NATURAL ENGLISH IN JA-EN TRANSLATIONS? YES, IT IS POSSIBLE!
The inaugural season of NCTA webinars has found scores of fans, both stateside and abroad, allowing NCTA members to connect and learn a few new tricks.
BY MARIAN KINOSHITA
A few weeks ago, I participated in my very first webinar. Actually, participated isn’t quite accurate. I signed up, fully aware that the live March 4th broadcast at the civilized hour of 9 a.m. (in San Francisco) signified a harrowing 2 a.m. for me the following morning (Japan Standard Time). I opted for the recording, available to participants for 90 days after the session. As a webinar neophyte, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, everything was automatic and hassle-free. I received the presentation PowerPoint and a link within 24 hours of the event. The recording was a slideshow with presenter Mike Karpa narrating the slides as he went. As there is no video, Mike could well have been presenting in his pajamas, which is the same condition I was in when enjoying the recording! Participants were encouraged to send in questions, which were saved for the Q&A period at the end during the live presentation.
Short and sweet
The webinar was moderated by Sarah Llewellyn, NCTA VP and Continuing Education Chair in San Francisco, with technical support from Maia Figueroa located in Barcelona. Mike Karpa, NCTA’s Membership Chair, is also located in San Francisco. The presentation was entitled, Translation Techniques for Crafting Natural English. The day I received the PowerPoint file I simply left it open on my virtual desktop, referring to it often during the day. Mike’s suggestions for common Japanese terms were immediately useful in my business/technical translations, often including microcomputer manuals.
I should emphasize that this was not a self-help presentation on grammar or typos. Mike specified how to create a less “Japanese-y” result, as I often say, with hints on translating naturally.
My #1 webinar takeaway was this: Shorten verbs! Make them more concise. Be descriptive. For example, instead of translating shimesu (示す) as “shows” when referring to a figure, opt for the more specific “lists,” “depicts,” or “plots,” depending on figure content. Use “good” verbs and shun vague verbs. Tweak your translation to make the sentence short and sweet. Even the basic can be improved. Take kikaku wo okonau (企画を行う). Choosing “planning” instead of “executing a plan” makes a world of difference. Lengthier verbs may work in Japanese, but perhaps not in English. And, at the risk of beating a dead horse, keep the verb active. This is challenging, as passive is the most common voice in Japanese, with “non-live” subjects (a new phrase to me) apparently preferable to the real thing.
Participants’ microphones were turned off during the presentation to prevent audio mayhem. However, online attendees could send instant questions and respond to polls. The first poll revealed audience diversity in terms of translation experience: 17% had 1-5 years of experience, 33% had 6-10 years, 33% had 11-20 years, and 17% had over 20 years of experience. How comforting that “oldies but goodies” such as myself are willing to improve despite 20 years in the business! The polls took less than a minute to implement, with instantaneous results. In this concomitantly global yet isolated situation, a peek at fellow attendees made it all the more interesting.
Mike’s persistence in methodically breaking up sentences, finding better (or missing) subjects, and keeping things “active” to make the text more understandable was enormously enlightening. We were provided with the original Japanese, and then introduced to a caravan of versions, from literal to ideal. Of course, editing leeway depends on the client (with some resisting anything that is not word-for-word) and time constraints. As a final tip, Mike mentioned corpus tools—apparently very handy for successful Internet searches. The caveat is… these were covered in two previous NCTA webinars, so I am now tempted to view those recordings as well. I believe I am hooked! MK