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

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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

It Simply Does Not Translate.

Talk to anyone who knows more than one language and they will almost surely tell you that the hardest phrases to translate into another language are found in comedies.  Jokes tend to be incredibly hard to carry over from one language into another, and not just incredibly hard but sometimes just downright impossible.  What would be an example of things impossible to carry over in language?  Take this scenario that I have translated directly from Japanese into English without consideration of the preservation of the joke:

There are two people on a boat. One looks up into the sky and yells to his comrade, “There are so many clouds!” The second man begins to panic and yells, “SPIDERS!?  WHERE!?”

The problem with this joke is that the word “CLOUD” in English sounds nothing like the word “SPIDERS” whereas in Japanese 雲 (kumo) means cloud and 蜘蛛 (kumo) means spider.  They are homonyms and thus perfect for a play on words…in Japanese.  English as well as many if not all other languages are filled with examples just like this one that make it nearly impossible to preserve the original humor and translate at the same time.  They are beautiful inside jokes available only to those who speak the language and outside of that language they sound nonsensical and awkward.

Are you Pulling my Leg?

Are You Pulling My Leg?

But it is not just to jokes that such translation problems are confined, many idioms and set phrases in language are (perhaps) best left in that original language.  Why?  Take this other example from Korean: A student wishes to express gratitude to their teacher for being caring and always giving her the time of day.  This is what results from her trying to directly translate a Korean expression into English:

You always gave ear to me

Reading it a couple times is all it takes to fully understand the meaning within the sentence but the phrase sounds odd.  Yet, upon inquiring about the sentence with native Korean speakers I found, as anticipated, that an expression of the same exact wording exists in Korean and is a perfectly natural and common saying.  When trying to think of some similar expression in English, the Beatles song “With a little help from my friends” comes to mind: “Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song…”

Yes these expressions are plentiful in any language:  French, Portuguese, German, Spanish, English, Japanese, and many many others of course.  Language is literally spotted with idioms and expressions which, if translated word for word will be odd and awkward to the native speaker.  It is a problem that translators must face and overcome every day: Should the phrase be translated directly but with an explanation or should a similar but different idiom be chosen in the target language as a substitute? Continue reading