Word Wise: Deal With It


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 for ongoing situations, like “dealing with customers” (お客様対応) or “handling phone calls” (電話対応), and the second for specific situations like “responding to a disaster” (災害対応). This is only a generalization, however, as with a little thought they can often be applied to the opposite situations.

While the words above are the most obvious go-to words for translating 対応, they do not always work. For example, a company talking about its お客様対応 directly to its customers should choose a more polite alternative, such as “customer service” or “responding to customer needs.” 多言語対応 may also need a word like “services” added in to become “multilingual services.” On a political note, with 北朝鮮への対応, “handling” or “response” may sound a little weak or reactive, especially when translating an official government source. A “stance on North Korea” is a better option here.

Then there is 対応 as a state that describes a correspondence or equivalence between two things. This is not as tricky, but it’s worth knowing that 対応 is regularly used in technological contexts to mean that one is “compatible” with the other, such as Apple Watch対応アプリ for apps compatible with the high-tech timepiece

Let us know how you handle 対応, respond with your feedback on the column, and make suggestions at SWET or by leaving a comment on the SWET Facebook page.