Common Mistakes (1):
Chokuyaku Translation


This page looks at one type of mistake - the mistake of translating your work directly from Japanese. For other types of mistakes please click on the following:

Common Mistakes (2) Vocabulary and Style
Common Mistakes (3) Grammar
Common Mistakes (4) Literature


Translation is one of the most difficult things to do. It is much more difficult than speaking or writing in a foreign language. The basic advice here is, leave translation to the experts; don't translate from Japanese! For one thing, you are supposed to write your own reports and papers in your own words, and a translated paper is a form of plagiarism. Chokuyaku translations, in particular, are a waste of time. It is hard to write them, and even harder to read them. Why? Well, you probably only have experience of chokuyaku from Japanese to English. Let's look at an example from English to Japanese, and you will see how strange it is.

Suppose we want to translate the following (from a book on fuusui) into Japanese:

"Place your bed to the southeast and sleep with the pillow to the east. Use a light pink colour system to complement the fabrics. Then you will be lucky in love."

An experienced translator, who looked at the general meaning, might translate it like this:

However, someone who tried to translate it word for word would produce something like this:

You may think I am joking, but I am not! Students' papers which have been translated into English from Japanese are often almost unreadable. I am afraid that I often have to fail such papers. Even though it is obviously hard work for the students to write a paper like this (unless, of course, the student has used a computer translation tool, in which case the results will probably be even more obviously wrong, and the paper will certainly be failed) the results are not worth having. Take my advice and write in a natural, easy English style.

Of course, you may sometimes want to translate a quotation from a Japanese book. This is OK, so long as you don't do it too often and, of course, you must give a page reference to the work quoted. For details of this, go to Writing an Essay and check the sections on quotes and references.



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