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.

“communicate”
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.

“however”
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,

Dorian

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Happy Kanji: Positive vs. Negative Japanese

 

Eternal Kanji Symbol

Hand-Painted Kanji: Eternal

As a way of mediation, contemplation, and preparation for the new year, I decided to write down 400 kanji (the sino-Japanese text).  In an effort to call forth positive energy into my life  this new year, only characters that had some positive connotation were chosen.  The kanji  are chosen from a list of 1,947 kanji that can be found in the reference book “Kanji in Context” The list includes all Joyo kanji.  Joyo simply refers to the set of kanji that have been set up by the Japanese Ministry of education as mandatory for all students up through secondary school.  The Japanese language in total consists of roughly 3,000 separate kanji characters but luckily for us non-native speakers any kanji outside of the list of 1,945 Joyo kanji that is used in Japanese newsprint must be accompanied by corresponding furigana.

So with this in mind I set out to create a list of 400 kanji that have some kind of positive denotation.  Of course it occurrs to me that there will be some subjectivity when it comes to determining what things are positive and what things are not so please do not regard this list as definitive.  There are certain characters which may have positive connotations if not widely then personally and I am sure that we all can agree that certain gray areas are quite acceptable. Also be aware than many kanji can have more than one meaning: 安(AN) for example can mean either safe or cheap.

What becomes clear as the list is being made is that there are relatively few kanji that have positive denotations.  Out of the 1,947 kanji reviewed only a few hundred can really be handpicked as uplifting, positive, soothing, etc.  The final hundred or so come down to things that I would like to consider as positive.  That is to say, these final kanji are no more positive than they are negative but because I have no more positive kanji I simply have to settle for something which is at least not harmful or negative.  You will see that many elements of nature stand in for the final section. Also notice that I chose to include many elements of the body because any and all good feelings must originate and radiate from the body.

The list is as follows:

人金生家自男女子私安新春多明強若始来作休勉住知者英世界全体頭口目耳手足心立走聞く読書出入買着歌習思言渡覚調続考答教開直集窓質問料真好気静利親笑喜咲勝進受取流晴発意解参加究案味花犬文公園医図暖楽甘有和簡支賛成功束想首身然正能化仏供必増感協係谷林森空天星光風祭敬鳥鳴論識活宅守庭葉産宝現望神禅良皆演絵声暇曲豊富興任信得環境情適許認実美善誕基招賞致緑絶老才財接志恩忠訳提指赦験夢確示清拝輝了浮礼祈祖助努将奨励陽泉雪格資源貴願勢灯精請育報告吉幸福鮮盛塩像城誠詩桜松桃枝株根瞬杯札柱靴命巨哲抱占祝陵童健築筋粋超恵恋愛互雇胸属展永骨胃蔵脳創念息欲添歓迎仰卵勇我仲優促秀献繁栄標賢臨稼穏偉宇宙挑兆豪昇糧糖鼻憩舌紳寿妊肌肥膨克寧寛踊躍る征奮獲穫魅俊俸給傑壮悟愉懐披浄潤澄朴棋胎矯謙謹勧耐彩敢朗雄雅頂頑宜宰賓芳菓慕冒是奏泰笛篤覇霊塗慰香薫誉貫匠層尽慶魂勘貞淑斉巧髄唇懇敏栽麗到誘拾趣技倫芸夫徒快植礎縁貯蓄隆褒仁菊芽苗滝峰峠柳

(If you want to know the meaning: Go to this site->Polarcloud and download Rikaichan for Firefox, Thunderbird, or Seamonkey.  Then download the corresponding dictionary.  Now all that is left is to simply activate Rikaichan and hover your mouse over the kanji you want to know more about and VIOLA! )

That’s it.  That should be 400.  For those of you who can read Japanese (or Chinese as well) it should be easy to tell that some of the characters above are a bit of a stretch;  “Peach Tree” (桃) would be one such case. No matter, my point is not that there are exactly 400 examples of positive kanji but it is that fact that there are really quite fewer than that number.  While the amount of kanji people are required to know in order to read a newspaper in Japan may be roughly 2,000, of those less than 1/5th of them are positive even just slightly!  Let me repeat,  fewer than one-fifth of all the Chinese characters used in Japanese text are positive even slightlyContinue reading