On Translating Japanese

I wanted to take a moment to discuss my approach to translating Japanese. Japanese is very different from English (in case you didn’t already know) in several fundamental ways which sometimes makes it all but impossible to convey word for word translations. Attempts to do so can wind up confusing and awkward for users of either language. My method for translating is to first assess the meaning the original author is trying to convey, with as much understanding and detail as I can muster, then transcribing that message into my own words. Faithfully maintaining accuracy across the cultural divide and achieving a sensible and fluent work is the greatest challenge of every Japanese to English translator. Sometimes I will labor for some time over my word choice or sentence structure to try and find the best way to properly convey a passage. I may not always find it, for in some cases there simply are no suitable equivalents. When this happens, I defer to note-making instead. Even so, I am always striving so that someone with no knowledge of Japanese terms or culture would be able to read through my translation and still understand the message clearly. As such I am sometimes inclined to drop or replace Japanese titles (like -sama, -chan, -dono, etc.) and Japan-centric idiomatic expressions for terms and phrases Westerners would be familiar with. Whether or not I succeed is dependent upon both my ability to understand the source as well as to identify with my audience. To improve myself, I welcome critique both from fellow students of cross-cultural linguistics as well as native speakers of English. So, comments, complaints, and even compliments are encouraged. Thanks!

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