Teachers' blog


【Translation problems】*要点説明あり

(Contributed by Gary)
For anyone who has ever tried, it is often more difficult than it looks to translate accurately between two languages. This is especially true of languages that are as culturally and linguistically different as Japanese and English.
Although there are a lot of translation programs available, even now it is still hard for them to capture exactly what I want to say. An example was the time I asked for the translation of “I like cheese” and was given “私はチーズのような人です“ Literally “I am like cheese!”. Fortunately I was able to understand the translation, but it made me realise how even mistakes with the simplest phrases could lead to embarrassing or confusing errors.
Similarly some words or expressions do not lend themselves easily for translation as the concepts are not so common culturally. Many times I have been asked by Japanese students what “privacy” means, and despite explanations and dictionary checks the idea often does not carry over. Conversely many Japanese phrases an expressions do not fit comfortably into English, 微妙(bimyou) the Japanese concept of delicacy and complicatedness is a word which carries a subtle meaning obvious to Japanese people, that English struggles to replicate.
Expressions in both languages are often not easy to get across, as cultural differences often confuse learners who do not have the background. I do not yet have a smartphone, so my “clamshell” shaped one is referred to as “がらけい“(garakei) meaning it is as rare as something from the Galapogas Islands (gara = galpogas, kei = keitai (cellphone)). An expression I think people would struggle with in English.
From these experiences I realise that language is not just about a message, it is fundamentally part of your culture, identity and make up, and that is not only mystery of learning a language, but also the beauty of it.

・様々な翻訳プログラムが存在しますが、私の言いたいことを正確に翻訳してはくれません。例えば、「I like cheese」とタイプして翻訳使用とすると、「私はチーズのような人です」と帰ってきます。英語に直すと「I am like cheese.」という意味になります。幸運にも、私はこの翻訳を理解することができますが、単純なフレーズの間違いが、恥ずかしい、また困惑させられる間違いにつながるのです。
・表現についても、文化的な違いから、背景が分からないと混乱をきたす言葉がたくさんあります。私はスマートホンを持たないので、私のclamshell(2枚貝)型の携帯は「がらけい」(Garapagos Keitaiの略:ガラパゴス島の生物くらいに珍品の携帯)と呼ばれますが、このような表現を英語で探そうとしても難しい。

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