Wa-pedia Home > Japan Forum & Europe Forum
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 29

Thread: Poor translation

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434

    Unhappy Poor translation

    I have already complained about Japanese dubbing and subtitles in another post.

    Here is an example of why I mean when I say they are oversimplified and fail to carry the original feeling of what the actors actually say. These are extracts from the series Dark Angel :

    - Did you know he could play [piano] ?
    - Who cares ? => Japanese translation : 全然 (zenzen = not at all)

    - I want your absence
    - I leave you alone => わかった (wakatta = understood)

    [while receiving order from boss]
    -Sir ? => 何だ (nanda = what ?)
    - ...
    - Yes Sir ! => ええ (ee = yeah)
    - So that's clear then ?
    - Crystal, sir ! => やります yarimasu = I('ll) do (it)


    "move on", "away", "go now", etc.always translate 行け (ike = go !)

    - Why would you want to do that ? => 必要ないよ (hitsuyou naiyo = it's not necessary)

    - What did I just say ? => やめて (yamete = stop !)

    Imagine how boring it would be if we spoke English like the transaltion they give in Japanese. First I thought it was a way to make English-speakers look stupid or dull to the Japanese audience, but I later realised that Japanese people always speak like this. So that's just that they don't have other expressions. You rally have to say everything as it is, i.e. there is only one way of saying things and it's always description-like. All these expressions like "what did I just say !" ,"ok, I leave you alone then" can be translated in other European languages easily. Often, you say it exactly the same way. But try it in Japanese and you'll only meet blank stares of people wondering what you want to say. It happens to me almost everyday and it's very frustrating.

    I feel reduced to use only basic, uninteresting expression with always the same vocabulary. The only good thing is that it's easy to understand a daily-life conversation in Japanese. In French, it would be the opposite, because all everyday expressions are even more idiomatic or metaphored than in English. Eg. If you say in English "Do you live somewhere near Tokyo tower", i Japanese in become literally "Do you live near Tokyo tower" and in French "Do you live in the corner of Tokyo tower". That what makes French even more difficult for foreigners (as it is often unintelligible once translated in another language, even other Latin languages) and Japanese easier (but more boring ).

    I am not yet speaking of real idiomatic expression such as "I am on edge" or "It's raining cats and dogs", which generally all have equivalent in other European languages - especially between English and French, as English language come 50% from French, and for such expressions the number would be closer to 90% of similarity. They are again untranslatable in Japanese.

    Sometimes you find a equivalent , the same idea formulated differently ; For instance 猿も木から落ちる"saru mo ki kara ochiru" (monkeys also fall from trees), which would be "no one's perfect in English". You can't say it like this literally in Japanese : "daremo kanzen ja nai" - no one would understand you. But if they are equivalent, they never use them in film dubbing or subtitles. Why ? Because they never use them or they are too old-fashioned ? Reinvent new one then. I feel that Japanese language is dying. New words come from English or other languages, but Japanese don't make up new ones (even the slang is poor and unimaginative) and tend to forget about the real Japanese of the past (see the thread "Japanese gov. to purify the language"). Has Japan become an American colony after WWII ? Will the Japanese all speak an hybrid Japanese-English language in 50 years ? That would also mean the death of Japanes culture...
    Last edited by Maciamo; Aug 20, 2002 at 14:52.

    Visit Japan for free with Wa-pedia
    See what's new on the forum ?
    Eupedia : Europe Guide & Genetics
    Maciamo & Eupedia on Twitter

    "What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?", Winston Churchill.

  2. #2
    Decommissioned ex-admin thomas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 14, 2002
    Posts
    212
    Very interesting topic.

    Hm, translations are always compromises. The sloppy dubs and subs you mentioned probably just reflect a sloppy and straight (=unimaginative) colloquial language. That's indeed sad, because Japanese seems to be a language rich in nuances, nuances that seem to be quite difficult to grasp for anyone who hasn't been "socialized" (I love that term) in Japan. Language is also a mirror of society, and if you look at Japan things have definitely changed during the past 60 years.

    As we have already stated in that other thread, I'm afraid there's no way to regulate the flow (degradation?) of language. Just my two eurocents

  3. #3
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jul 9, 2002
    Location
    japan
    Posts
    47
    Maciamo, you think deeply about languages.
    I read all of your other threads.
    They are deeply impressed on me.
    About movies, I don't know whether if translators intend to give them easy Japanese or not,but I haven't noticed that they have some pattern.
    We are losting chances to hear Japanese that is rich in nuance like this...

    I feel teens have less vocabualaries.

    People have mentioned about the reason.
    Some say, they fail to form human relationship.
    They live in their small community. They need less words there.
    Others say, because they don't read books or newspapers.
    Or it depends on decrease in the number of children.
    Before they ask something by using their own words ,
    their parents offer them etc,.

    I agree with them.

  4. #4
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jul 9, 2002
    Location
    japan
    Posts
    47
    As for me,I'd like to learn both Japanese and English.
    Because I have many things to tell to others.
    I think such motivation is needed to learn any languages.

  5. #5
    Regular Member samuraitora's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 29, 2002
    Location
    Detroit MI
    Age
    45
    Posts
    56
    As for me,I'd like to learn both Japanese and English.
    Because I have many things to tell to others.
    I think such motivation is needed to learn any languages.
    very good point!!!
    ja mata
    samuraitora
    (^_-)/

  6. #6
    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 15, 2002
    Location
    SonyLand
    Age
    50
    Posts
    146
    nah, I don't think that the Japanese culture will disappear.

    Societal structure has remained basically unchanged for centuries on end. Politicians get old and move, Beaurucrates still rule and will rule.

    Language may change and probably has since most can't quote Basho, or any other famous works. But language is a living entity, and I don't think it's possible to keep the Japanese in the land of Genji.

    @movies
    The amount of Japanese is different if you compare it to the voice overs. Even the sentences are different.

    I just finished watching Stand by Me ... if they wrote out all the script, I'd still be reading while the move had already finished. So it has to do probably with the amount that youu can visually read and yet still be able to see most of what's going on in the scenes.

    "I wonder if you will ever have friends like when you were 12?" ... or something like that.

    @miyuki
    Definitely a very good reason to study
    crazy gonna crazy

  7. #7
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    I just finished watching Stand by Me ... if they wrote out all the script, I'd still be reading while the move had already finished. So it has to do probably with the amount that youu can visually read and yet still be able to see most of what's going on in the scenes.
    False excuse. You can translate everything in English when you watch French movies or vice-versa. It works for most European languages. In Japanese it's still easier as Kanji don't take much space and are quicker to read than our alphabet. What's more, in my examples, most of the time it was short sentences with long pauses between dialogues.

    Societal structure has remained basically unchanged for centuries on end. Politicians get old and move, Beaurucrates still rule and will rule.
    That's quite incredible indeed. However language is not bound to bureaucracy or politics. As you say it yourself, language evolve with society and there has been a lot of change (since Meiji, then then the end of WWII). It amazes me that Japanese language (and society) had changed so little from Nara jidai to the end of Edo jidai or even know. When the Tale of Genji was written, the English language didn't exist (check the history of English here) yet. Shakespeare is difficult to understand nowadays and he wrote during Edo Jidai when Japanese people spoke remarkably like old people still do now. Well, Spanish and Italian haven't changed much for the last 500 years either, but English or French (and German, because of the dialects) have and still do. Japanese has not learnt to create new words by itself, so, like many other languages, it becomes invaded by foreign words. Chinese or Finnish still care to invent new words for almost everything like TV or elevator. But when I see how Japanese people ALWAYS talk about the English language (on every TV programmes,in songs, between friends, at work, or study it during their free time), I really wonder what's the future of Japanese language. I have heard many people saying that they'd prefer to have English as a mother-tongue and insist on using every English words they can in Japanese even if older generations can't understand them. Everytime I sit in a MOS burger (or Mcdonalds), family restaurant or cafe, I see people studying English (with a book or a teacher). That's a national obsession. I young Japanese (between 18 and 30) out of 5 seems to have studied a few months either in the UK, the US, Canada or Australia. Where else than in Japan can you see so many English (conversation) schools/m2 ? Nowhere ; English has become a second language in Japan, eventhough few people are really fluent like in Hong Kong or Singapore (but these had English as first official language in addition of being British colonies).

  8. #8
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12
    Maciamo,first of all I really want to ask about the translations you mentioned in the first post of this thread: what would you have translated them as?

    I dont really get your way of thinking. It seems like you know a fair bit of Japanese, but expecting to get understandable results from simply a direct translation of what you would say in English in that situation is a beginners mistake, and you clearly aren't a beginner. Taking it further and deciding this indicates a flaw in the language itself is, hmmm, ..びみょう..

    Just because something like 猿も木から落ちる has a phrase of equivalent meaning in English doesn't mean it is USED in the same way, is as commonly used a phrase or fits into the particular conversation in the same way.

  9. #9
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    I think you've understood me grza. I never said there was a better translation.

    There are thousands of idiomatic expressions in English that are never used or no more used. The problem with 猿も木から落ちる is that it's a proverb, like "when the cat is away the mice will play", for instance. But it sounds so strange to use such proverbs in films and Japanese language clearly doen't use much "imaged" expressions that aren't proverbial. If you say "it's pouring with rain" or "it's pelting". These aren't proverbs at all. The English proverb would be "it's raining cats and dogs". The meaning expressed is the same however. There is a way of saying it in Japanese 土砂降りだ "doshafuri da", which is literally "it's raining earth and rocks". Otherwise we have to use adverbs to describe how it's raining. So, "it's pelting" becomes : 雨が 激し・猛烈に 降ってる ame ga hageshiku/mourestsu futteru (lit. "it's raining violently") or 雨がひど_降ってる ame ga hidoku futteru (lit. "it's raining horribly"). In this particular case (rain), there are translation in Japanese, eventhough they aren't as idiomatic. You can say it's raining hard or heavily, but not really pouring or pelting. But if for common things like rain (and Japan gets a lot of it) there already aren't any idioms, it's needless to say that more complexed, psychological or cultural things have absolutely no translation. Often, just finding a word (not a full expression) can be pretty defying in Japanese. Look at these.

    There is no discrimination between these words in Japanese :

    and/with : to
    beautiful/clean/tidy : kirei
    dirty/messy : kitanai
    quick/early : hayai
    slow/late : osoi
    up/upstairs/top/on/above : ue
    down/downstairs/bottom/under/below/beneath : shita
    in/into/inside/indoors/interior : naka
    out/out of/outside/outdoors/exterior : soto

    There is no word for :

    without
    never
    on (any surface, not only horizontal, for ex. "on the wall/ceiling")
    during : no aida, -chuu, ...


    Japanes usually don't make the difference between thunder and lightning (雷 kaminari), eventhough there kanji conpound for them. The word for "usually, generally, commonly, normally" (taitei たいてい) is scarcely used. Japanese prefer using いつも itsumo ("always") eventhough they would not always do sth. Even if there are words, they don't use them. They prefer vagueness and the eternal repetition of the same words (maybe that's their conformist way of thinking) to precision and originality we value in Western languages.

    There is no proper for word dwarf, just "little person" (子人 kohito) and most words are built similarily by putting an adjective kanji with a noun kanji. That makes the language sounds rather childish (many an explanation to Japanese cuteness ?). I shouldn't complain as it makes it easier for foreigners to understand Japanese.

    I guess you'll find loads of other examples by yourself as well.
    (Really, I can't make a sentence without finding one : loads of, legions of, numerous, plenty of, a lot of, lots of, much, many, etc. all translate by た_さん takusan or 多数 tasuu ("a big number of"); no idioms, no discrimination in meaning).
    Last edited by Maciamo; Aug 24, 2002 at 11:59.

  10. #10
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12
    Hmmm.I understand what you're saying, I just think it's an unusual way to look at things and that you're vastly overstating the significance of the fact that there are no direct translations of some words.

    quick/early : hayai you must know 早い and 速い arent the same word
    up/upstairs/top/on/above : ue joumen,kajou?
    down/downstairs/bottom/under/below/beneath : shita kaika, soko, kamen ?
    in/into/inside/indoors/interior : naka tonai、uchigawa?
    out/out of/outside/outdoors/exterior soto kogai、sotogawa,uwabe?


    Most of the words you list here in English are used at different times and aren't evidence of English being more expressive. Is Japanese a less rich language because they use the same word when we woud say 'up' in one situation and 'upstairs' in another?

    What about words like ぴかぴか きらきら びしょびしょ etc. that dont have equally evocative English equivalents?


    There is no word for :

    without
    never
    on (any surface, not only horizontal, for ex. "on the wall/ceiling")
    during : no aida, -chuu
    OK, there is not a one-to-one mapping of words. The Japanese language is structured in a different way, so what? Get over it. It's not as if you can't express these concepts in Japanese. 'without' 'on' 'during' and 'never' only make sense as part of a sentence; I really don't see the argument in isolating a single word and then complaining that there isn't an equivalent unit you could isolate in Jaapanese.

    loads of, legions of, numerous, plenty of, a lot of, lots of, much, many, etc. all translate by た・さん takusan or 多数 tasuu ("a big number of");
    ookuno, kazoenaihodo, musuuno, taryou, houfuno, juubun, tappuri etc?.


    How much Japanese do you know? I'm interested because it's going to have a big influence on how seriously I can take your points.Unless you're almost native standard then your argument that just because you don't know intricate ways to express yourself that they must not exist is difficult to accept, kind of like "..my guitar just doesn't have the right notes on it"

  11. #11
    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 15, 2002
    Location
    SonyLand
    Age
    50
    Posts
    146
    Japanese is different that many European languages so it's really difficult to group it with them. I've heard that English and Japanese are 2 of the hardest languages to learn, even the Monterey Institute which is premier school also states this.

    Japanese also has another factor which English doesn't have. You have this -- a lucid understanding between those speaking. Of course at times 2 speakers are not sure what the other is referring to but at many times they do and thereby fill in the blanks on their own. English is much the opposite depending on the 5W1H menatality (who, what, where, when, why, and how) which makes it difficult for many Japanese.

    I do agree that the level of language has fallen in being that it has gotten lazy. You no longer hear beautiful allusions to poems and what not ... but ... I interact on a daily level with common people. Books and stories are normally related to people of high birth. Genji Monogatari was written by a court lady. Her superior Sei Shonagon the author of the Pillow Book was also a lady of high birth. I would love to read something of the early periods by farmers. But alas, they would be like the peasants and serfs -- illeterate and more occupied with making enough to have left over to eat.

    The way of the sword and the way of the pen are very closely related in Japan. The way of the rice plant was much that, a way of dirty feet. Economics then and today are still surprisingly similar. Japan claims a high literally rate but they never statitically proved that with the amount of vocabularly a person can read. The states are always targetted about this but yet the amount of immigrants and poor folk play highly in this figure also I'm pretty sure that all students are required to take the tests while I think that the Japanese fudge the test by excluding students of lower ability.

    But let's get back to the topic. Yes, some words seem missing but let's not forget that their are many phrases for situations that I can't even put together in English.

    English is states being difficult since it uses a very limited vocabulary for daily conversation. I use a much larger vocabulary in daily conversation for Japanese. I may not use flowery expressions of make references to Basho but neither do most around me. During winter I came across the word "idomizu" (moved water) in reference to "recirculated water" In Japanese 1 word in English 2 words and that after I shortend the sentence.

    Movie language I'm sure there has to be a reason. Either just laziness or the rush that is put on them to get a movie finished, don't forget that a voice over version is also available. And possibly it could be that such language is used much the same way newspapers in the States stick to high school level in order target the widest possibly audience. It would be interesting though to find out what the reasoning is behind this.

    @never and without
    never = zettai nai, zettai shinai, or even simply nai
    without = nashi, nuki so if you go to Mickey D's you can say "pikiru nashi or pikiru nuki" no pickles or take out the pickles.


    I'm not a linguist so it's really difficult to come up with a scholaristic view. And many times I'm wrong. So please take the above as just a viewpoint.

  12. #12
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    quick/early : hayai you must know 早い and 速い arent the same word
    For 早い and 速い, it's clear there is a different kanji, but if you start like this, you could also apply kanji to English words and some would have lots of different kanji. Just take a word like suject. Is that the subject of a sentence, a citizen, a topic... ? If English had kanji (it could still happen), it would increase dramatically the number of words, as every different meaning for a same word would be taken separately.

    up/upstairs/top/on/above : ue joumen,kajou?
    down/downstairs/bottom/under/below/beneath : shita kaika, soko, kamen ?
    in/into/inside/indoors/interior : naka tonai、uchigawa?
    out/out of/outside/outdoors/exterior soto kogai、sotogawa,uwabe?
    Well, my Japanese is maybe far from native, but I can get help from my Japanese friends and relatives and I have asked many people (who could speak English fluently) about this issue. Just now, as I am writing to you, I care to ask and checked what you wrote and it seems that half of your translations are never used or don't fit in most situation. kamen and joumen are not in my dictionary, not even the Japanese/Japanese. My Japanese friends have never heard of it. Maybe you should give me the kanji. soko 底 indeed means "the bottom", but the bottom of the ocean or something like that. You cannot use it to say the bottom of the screen/wall, etc. You'd say sukuriin no shita, kabe no shita, etc. You didn't mention teppen for top. It would be the same ; you can use it for the top of a mountain, but not the top of the screen, etc. Kaika and kaijou works for downstairs and upstairs - I accord you these ones.
    Then you come with tonai 都内 which means "inside the city", not just inside. I guess the compound -nai would work though. Translate it as uchi if you want, that's still the same word (same kanji). So uchi(gawa) and soto(gawa) indeed work for the inside/outside part, sorry to have missed them. However uwabe means "in surface or in appearance", which is not quite the same as outside/outdoors/etc (or add 2 more English words to the list). I don't want to look obstinate on this, it's just that I don't like so so translation.

    What about words like ぴかぴか きらきら びしょびしょ etc. that dont have equally evocative English equivalents?
    These are just onomatopoeia. I wouldn't consider them as words. That's true that English hasn't got so many of them, or of a different kind like "buzz", knock", "whizz", which are just imaged verbs or nouns. French and Italian have plenty of them and I find it natural to invent my own. I have plenty of them that are used by nobody else but me (and some relatives or close friends who hear me using them and adopt them). So, am I making my own language ? Sometime I wonder. But I realised that Japanese speakers could understand them as easily as French or Italian speakers (English-speakers more difficult for some reasons). It's just feeling expressed in sounds. It's over the language itself. (and I am still wondering why that doesn't work in English).

    ookuno, kazoenaihodo, musuuno, taryou, houfuno, juubun, tappuri etc?.
    All these have a different meaning from the one I have cited (though closely related).

    ookuno : this one was alright > a lot of, much, many, plenty of, lots of, full of (ha, I forgot this one !), etc.
    kazoenaihodo : innumerable
    musuuno : countless, myriads of...
    taryou : a large quantity/amount...
    houfuno : a great deal of, in abundance, a great amount of, etc.
    juubun : enough (occasionally with the meaning "plenty of")

    That just make my English list longer, as there are still often 2 transaltion for each of them

    I don't like it when you do that, because you give a false impression on other readers. If I hadn't come to correct you, people with a lower knowledge of Japanese would have trusted you as you seemed to know more than me when you said : How much Japanese do you know? I'm interested because it's going to have a big influence on how seriously I can take your points.Unless you're almost native standard then your argument that just because you don't know intricate ways to express yourself that they must not exist is difficult to accept, kind of like "..my guitar just doesn't have the right notes on it"

    At least, I know that you aren't much more advanced than me, so you should refrain from making me look as if I had no idea what I was talking about. I don't claim that my Japanese is perfect, nor even advanced, but I care about precision and exactitude in translation, something you apparently take more lightly. That's all. No hard feelings anyway.

  13. #13
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12
    Maciamo, first off it was never my intention to make it sound like I knew more than you, I even explicitly stated I suspected the contrary.


    For 早い and 速い, it's clear there is a different kanji, but if you start like this, you could also apply kanji to English words and some would have lots of different kanji. Just take a word like suject. Is that the subject of a sentence, a citizen, a topic... ? If English had kanji (it could still happen), it would increase dramatically the number of words, as every different meaning for a same word would be taken separately.
    はい?! Is this plan to apply kanji to English linked to the hybrid of English and Japanese that the Japanese will use 50 years from now? The Ultimate Language Exchange kind of thing?

    Then you come with tonai 都内 which means "inside the city", not just inside. I guess the compound -nai would work though. Translate it as uchi if you want, that's still the same word (same kanji). So uchi(gawa) and soto(gawa) indeed work for the inside/outside part, sorry to have missed them. However uwabe means "in surface or in appearance", which is not quite the same as
    I should have posted the kanji, I didn't mean to come up with 都内, I remembered the word 戸内 but mistook the pronunciation when I put it in romaji, should've been be konai, sorry 'bout that.
    上辺 doesn't mean just "in surface or appearance" (not in my dictionary, which is all I have to go on,in fact it is also part of the definition for 'joumen'),and while I'm at it I'd like to add 外面 to the list.
    With kamen and joumen I meant 下面 and 上面.

    I realise most of these words are not often used, I was really just playing Devil's Advocate ( = trying to be awkward)

    Soko does indeed mean bottom as in bottom of the ocean, but since this is a completely everyday use of the English word 'bottom' I don't see why it was out of place for me to mention it. In fact from your point about the bottom of the screen you could say something like "底 and 下 both become 'bottom' in English".

    Anyway, just because 'underneath' and 'below' both translate to 下, and all the other examples, so what? Again I really don't see why this frustrates you so much. Does it really add to the expressiveness of English? I think it just makes our dictionaries bigger..

    The one point I really wanted to make (before I got sidetracked by racking my brain for kanji compounds)
    is that you will always have a greater affinity with a language you were raised with or ones that share a common root and be able to express yourself better in these languages.

    Moyashi-san made a similar point:
    Yes, some words seem missing but let's not forget that their are many phrases for situations that I can't even put together in English.
    Exactly. Im sure there's a plethora (you can have that for your list too if you want, Maciamo) of such phrases that I, and most other learners of Japanese, have never come across. This is especially going to happen to people who favour the 'we say this in English so how do you say it in Japanese'approach.

    This might explain the movie subtitling problem to an extent (where the Japanese is necessarily driven by what was said in English): the flow of the conversation/situation in the western film is very different from how a similar scene would play out in Japanese I think. The translator has to balance the problem of being faithful to the information in the dialogue and avoiding unnatural Japanese that would come from a too direct translation. This results in a conservative translation. I would imagine that if you had given a synopsis of the required scene to a Japanese screenwriter the results would have been very different from the original and also use much more imaginative Japanese than the translation.

  14. #14
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    はい?! Is this plan to apply kanji to English linked to the hybrid of English and Japanese that the Japanese will use 50 years from now? The Ultimate Language Exchange kind of thing?
    Why not ? Chinese and Japanese people use kanji and account for almost 1,5 billion people on earth. With the internationalisation, I guess it would be useful for European to know kanji. Nowadays, it's still exceptional for Westerners to learn Chinese (or Japanese). But if China becomes a real world power, it will be needed to learn Chinese at school. So why not to apply kanji to English and make the children used to them since an early age. I'll post another thread about this later.

    In fact from your point about the bottom of the screen you could say something like "底 and 下 both become 'bottom' in English".
    I have asked if we could say that in Japanese and they say no. Japanese people only use soko for the bottom of very deep things and mu friends couldn't come with another example as the ocean/sea. Just the usage.

    The one point I really wanted to make (before I got sidetracked by racking my brain for kanji compounds)
    is that you will always have a greater affinity with a language you were raised with or ones that share a common root and be able to express yourself better in these languages.
    Well, if that was true, I wouldn't be having this conversation as neither English nor Japanese are my native languages. Believe it or not, but 5 years ago my English wasn't better than the average Japanese people's. It's not even my second language, but my third (out of 7). So my complain about Japanese is not a mere comparison with the English language but with all languages I've learnt. Of course, there are always things you can't translate in another language, but for Japanese, it seems there are so many, it just makes the language boring to learn. If I have to reach an advanced level just to know how to translate common words like "never" or "without", and still Japanese never use them, it surely does give me a bad feeling about the language. Well, these are just words, they don't make a conversation by themself. If I had to tell you how many hundreds of expressions I could never translate in Japanese (though I could in other languages, even at a lower level), I'd make a site just for it.

    For the subtitle problem, I sadly realise that this was the normal way of speaking in Japanese. Anyway most Japanese drama and films are conservative (so much they are stereotypically so). It's always about family problem and people shouting at each other and arguing about marriage, respect for the father, and these kind of things. Or else, it's the historical Edo-jidai telefilms. In real life (as I live with a Japanese family), the language is even (much) lessimaginative than in TV programmes (as in other countries).

  15. #15
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12
    , it seems there are so many, it just makes the language boring to learn. If I have to reach an advanced level just to know how to translate common words like "never" or "without", and still Japanese never use them, it surely does give me a bad feeling about the language.
    Moyashi already posted about this never= zettai -nai, without = -nashi,nuki, -nuita etc.. You don't need to study Japanese to an advanced level to know these or to be able to express the concepts in Japanese. You can't break down the meaning of a Japanese/English sentence pair into equivalent units of meaning, but the overall meaning is the same.

    You are actually making two points I think, one about correlation of words which I fail to see any problem in and the other is the imagination or variety shown in Japanese. On that point Im not going to try to disagree.I have also felt that Japanese seems less open to creative language use, but always kind of assumed that it was because I wasn't native Japanese. I still do think that.I'll wait 5 years or so before I decide whether to agree on this one or not...

    I realized English wasn't your first language, which is why I mentioned 'languages having a similar root'. Anyway, if English is your 3rd language out of 7 I suppose I'll have to admit defeat, since you have a lot more experience to compare with Japanese than I do, and you obviously find the Japanese-learning experience a lot less fun than the other languages you learned. I find Japanese far from boring, but can't really argue with you if you feel it is.



    PS
    So why not to apply kanji to English and make the children used to them since an early age. I'll post another thread about this later
    There is indeed a fine line between genius and madness.
    Obviously never gonna happen, but it'll be interesting to see the post. How would it work? Would you use kanji for prepositions etc? If so wouldn't that end up making a written language as complicated as Chinese? Or would you use a smaller number of kanji and keep the alphabet for 'the' 'a' etc. like: "昨日、私 行 to the 公園" to be read as 'yesterday I went to the park'.

  16. #16
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Moyashi already posted about this never= zettai -nai, without = -nashi,nuki, -nuita etc.. You don't need to study Japanese to an advanced level to know these or to be able to express the concepts in Japanese.
    I didn't really want to argue about that, but these transaltion don't mean "never". zettai means "absolutely", definitely (not)", etc. Just ask some Japanese what's the opposite of "itsumo" (always). They'll rack their brains during a minute or two then tell you that there isn't any. I have asked dozen of people. Usually it's just "shinai", so a simple negative. I never drink alcohol = sake wo nomanai (lit. : I don't drink alcohol). This is fine. When s.o. ask "How often do you go to the cinema ?" and want to answer "never", then your only option is again "ikanai" (I don't go). That's really weird they have words for always (itsumo), usually (taitei), sometimes (tokidoki), rarely (tama ni), but not for "never".

    The best translation I have found was "kesshite", which also means "not at all" or "by no means". It's the one that works the best in most cases, but not in all cases however. So, "He never goes to bed before midnight" becomes 彼は決して12時前には床につかない ("kare ha kesshite 12jimaeni tokoni tsukanai").

    If you want to say "he is never on time", the "shinai" or "kesshite" structure doesn't work. You're not going to say "he is not on time" (間に合わない), so you can turn it the other way and say "itsumo okureru" (he's always late), but the emphasis isn't the same (sorry I am very fussy).

    I know ways of expressing "never", but it sometimes I am really not satisfied. Note that "never" is just one example among hundreds.

  17. #17
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12
    The best translation I have found was "kesshite", which also means "not at all" or "by no means". It's the one that works the best in most cases, but not in all cases however. So, "He never goes to bed before midnight" becomes 彼は決して12時前には床につかない ("kare ha kesshite 12jimaeni tokoni tsukanai").

    If you want to say "he is never on time", the "shinai" or "kesshite" structure doesn't work. You're not going to say "he is not on time" (間に合わない), so you can turn it the other way and say "itsumo okureru" (he's always late), but the emphasis isn't the same (sorry I am very fussy).
    Your problem here is that there isn't a Japanese phrase or structure we can use in all the situations we can use 'never' in English, is that right? If we can use 'never' in x number of situations in English you want a structure in Japanese that can be used in the same x situations?
    Why?
    As long as you can express the idea in Japanese who cares?
    Is there really a difference in meaning between "he's always late" and "he's never on time"? I don't think so..

    I can't disagree with you about the fact that words in English and Japanese don't meet up exactly, it just seems that this is inevitable in two such different languages. It would be pretty weird if they did.

    Anyway, I think I should give up posting about this now. You've obviously thought about it a lot and have very strong views on the subject. Theres no point in going round in circles; I think I have adequately registered my confusion at why you think it matters/why you would expect it to be any other way (for what that's worth).

    Good luck with your kanji project, by the way .

  18. #18
    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 15, 2002
    Location
    SonyLand
    Age
    50
    Posts
    146
    hehe, let's screw with this whole topic some more just for the fun of it.

    I keep saying that it's difficult to translate some ideas and vocabulary. "never" is a part of grammar function of the perfect tenses and talks about an activity, thing, or what not from past to future in a experience way. I'm not very good a grammar so I hope I wording this correctly.

    Now,

    How can you translate something that can not be translated?

    "I will never go!"

    So what Maciamo said about "never" is correct grammatically since as I just showed above it is impossible to use a word that does not exists.

    Now, that all of us have calmed down a bit this should get interesting. Cheers and good wishes all!

  19. #19
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Japanese would say "I don't go" (ikanai), as nothing else can translate the never here (you can't say "I'm always not going"), but also because there is no future tense in Japanese.

    Other possiblities include "kesshite ikanai", "zettai ikanai" or "zenzen ikitakunai". Litterally it means "I really don't want to go" or "no way I (will) go there" which is what "never" means here. I was also told that "itta koto ga nai" had the same meaning ! It's even more confusing as it really means "I haven't been there" (past !) while we insist on the future with "will" in English.

    By the way, I asked more people about "kaika" and "kaijou" for downstairs and upstairs and was told that only very old people use it. Bad luck, I thought we had something here. That tend to confirm that Japanese language is getting narrower among young people.
    Nevertheless I found one more common use of "soko" (bottom), in addition to the "bottom of the ocean". You can say "hako no soko ga nuketa", "the bottom of the box fell out". So it only works for something flat lying low, not the lower part of a height. But it's good to know.

  20. #20
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12
    Hmmm. It's just a difference of interpretation really. You think 'zettai ikanai'strictly means 'no way I will go'. But like I say it's just a different approach: you want to translate a Japanese phrase to the same English phrase every time, regardless of context.You say 'literally it means.........' but why? Because that's the English translation you were given when you first used the word? Cos that's how it translates in most circumstances?

    Im happy to accept that 'zettai ikanai' is used in Japnese to express the feeling where we would use 'I will never go'. Just cos 'zettai -nai' doesn't have an entry 'never' in a Jap-Eng dictionary is irrelevent: these entries are not exhaustive lists, a number of English words are given to give a wide idea of the application of that Japanese word. It isn't necessarily 'this Japanese word means this and only ths in English'
    The definition of 'zettai' in a Japanese dictionary is: どんなことが_っても必ず.So with, for example, zettai ikanai it means 'whatever happens I surely won't go'. Seems pretty close to 'I will never go' in English, I think. Close enough for me to accept that it expresses the same feeling and is therefore a more than adequate translation. I know you won't agree.

    The 'itta koto nai' thing is strange. I agree with you that I would never think it is the same as the English 'I will never go'. Still you can't always trust even native speakers (I have been given false info like this before cos the person misunderstood the question, or the English I was asking them about)

    Fair enough about the upstairs downstairs thing, I just guessed at the words using kanji and luckily enough they were there in my Japanese-Japanese dictionary.I have never heard them used!

    Yes soko means bottom of the ocean, box, other stuff like that. I knew that, that's why I mentioned it. But what's your point? You said that a list of words including bottom always became 'shita' in Japanese. This sense of the English word 'bottom' isn't translated by 'shita'. That's all I was saying.

  21. #21
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Yes soko means bottom of the ocean, box, other stuff like that. I knew that, that's why I mentioned it. But what's your point? You said that a list of words including bottom always became 'shita' in Japanese. This sense of the English word 'bottom' isn't translated by 'shita'. That's all I was saying.
    I didn't mean that bottom always translated shita, but it's true in 99% of the cases. "soko" is scarcely used and has a very particular meaning/nuance that, I have to admit,doesn't exist in English.

    Here are a few more words for which no nuance seems to exist in everyday Japanese. So, there might be words nobody used, but I haven't looked hard after all little used English translation either, otherwise a word like "miru" would have more than 10 English equivalents.

    see/look/watch : miru
    hear/listen : kiku
    mouse/rat :nezumi
    since/for/from : kara
    former/before/in front of/across/ago :mae
    shy/ashamed : hazukashii
    finger/toe : yubi
    leg/foot : ashi

    I can't think of all of them in a single day, so if you give me some time, I shall find a rather impressive list of common words like these.

    English probably has the largest core vocabulary of any languages because of the thousands of synonyms. For a same meaning, you might have 3 words, 1 from Germanic origin, 1 from French and the last from Latin. Ex :
    - kingly, royal, regal
    - ask, question, interrogate
    With the time, each word has taken a particular use and nuance, so that you speak of Royal Navy, but regal manner.

    Even without considering this, most of the examples I choose with the Japanese language are shocking for me because all other languages I know have distinct words for them. OK, it's weird Japanese don't have a word for leg and one for foot. If it was just that, I would go over it. There are just too many of them. No other language than English would have 3 nuanced translations for the examples above, but it's just English that is too rich. Japanese has a too poor vocabulary compared to the average (European languages). What bother me most is that so many Japanese believe their language is superior. During the bubble years, lots of books have been written in praise of Japanese language, culture and way of thinking. It's the (in)famous theory of the nihonjinron 日本人論. And too many Japanese people continue too feel superiors to foreigners, worst of all their Asian neighbours and Africans. Maybe that's why I'm writing this, as inside them (especially older generations) they are too arrogant and disdainful - though they'll rarely show it in public to avoid confrontation.

  22. #22
    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 15, 2002
    Location
    SonyLand
    Age
    50
    Posts
    146
    ahhhh, I hear what you're saying. But Prince Charles is very similar in how he keeps saying the Queens English is the best.

    Problem of vocabulary is like how Europeans can classify the various varieties of potatoes while rice is limited and this opposite in Japanese.

    I personally just live life as much as possible as Japanese do, or else I would probably go crazy.

    opus :: life is life

  23. #23
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12

    related question

    This is not strictly related to the topic but it kind of follows on and since it's just a passing question I didn't think it warranted its own thread.
    It occured to me that one area where Japanese uses different words but English encompasses both nuances within one word is transitive/intransitive verbs: 他動詞・自動詞. For example in English we use 'stop' for the sentences 'I stopped the car' and 'the car stopped'. Japanese needs 止める for the first sense and 止まる for the second one.
    This applies to all verbs in Japanese (well, not all since the nature of some verbs means they can't have both intransitive/transitive applications: sleep is a good example of this).

    When I started learning Japanese this aspect was quite alien and seemed like it would be a lot to remember (though it wasn't as bad as I thought in the end).

    Do native Japanese speakers find the lack of this distinction in English strange in any way? Or are they just happy that there's at least one aspect of English that's more straightforward than Japanese? I just wondered..

  24. #24
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    It occured to me that one area where Japanese uses different words but English encompasses both nuances within one word is transitive/intransitive verbs: 他動詞・自動詞. For example in English we use 'stop' for the sentences 'I stopped the car' and 'the car stopped'. Japanese needs 止める for the first sense and 止まる for the second one.
    It is true that English is probably the only language in both the Latin and Germanic group (as it is) not to use reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, itself...) for intransitive verbs. As I have been you to them since I was a child, I didn't really encounter any problem in Japanese, except maybe to differentiate which is which. Oddly enough, I never thought of it as a problem in English. It seems perfectly clear to me. It's still a bit weird to say "I wash" (what do I wash ?) rather than "I wash myself", but in other cases it's fine.

    I found a few more words with no nuances in Japanese (not only with English, shall I repeat it ?) :

    Travel, trip, journey = 旅行 (ryokou)
    Traveller, tourist (it is very different) = 旅行者
    (little note here : this might not even be clear to all native speakers, but a traveller is not a tourist. A traveller doesn't just go to sightseeing spots or stay on the beach, but goes from place to place, country to country, even without touristical interest, to discover the world, other culture and how people live. They might settle for some time in a place then continue to travel. Usually travellers are much longer on the road than tourists. It's not just for holiday, but a kind of lifestyle).

  25. #25
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Jun 19, 2002
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    12
    I was just talking about the fact that Japanese has two words for all verbs which can have a transitive/intransitive meaning. Stuff like
    止める・止まる: stop
    動_・動かす: move
    沸す・沸_: boil
    始める・始まる: start
    and so on..
    The only example in English I can think of at the moment which uses two words is the rise/raise pair.

    I just got reminded of this difference and wondered whether Japanese people noticed the difference as much 'in reverse'. (Once I'd got used to the idea though, it was much easier to remember the word pairs than I imagined.)
    It wasn't particularly intended as a reply to your points I could try to turn it into one I suppose, but that wouldn't be any fun.

    I'd rather draw on your knowledge and ask how this 自動詞・他動詞 works in the other lanuages you know? Is the use of two separate words for the intransitive/transitive verb common, or are other Euro languages closer to English?

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Quick Translation
    By Tomii515 in forum Chinese language
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: May 4, 2006, 06:36
  2. Need another translation
    By BeNe in forum Chinese language
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: Mar 31, 2006, 20:50
  3. Japanese translation of Driving licence
    By Maciamo in forum Life in Japan
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: Sep 19, 2004, 14:17

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •