Friday, April 6, 2012

Translation Revelation



“Existence of Transportation Communication Exhibition Persons.”

From time to time different Japanese corporations, universities, etc. pay me to proofread and rewrite documents that have been translated into English. My job is to localize, or maybe globalize, them by making them look and read like a similar document you might see produced in any English speaking country around the world.

I’m not the best person for the job. I get a lot of complaints about my work. If I write a photo caption that says “Two people talking on a train,” I’ll get it back with a note saying, "this should be: Transportation Communication Exhibition."  If I write a sentence like “Here are two people talking on a train,” I’m likely to get it back with a note to make it, “Existence of Transportation Communication Exhibition Persons.” It’s taken a while but I’ve come to the realization that my clients like nouns. When it comes to verbs, articles, etc., not so much, but the bigger the noun the better.

I used to chalk these corrections off to sheer stupidity on their part, but my clients are some of the most intelligent, well educated people on the planet. They invent things I couldn’t even dream of. Many of them have walked through the gates of Tokyo University as honored graduates and I can’t even find the gates with a global positioning device(which one of them no doubt invented). Now I realize I missed the train completely. They are doing what the Japanese have been doing since the country emerged from a state of self-imposed isolation back in the 19th century. That is taking some of the best the world has to offer (in every field from cars to cuisine, electronics,etc.)and remolding it into something infinitely better. Who needs all those pesky prepositions and other confusing parts of speech when nouns alone can do the job? This is English streamlined, stripped to its barest basics. It’s minimal English, maybe even Zen English, and it’s basically brilliant.


Related post: In Other Words

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