Swet Columns

Japanese and English express ideas in different ways, as every translator is regularly reminded, and ensuring natural output sometimes requires a little reflection. This column offers a record of grapples with thorny words and phrases.

Word Wise: Making Assessments

評価

By Richard Medhurst

Japanese words with distinct, similar meanings can be troublesome. This is especially true when they have small but crucial differences. The primary dictionary definitions of 評価 tell us that this word is used to decide the value of something or someone. This suggests English words like to “assess” or... more

Word Wise: Focusing on Translation

を中心に

By Richard Medhurst

When choosing how to translate を中心に, there are two basic sets of options I regularly consider. If a product is described as 女性を中心に人気, this could be translated as “particularly popular with women,” “mainly popular,” “especially popular,” “primarily popular,” and so on. On the other... more

Word Wise: Deal With It

対応

By Richard Medhurst

Translators are constantly dealing with work assignments. Many of them contain the word 対応, which itself could be translated as “deal with” or “handle.” In this sense of an action with an object, 対応 also commonly becomes “respond” or “response.” The first suggestions seem in general to be an easier fit... more

Word Wise: Get a Grip

把握 (Haaku)

By Richard Medhurst

Some words look straightforward enough in the context of a Japanese sentence, but are not always easy to translate. Take 把握, consisting of two kanji meaning to “grip” or “grasp.” This latter word, “grasp,” is a common J-E dictionary entry for 把握 as it has the same connection with physically... more

Word Wise: Etc.?

など、など、等

By Richard Medhurst

Apprentice translators from Japanese to English soon encounter the など issue. Lists are typically followed by a など, and they may pop up with alarming frequency. Excessive use of “etc.” in English would be considered bad style, but Japanese follows different rules and we must deal with it.... more

Word Wise: Covering All the Bases

By Richard Medhurst

When Japanese companies, politicians, or other authority voices seek to reassure, one word they frequently reach for is 徹底. Sometimes it forms an adjective, as in 徹底的な調査, “a thorough investigation.” Depending what it is modifying, “complete,” “comprehensive,” “meticulous,” or “painstaking” are also... more