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