanish. Why to the hints, behold, cabbages sing. Sweet peaches, cabbages, mountains-a-twined, is no where to be found.

Bark, HIyo, you silent tree. Telling us always eiei that the hints can not twine the handle.  After all, it was a door, not a mountain.