JASPectives

There are so many interesting and intelligent folks who enjoy reading JASK.org.  Our JASPectives column features articles by these JASK members and friends. 

Your submissions are always welcome!  Click here to read more about contributing to JASPectives.  You may also comment on articles (JASK will moderate periodically to ensure constructive commentary). 
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  • 22 Jun 2015 1:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The following JASPective is from JASK intern, Peyton Goodman. Peyton spent four months studying in Yamaguchi, Japan at Yamaguchi Prefectural University as part of the Centre College study abroad program.

    Japan used to be just a dream for me. My interest of the country first started with the stories my step-father would always tell me of his six years in Okinawa. I was instantly fascinated and hoped that one day I could visit this country. In my first year of college, one email changed that dream by saying I would be going to Japan. This last Fall and January semester I was given the opportunity to study at Yamaguchi Prefectural University in Yamaguchi, Japan. After traveling through Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Kobe, I had finally arrived at the place I would call home for the next few months. If you know any Japanese or kanji, you would know that Yama means mountain and guchi mouth. Basically translating to mouth of the mountain/mountain entrance, and it lived true to its name. As we drove into the city I was immediately greeted with big, beautiful mountain ranges on both sides of the city. It was almost as if the city was accepting me into its arms.

    (Top) One of the mountain ranges in Yamaguchi on a nice summer day; (Bottom) Rurikoji temple in October, very popular attraction in Yamaguchi.

    I was not the only foreigner to be starting this adventure. Including me, there were six students from Centre College/America, three from Bishop's University in Canada, two from the Navara University in Spain, five from China, and four from South Korea. It was truly a global experience! During my time in Yamaguchi, I especially grew close to the students from Canada and Spain. On our first night together, we decided to go to Yuda Onsen (just a few stations away from the university by train) to eat at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant and play around at an arcade. From then on, we did many things together like small get-togethers at our houses and going to the shopping street every couple of weeks. We even held a Thanksgiving event! Everything was paid for by the school because it was a Y & I event (Yamaguchi and International events), which encourages the interaction of Japanese and foreigner culture. It was not the easiest thing to pull off. First, we had to get most of our food from a military base in Iwakuni, which only one person could get in with his military ID. Second, the building where we cooked and had the party did not come with an oven. Instead, there was a big microwave/oven machine. It cooked the turkey beautifully, but handling the grease was a disaster. As the meat cooked for 5 hours, many towels were put under the door to catch the grease (the door could not be opened or the turkey would take longer to cook). Unfortunately, we ran out of towels at one point. Surprisingly, everything else turned out wonderful! There was homemade pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and the best turkey I had ever eaten. Honestly, I don’t know how we pulled it off, but our guests were so happy. As soon as we brought out the turkey to cut it, everyone gasped as they snapped pictures of it. At first I was surprised since I had celebrated this holiday my entire life. However, I started to realize that none of them had probably eaten or seen a turkey like this before. Then seeing their big smiles and shouts of “oishi!” (delicious), made me learn that being able to share your culture with someone else, is the greatest gift you can give anyone.

    (Top) Birthday party for one of the students from Spain; (Bottom) In front of Itsukushima Shrine       

    (Top) International Students Group Photo at the Halloween Party; (Bottom) Another Birthday Party for two of our Japanese friends (there we’re many Birthday parties)

    I also became friends with many wonderful Japanese people. They were the some of the most patient and loving people I had ever met. Before going to Japan, I had very little Japanese teaching, so having Japanese friends who can speak good English was very helpful. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I could always go to them. At first I was frustrated with myself. I desperately wanted to learn Japanese and be able to show the same courtesy my friends had shown me. This led me to be very diligent in my studies, which thankfully I had an amazing tutor to help me with. Although, I didn’t become fluent during my time in Japan (learning a language does take time), I got better at listening and understanding Japanese, and I was able to read hiragana and a little katakana. I felt I had done nothing, but my Japanese friends would always praise me because they could see that I was trying to learn. It was a lot more than what other people would try to do. Just like what I mentioned before about culture, learning someone else’s language can be one of the kindest gestures..

    In the end, Japan in not perfect. Transportation can be hard in rural parts of Japan (the train would only come once an hour to the station closest to us), language barriers are frustrating (when my friend’s suitcase broke I tried to explain to the department store that I wanted to throw it away; not even a picture helped), and traditional homes (like the one I lived in) can get very cold in the winter. However just like people, no country is perfect. Japan truly changed my life. I always jokingly tell my friends this story: “I had a plan. Get a major in Politics and English and go to law school to become a lawyer, but then Japan happened.” Currently I am pursuing a major in International Studies with a Concentration of International Relations in hopes of working with the State Department or anything dealing with International Politics. Japan made me realized that there is so much in the world that I don’t know and haven’t explored yet. One day, I hope I can return whether it is through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) or as an ambassador. My final advice is no matter where you go in the world, always have an open mind for the people and culture will welcome you with open arms.



  • 10 Jun 2013 3:13 PM | Anonymous

    The following JASPective is from JASK member Christopher Conner. Chris spent 4 years in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) in Niigata, Japan. 

    As a senior at Indiana University in 1987, I was very excited when I was notified of my acceptance to teach in Japan. I had recently applied to the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program, which was an ambitious undertaking by the Japanese government to introduce conversational English into its secondary school systems. Eight hundred Native-English speakers had been accepted from five countries around the world in the first year of this program to be assistant English teachers. The Japanese Ministry of Education considered the JET Program to be a very important step for the country in its effort to become “internationalized” and occupy a larger position on the world stage. I was told my assignment would be in a sparsely populated region of the country (Niigata Prefecture) in a small town of 10,000 people called Omi. This news stimulated my curiosity all the more. Knowing that I would be placed in the countryside rather than a big city like Tokyo meant I would truly be in a traditional area of Japan.

    When I arrived in Omi, I received a warm welcome from about 20 officials gathered at the station. The JET Program was big news in Japan and all towns and cities hosting foreigners were determined to make their venture a successful one. I would be the first westerner to ever live in Omi, so the townspeople were just as curious about me as I was about them.

    Lacking prior experience of foreigners, the initial impressions of my Japanese hosts seemed based upon movies and cultural stereotypes. Adults and children alike bombarded me with questions such as: Did I own a gun? Had I ever fired one? Had I ever seen a murder? Did I do drugs? Were the freckles on my arms indicative of AIDS? Could I use chopsticks? Was I unable to eat rice and did I need bread at every meal?

     One illustration of the Japanese perspective can be seen in their use of  “internationalization,” which was a popular word in Japanese educational circles during my stay. Our job description, as told to us by the Japanese Ministry of Education, was not only to introduce conversational English in the classrooms, but also to educate the Japanese people about our home country and its way of life. In theory, the aim was to expose Japanese people to outsiders and thereby broaden their worldview, which had been criticized by many people as far too narrow and xenophobic.

    However, after spending some time in Japan, I realized that the effective application of this job description would be far from easy. On the one hand, Japanese were very curious about foreigners and wanted to know a lot about us and where we were from. I always felt like the people of Omi took a far greater interest in America than Americans took in Japan. However, I also noticed that the Japanese wanted to know and understand you and your country on their terms. Underneath the fascination with foreign people and culture was an intense national pride. The most common question I received throughout my four years was “How about Japan?” The way in which outsiders perceived Japan was nothing short of a national obsession. Best-selling books were often works by foreigners about their opinions of Japan. In short, the Japanese reveled in their perceived uniqueness. Many Japanese truly believed that unless you were born and raised a “pure” Japanese, you would never be able to understand their uniquely Japanese heart.

    This strong sense of national tribal cohesion was partly responsible for their distinctive trait of non-verbal communication. Japanese believed that they shared a common knowledge that did not have to be articulated into words to be understood. The situation dictated the proper way to act and did not need explanation. Reading another person’s thoughts was a highly valued social skill that mothers tried to instill in their children from a young age. If you could anticipate another’s wishes or thoughts before he had to articulate them, then you were considered socially very skilled. Who, the Japanese reasoned, besides a “pure” Japanese person would ever be able to truly understand their uniqueness?

    I eventually realized that to succeed I would have to “crack the club” and be accepted by the townspeople by first demonstrating my ability to be as Japanese as possible. However, only imitating them would not be the most effective way to expand their worldview and “internationalize” them. Within their framework and on their terms of adapting to group society and learning its inherent social patterns, I would allow the Japanese to see that one did not have to be a “pure,” “unique” Japanese to fit into their society and culture. Once acceptance had been gained, the Japanese would then also be more willing to learn about the differences we had. My goal was for the Japanese to not think of me as “the foreigner Mr. Conner,” but rather as “Mr. Conner,” who they would only later think of as someone who also happened to be a foreigner.

    There were a few hoops to jump through in order to make this goal even remotely probable. The first would be to learn the spoken language so that I could communicate with as many people as possible and show that one did not have to be a “unique” Japanese in order to speak it. Since there were very few people in the town who could speak English, I knew that learning spoken Japanese was strongly related to how successful my residency in this town would be. So, over the course of my four years in Omi, I made a commitment to immersing myself in the town around non-English speakers to force myself to learn the language. The process was a lengthy one of trial and error. Gradually, however, as my ability in the spoken language increased, I was able to communicate with a greater number of townspeople more effectively, thereby removing language as a barrier to communication.

    The second obstacle would be to pass what I call the “lionization test.” I experienced this situation quite often during my first year in Japan. This is typically the first stage of a westerner’s exposure to Japan and it was no different for myself. I was treated like a king and constantly told how wonderful my country and I was. The potential pitfall was to let the exaggerated amount of attention and deference go to your head. Doing so would indicate the lack of humility necessary for long-term survival in a group-oriented society. So, during my first year I tried hard to remember that the inordinate amount of attention I was receiving should be treated with humility and returned with equal deference. There were times when dialogue resembled a mutual admiration society.

    “You and your country are wonderful.”

    “No, No. It is your country and its people that are to be commended.”

    In general, this period can be characterized by its honeymoon phase, in which the outsider loves the adoration he receives and is overwhelmed by the exotic aspects of the new country. Like many new relationships however, the honeymoon period sooner or later diminishes or disappears altogether. What is important is that the relationship itself not go sour.

    This brings me to the next stage of my time in Japan, the “frustration factor.” This period usually occurs during the second year, after the “newness” of the country has worn off. I recall becoming increasingly irritated at differences that never used to bother me. Why was the concept of “face” so important? Is that why people were always required to respond with a “correct” answer for a given situation, regardless of whether it was the truth or not? Why was work more important than family for so many people? Could I tolerate the loss of freedom that was inevitably a part of being so closely associated with any group? Would I ever stop being asked the same questions like “Can you use chopsticks?” or “Do you like to eat fermented beans?” Knowing that the answers to most of these questions were related to the group concept of the Japanese still did not ease my irritability. Many foreigners become frustrated and lose patience, thereby dooming themselves in the eyes of the Japanese with their inability to endure. Patience is a highly prized virtue in Japan because a person who possesses it is sure to fit in well with a group by preserving its harmony. Although it is true that I was temporarily frustrated, I knew that the reasons for my frustration could not allow me to become cynical about the country or its people. Many foreigners were never able to overcome this cynical stage, and were often the ones who complained the loudest about the aloofness of the Japanese.

    What I considered to be the third and final stage of my adjustment was the realization that I had to accept that there were advantages and disadvantages to living and adapting to a certain culture. To be successful over the long term in Japan I would have to be patient with the differences. The patience exhibited would further ingratiate myself with the townspeople and allow me to more effectively live a day to day life with them.

    By living a daily existence among the townspeople that they approved of and communicating in their language, it allowed them to see that I was a human being with similar feelings and emotions much like their own. I shared the basic human emotions of happiness, sadness, sympathy, love and pain as much as they did.

    This also allowed me to see that one of the stereotypes of the typical Japanese as an unfeeling robot was wrong. I learned that once a person was inside their group, he could see that in fact the Japanese were a highly emotional people, often forced to suppress their feelings in the context of a group. However, in certain accepted situations like parties, where there is usually an abundance of liquor, it is considered okay to freely express oneself. Even the Japanese realize that in a pressure-cooker society, certain release valves are necessary. Although there were basic cultural differences such as the issue of the individual vs. the group, we were all humans with similar emotions.

    This is what I hope the Japanese were able to learn from me besides English language and American culture, while my primary lesson from the Japanese was the concept of humility and self-sacrifice for the common good of the group. Sometimes American ideas of individualism reach selfish proportions in an “every man for himself” attitude.

    Of all the relationships I had in Japan, the closest I had was with an elderly couple that “adopted” me as their son. They only called me their “son” after I had shown the qualities necessary to be “Japanese.” I remember being scolded for being late (bad for the group), making excuses (unwillingness to admit irresponsibility to the group), forgetting to say ‘thank you’ more than once (repetitive thanks shows more consideration), and failing to act on other people’s unspoken desires (lack of sensitivity to other members of the group). In return, I hope that they learned from me about the advantages of what I perceived to be American ideals, such as the importance of family over work, and increased verbal communication to articulate feelings to one another (not everything is “understood,” and some emotions are better expressed from time to time).

    The “family” connection I made in Omi also was a metaphor regarding relations with all Japanese. I realized that for all the talk and complexity about group dynamics in Japan, relating with the Japanese was much like the interaction between a guest and a family in most any country, including America. As a guest invited over to a family’s house, the hosts go to great lengths to make sure you are treated very well. There is an abundance of food and drink and you are entertained and made to feel welcome. At the same time, the family has formed certain impressions of you that they probably do not need to articulate to each other because of their mutual sense of understanding. Even if you and the family were to relate fabulously, it is still highly unlikely that the family would be willing to accept you as one of their own, no matter how hard you were to try. Only in unusual circumstances or after a very long period of time is there a chance of acceptance as an equal family member. For the most part, polite formalities will be exchanged at the end of the evening and you are expected to return home. The difference in Japan is that not only is this type of relationship typical when relating with a family, it is true when interacting with the entire nation, which is the biggest family of all.

    My four-year stay in Omi was not without its difficulties, but even 23 years after leaving it is still the most unforgettable and rewarding cultural experience I have ever had.

  • 13 May 2013 9:58 AM | Anonymous

    For those that watch Japanese politics and news, they might have heard the term "Abenomics" recently. Abenomics refers to the fiscal and monetary policy of the new prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. This section will briefly look at what Abenomics is and what effects it might have on business and relations with Japan.



    As many of you are aware, over the past two decades Japan has faced deflation and a stagnant economy. While no one denies that the problem exists, past Prime Ministers and Bank of Japan heads have realistically done little to battle this trend. This is not to mention the frequent change in Prime Ministers (7 in the past 6 years) that has made it hard to have coherent monetary and fiscal policies.

    However, Japan recently elected a new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, into office. Abe, known for his somewhat conservative social and political views, ran on reviving the stagnant Japanese economy. After being elected, his policies have become known as “Abenomics”. It is important, especially for those who work and do business with Japan, to understand what exactly “Abenomics” is and what it means for the future of Japan.

    Abenomics is the idea that with loose fiscal and monetary policy, Japan can quickly restart their economy. Abenomics proposes doing three things:

    1.     A large stimulus (known as QE or Quantitative Easing).

    I.               The Japanese government announced it will spend an unprecedented 1.4 trillion to kick-start the economy.

    2.     Using Bank of Japan (BOJ) to raise inflation rate to 2%.

    I.               Haruhiko Kuroda, an Abenomics believer, was recently appointed head of the BOJ. He has said that he will work to raise the inflation rate to 2%, thereby battling the deflationary trend of the past 2 decades. 

    3.     Enthusiasm for weak yen       

    I.               This general strategy looks to revive Japanese manufacturing at home by weakening the yen, thereby making it easier for Japanese construction to sell overseas.

    With these three policies – a strong Stimulus, new BOJ Monetary Policy, and active structural change around the yen, Abenomics hopes to bring the Japanese economy out of grips of deflation and stagnation. However, Abe is also looking to encourage some cultural changes as well, hoping to make Japan more competitive in the international marketplace. A few of the more recent include plans to double the amount of JET English teachers in the next three years, require all students to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), send more students abroad, increase funding for foreigners wanting to learn Japanese, and even provide free child-care so that women can more quickly get back to the workplace after childbirth.

    While Abenomics seems promising, it is not without it’s critics. Many worry about Japan’s already large Debt to GDP ratio (over 200%) and see Abenomics as more of the same – spending large amounts of money on inefficient and generally useless construction projects rather than on innovation and real structural reform. While there is much debate, Abenomics is already showing to have some strong effects. In the past month, the yen has weakend from 80 yen to the dollar to over 100 yen, the Nikkei (Japanese Stock Exchange) is at a 5 year high, and inflation seems to on target to reach 1.9% by 2015. Abe is also extremely popular at home, so it looks like whatever the outcome may be, Abenomics is here to stay.

    Stay tuned to Japan in the NEWS for more news analysis and stories!

  • 02 May 2011 12:16 PM | Anonymous member
    What is #Quakebook
    The earthquakes and tsunami in Japan on March 11 have inspired a global outpouring of support in many unique and creative ways.  In addition to people giving through relief funds like ours, to local Red Cross chapters, or to the Salvation Army, many people are looking for localized, grass-roots, or sustainable projects.  And many people are giving through unconventional methods.

    One such unconventional method is the #Quakebook.  A vanguard of grassroots philanthropy, #Quakebook was born out of a tweet sent by a British national living in Japan just three hours after the largest earthquake.  Within a week, several authors had collaborated on an e-book compiled by Twitter user @OurManInAbiko.  The book features pieces by individuals who were on the ground during the quake as well as by some standout contributors such as Yoko Ono Lennon, William Gibson, Barry Eisler, and Jake Adelstein. 

    Now, #Quakebook is featured on Amazon.com under the title "2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake."  Amazon hosts and distributes the e-book without a fee, so 100% of the proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross.  There will soon be a print edition.  

    If you would like to learn more about #Quakebook, check out their website: here.

    You can buy the book from Amazon: here.  You don't need a Kindle to read it, you can get the app for your PC, Mac, or smartphone.

    - submitted by Matt Forgue

    #Quakebook in Review

    "Grassroots" generally refers to social actions by the people and of the people, with no outside 'gardening' necessary.  #Quakebook is, indeed, a grassroots project.  A good read.  A contribution to relief.  A journal-reading, personal account exercise for the heart and mind.  

    There are at least two reasons to recommend #Quakebook.  
    - All revenue (less taxes) goes directly to the Japanese Red Cross
    - Through eighty-five short, personal accounts, #Quakebook gives a personal sense of the humanity caught up in the disaster, without the voyeurism of the media.

    Japan is changed forever.  The beautiful physical landscape in Miyagi has been washed over, cities ruined.  Nuclear power, once a beacon of progress, is now under severest scrutiny.  But the change lives essentially in the hearts and minds of people affected by the disaster.  To read #Quakebook is to quietly consider that change in human terms.  I recommend an hour with the book, to get a sense of how Japan is changed.  

    Contributing authors tell stories from witnessing miracles to witnessing lives lost in an instant.  Folks from many nationalities contributed, from their vantages in Japan and other countries.  One contributor was from Kentucky.  One contributor from the ravaged city of Kessenuma said: "I'm relieved to know we're still connected to the rest of the world."  His story told of ~$3,000 found under the rubble, being returned to the police station.  

    The stories range from the crafted prose of professionals to the unkempt commentaries of foreigners living somewhere in Tokyo.  Images and art added to the sense of place as I read.  "A massive wave was rolling over houses and buildings like they were sandcastles," wrote one man from Zushi.  A woman from Chiba offered: "The great earthquake made me realize clearly that ... now is the time to bring back the lost values - bonds, family, love and nature.  Whether Japan can really revive or not depends on that."  Most of the authors sought something of a maxim in their ponderings.  Some seem to have found it, others not.  

    #Quakebook is a step into the lives of those whose world is changed, an exercise in contemplative journal reading, to connect our hearts and minds with those living in Japan, as rebuilding slips from the headlines.

    - submitted by Matt Krebs
  • 23 Mar 2011 9:42 AM | Anonymous member

    By: Terena Bell & Maureen McCarthy

    First Appearing In: MultiLingual Magazine's March, 2011 Issue

    I don’t know much about Japanese culture. I feign to say I know nothing, as I once read Memoirs of a Geisha, but I don’t really think that counts. It’s a shame, because from everything I’ve heard, Japan is a great place--steeped in tradition, elegance, and art. What I do know about, though, is translation. I know how to make sure a document’s prepped for the best translation possible, I know how to select the right team of translators to do it, and I know how to manage quality control and assurance so that the translation reads as well as it does in the original. The processes involved are relatively foolproof and tend to be adaptable across languages. But when it comes to Japanese, though, something--anything--everything almost always goes wrong. And it’s not just me. Most of my colleagues will tell you that into Japanese translation is hands down the most difficult work we do. In the world of Japanese translation, no news is not good news. Feedback is often vague. And in-country review (ICR)? Well, let’s face it, in-country review of a Japanese translation is a royal pain in the oshiri.

    All multi-language vendors (MLV) have faced it: A painstakingly prepared translation is delivered to your client, who then sends it off for ICR. Ideally, the reviewer speaks English, in order to compare the translation to the original, but sometimes he doesn’t. Weeks pass, even months, and then it comes--sometimes long after the bill has already been paid and the files moved off the hard drive. The in-country reviewer isn’t pleased. “The translation is bad,” he says, and oftentimes says no more than that.

    It’s frustrating. You write for details--was it word choice, was it grammar, did you accidently translate into Korean? Nothing comes. Meanwhile, you sit in your office, panicked your company’s reputation will crash around you, all because some guy in Japan doesn’t know how to elaborate.

    Of course, this is how you see it if you know nothing about Japan. But if you do know something about Japan, you see how the same culture that gives us geishas, calligraphy, and plum wine also contributes to poor in-country review. Or what we call poor ICR in our Anglo-Saxon construct, that is. When we start looking at ICR as a cultural process and not a linguistic one, feedback -- or lack thereof -- starts to make more sense.

    The Japanese are, of course, Japanese. We can’t expect them to act like anything other than themselves. In our American culture, we are so delineated, so black and white. We are demanding, confrontational, young. Our culture is a child compared to theirs and we shouldn’t be surprised if sometimes the Japanese don’t feel like they shouldn’t simply pat us on the head and sigh. It makes sense that we would want everything immediately detailed out and that they would be a bit more patient and reserved. If we consider culture to be an integral part of translation, then we must consider it to be integral to proper in-country review as well.

    Enter Maureen McCarthy, an employee whom I’ve asked to co-write this article. Maureen also happens to be In Every Language’s Japanese expert. Call her the Encyclopedia Britannica to my Memoirs of a Geisha. Everything I don’t know about Japan, she does, which is reason #412 why we like to have her around the office.

    Maureen, am I crazy? Could the delay in ICR response time have anything to do with the Japanese not wanting to rush things, with their being less confrontational than Americans are?

    In my experience, the delay time has more to do with the hierarchy that exists in a Japanese workplace, and the need for important decisions and documents to go through a lot of people. For example, when I lived in Akita, a friend of mine was planning to go on a business trip to Tokyo with some other colleagues. The trip was an annual affair with many people involved, and for months my friend had been eagerly awaiting this retreat. She had cleared her involvement with her immediate boss and with the head of the office. However, the trip was to take place in May. In Japan, there are often big employee shifts in the workplace every April, as this is when the academic and fiscal years begin in Japan. In this instance, the trip coordinator moved to a different branch and a new coordinator came on board. This meant that many aspects of the trip changed, including my friend’s involvement. The new coordinator thought she was not a necessary member of the group, but instead that she should remain at the office as she had many responsibilities there. Unfortunately, she was not informed of this decision until two weeks before the trip. This is not through any fault of the new coordinator, nor hers or her boss’s. It is simply that major decisions often need to go through a lot of channels in the Japanese workplace. In this case, the decision was especially difficult because key players in the decision making process changed, and the situation had to be reevaluated from the beginning.

    More specifically, with ICR response times, there could be a number of factors at play, such as the people involved with the decision-making,  the steps it goes through on the Japanese end, and even the time of year--March, April, and May were always very hectic at my previous workplace. It is even possible that the original reviewer thought the translation was fine, so he did not see it as a priority for his superiors to view. But when his bosses did eventually see the translation, they may have had a very different idea concerning its suitability and told the initial reviewer to write back saying they were not pleased. By now of course, weeks –or maybe even months--have passed before you receive the email saying the translation was not up to the standard they expected.

    So could that contribute to the fact that the reviews are often “incomplete” by American standards? In-country reviews are just a waste of time if they’re not helpful. Instead of a simple pass/fail -- as though translation were 9th grade gym class -- the reviewer should score the translation on, say, a scale of 1 to 5, rating clearly specified factors such as grammar, spelling, and non-subjective word choice (think translating neko as dog instead of cat). These factors should be agreed upon between the client and the reviewer ahead of time, and, if subjective factors start to come into play, these factors should be presented to the language service provider (LSP) so the LSP can better understand the client’s needs.

    ICR itself has one of two goals. Some companies use ICR to help select a translation vendor. Multiple LSP’s translate a sample, then an in-country reviewer decides whose translation is the best. In these instances, it’s essential that the reviewer speak the original language so he can tell if any “errors” he finds are issues with the translation or problems that were also in the original.

    The other common goal that ICR sets out to accomplish is to make sure that the translation is ready for its target market. In this way, reviewers are the governor on the go-cart, the childproof cap on a prescription, the airline agent who scans your ticket before boarding. In other words, the buck stops with them. That’s why you shouldn’t pick just anyone to perform your ICR. If this person is your final layover on the way to happy translation land, make sure he knows what he’s doing. In both instances, it’s essential that the reviewer be familiar with the content matter and, of course, the target language, country, and culture.

    That’s why it’s so disparaging, as an LSP owner, when we receive back the occasional, negative ICR. All negative ICR’s are brought immediately to my attention to make sure the issues found are addressed. But if no specifics are provided, well, to quote George Costanza from “Seinfeld,” “I’ve got nothing.”

    I appreciate what you say, Maureen, about how it may be the reviewer’s boss and not the actual reviewer coming back with ICR comments, and I think that’s part of why Japanese ICR’s can be so non-descript--because the person reporting on the review might not actually be the person with final say. But are there any other cultural factors that keep the details on the kibosh? Why are Japanese ICR’s so ambiguous? And, more importantly, is there anything LSP’s can do to help a reviewer provide the detail we need?

    The Japanese are often described as extremely polite and formal. While this is true to a degree, there is also a strong inclination among many to be non-confrontational. If a conflict can be avoided, it usually will be. This is, of course, wonderful in many ways, as it means less fighting and troubles over small things, but it also has a downside in that we in the West often expect to talk through any problems. We Americans usually count on others, especially in a working environment, to tell us if they are displeased so we can work through it.

    When I first began learning Japanese, all of my Japanese friends and colleagues were very supportive and encouraging. They would always compliment me on my language ability, and never corrected me or told me when my Japanese was incorrect. For me this was wonderful, and everyone’s kindness and encouragement really motivated me to do better. On the downside, when I began to study Japanese formally, I discovered I had been making mistakes all along. No one wanted to be the bearer of bad news or make me feel bad by correcting me.

    When an ICR is undetailed, this most likely means that no one wants to be the bearer of bad news. When a reviewer feels that a translation is unacceptable, they probably do not want to dwell on the details as that may be uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing to one or both parties. This could explain the very brief answers and the lack of a proper, detailed review.

    I am not sure if there is an easy solution to this problem, as so much of it stems from differences in our cultures, but I think, Terena, your suggestion of rankings on a scale, or a list of questions, would be a good approach to take. If the reviewer had a survey or form to complete, asking specific questions and having a list of choices, they may be more likely to respond and to give LSPs the details they desire.

    Wonderful. It makes perfect sense that the reviewer wouldn’t want to be overly harsh or hurt anyone’s feelings with his review. I think we all agree that there’s a difference between constructive criticism and just being mean. But in translation, a mistake isn’t always a mistake. At home, I may sit on a sofa in my living room while you sit on a couch in your den. Language is often subjective. I hate to think that every time an ICR doesn’t go well, it means that the translation was poor. Sometimes it simply means the translation wasn’t perfect, with the meaning of perfection taking in a lot of subjective elements. Reading your response, though, Maureen, I think that no news, or detail, at least in this case, is bad news--that a lack of detail in the ICR means that the errors were all non-subjective, something made by an early language learner, like you said. Is that correct, or am I simply misunderstanding? Is it always a matter of bad or good, or could lack of detail in ICR mean there were subjective differences instead?

    It doesn’t necessary mean that the errors are the translator’s fault, although that is a possibility. It is likely instead that the language the translator used could simply be different than what the reviewer wanted or expected.

    There are many different levels of formality in Japanese. The way you speak to your boss is not the same as the way you speak to a colleague, which again is different than the way you would speak to your family members. If a document is being translated for a company, it is important to clarify what level of formality is to be used. For example, if the document is something that’s given to customers, most likely the customer will be addressed in very formal Japanese. If, however, the document is of a more familiar nature, it need not be as formal.

    It is also important to remember that Japanese is often not as direct as English or other Western languages. Take, for instance, leaving work for the day. In English we may say something along the lines of “See you tomorrow!” In polite Japanese, however, one would say “osaki ni shitsure shimasu” (excuse me for the rudeness of going before you). If you’re not leaving work, though, and instead leaving a gathering of friends, it would change. While the English is still “see you tomorrow,” the Japanese would change to “mata ne (see you later), ja ne”(see ya), or maybe even “mata ashita”(see you again tomorrow).

    Although situational differences are important when translating between all languages, Japanese has an abundance of them. Not only is Japanese often more florid than other languages, it also has a daunting amount of set phrases that are used in specific situations, such as the aforementioned leaving work. For ICR this may not mean that the translation is incorrect, but that there may have been a different phrase that the client wanted to be used. It could also be that the translator put the document perfectly into Japanese, but that the original document was very brusque and to the point, whereas in Japanese it would normally be written in much more elegant terms. This would not really be a translator error, but merely a lack of communication in terms of what the client really wants, as well as evidence of the great difficulty of translating between two such different languages. Perhaps, then, the only true solution would be more in-depth collaboration with the client, such as asking them a series of questions before beginning the project or touching base with them periodically throughout the process.

    Another solution I can think of is to make sure your client wants translation instead of localization. Now, I’ve heard the argument that a really good translation is localization, but when clients entrust us with their documents, we as translators must take care not to overstep our bounds. It’s very easy to say that if a document is to the point in English that we need to soften it up in Japanese. But when a client asks for translation, as opposed to localization, we also have more of an obligation to be true to the original. There may be a reason why the text is more direct. Perhaps the author wants to unquestionably drive home his point, or maybe he’s upset and wants that emotion conveyed through the text. In those cases, completely rewriting the text to softening the tone and formalize the language would be inappropriate.

    This is why it’s so important to get as much information as you can from your client before you begin. If the tone of an original document could be construed as rude in Japanese--or even simply neutral--we should point this out and find out how much of it is--and isn’t--intentional. At this stage, we’re doing more than simply translating; we’re making the document local. The difference between translation and localization becomes a hazy gray zone -- a spectrum -- and it takes cooperation between the translation team and the client to find out where along that spectrum the translation should hit. ICR should definitely be involved in that process; if the reviewer doesn’t know what the translator is striving for, then he won’t know how to judge the outcome.

    Good translation cannot be created in a vacuum. In this regard, Japanese really isn’t all that different. In fact, because the Japanese culture focuses more on the team than the individual, a collaborative approach to translation should be easier for Japanese than for other languages. The processes applied to those other languages still work here: Get as much information as you can up front. Understand not just the words, but the intent, meaning, and goal of a document. Take culture into consideration.

    I may not know Japan, but I do know translation and, as it turns out, all Japanese translation takes is the same attention you’d hopefully give to all your other languages, plus a little extra care.

    #

  • 21 Feb 2011 9:33 AM | Anonymous member

    By: Robert W. Haven, Associate Professor of Costume Technology, University of Kentucky

    In conjunction with the World Exhibition of Japanese Embroidery at the UK Museum of Art, the Department of Art and Asia Center will be bringing an embroidery master, Arata Tamura, from the  Kurenai Kai Embrodery Studio in Japan to Lexington to share the knowledge and understanding of these traditional techniques.

    Arata-san is the third generation master embroiderer and principal teacher at Kurenai Kai. He will be on the UK campus for the May four-week summer session to teach a university course in the technique. This will be the first time in history that the technique has been taught in an academic environment.

    While in Lexington he will also be offering non-credit introductory courses to the general public.  The instruction will be in English and Japanese. The times and dates to be determined.

    The Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta is a part of the Kurenai Kai workshop in Japan and is the principal teaching center for the art in the US.

    From the website of the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta (www.japaneseembroidery.com)...

    Japanese embroidery (nihon shishu in Japanese) is an embroidery technique that goes back more than one thousand years. Shishu originated in China and was eventually introduced to Japan by Korean artisans; around the same time that Buddhism entered Japan. In its early stages, Japanese Embroidery was only used for decorating items used during religious ceremonies. Over time, as shishu developed its own unique Japanese qualities and characteristics, it took on a more artistic purpose. According to historians, from the early Heian Period Japanese embroidery was primarily used for decorating costumes of the Ladies of the Court. During these early stages shishu was only available to a select group; only the highest ranks of society could afford such costly work. However, after a thousand years' sleep, this cultural heritage, the fruit of countless predecessors, is now available to a wider audience.

    The skilled hands of the embroiderer, having a deep relationship with his or her heart, produce a gorgeous world of embroidery. The work not only reflects the state of your inner heart, but it also shows your lifestyle in the way you use the techniques and the way you select colors. There is no way that a vague and superficial life will create work that will touch people's hearts.

    When the spirit flows from the hands, it is called "labor." From nothing, the hands start to create wonderful works of art. The hands are the exit of the spirit. The movement of the hands embodies human longings and human beings are formed by the work of the hands. The hands create forms that never existed before, and this art of creation is uniquely human. That is, human hands carve an image of the individual out of vacant space. Humans recognize the level of their own spirit by looking at what they have created with their hands. That is, the hands enable the spirit to emerge as works of art, and it will reflect what is in your heart. As a result, what is in your heart shows in your work, and the hands will reflect what level you are, sometimes joyfully, sometimes sadly.

    Since establishing the JEC more than 25 years ago Mr Shuji Tamura has followed in the footsteps of the first master, Mr Saito by introducing the ancient art to Western embroiders. The approach to the work is more than simply learning technique. Mr Tamura explains it as “Nuido”.

    By accommodating a cup of tea into "the way," Sado (the way of tea/the tea ceremony) has reached the level of art. In Japan, there are other "ways" such as Kendo, Shodo, Judo, Kado, and all which have attained the height of quality by fusing techniques with the spiritual concept of "the way." Traditional Japanese Embroidery has evolved, in its thousand-year history, into The Way of Embroidery. We have emphasized the connection between the heart and the techniques. As we look toward the new millennium, we will start walking on the path of Nuido™ that is aimed at the fusion between Nui (techniques) and Do (spirit). With our wish to unite all people in harmony, we will introduce Nuido™ to the world.

    To that end he has over the past few years developed a “Fractal Project” that brings together the embroidery works of hundreds of stitched from around the world into one unified piece of art. Each motif is the size of a CD embroidered with a design that has meaning to the individual needle worker, reflects global design motifs but worked in the traditional Japanese stitching techniques. This project truly brings people from around the word together in harmony and cooperation. The first public exhibition of this extraordinary work of art will be at the University of Kentucky   Museum of Art as past of the  2011 World Exhibition.

    The JEC web site also contains information about the upcoming World Exhibition...

    2011 Japanese Embroidery World Exhibtion - Experience 1,600 Years of History

    The 2011-2012 World Exhibition will bring the world together in peace and harmony through Nuido, The Way of Japanese Embroidery.  Sponsored by the Japanese Embroidery Center (JEC) and Kurenai-Kai Ltd., the event will display over 100 magnificent works embodying the tradition, skill and discipline of this ancient art. These works - created by over 1,100 people in 19 countries on 5 continents - will be enjoyed by thousands around the world.

    Audiences will have the rare opportunity to experience the 1,600 year tradition, culture and heritage of Japanese Embroidery through the displays, lectures, classes, demonstrations and an exhibition catalog at one of these world venues:

        * April-June 2011 at the University of Kentucky Art Museum

        * September 2011 at the OzAsia Festival, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide, Australia

  • 02 Feb 2011 10:53 AM | Anonymous member

             We decided to do a little background research on the life and career of Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, Ichiro FUJISAKI.  You might be interested to see what we found.  Ambassador Fujisaki has certainly traveled an interesting and distinguished path to the honored role of “taishi”, or ambassador.

    Fujisaki-taishi was first appointed Ambassador to the United States in June of 2008.  But this is not his first time living in America.  He attended junior high school in the early 1960s in Seattle, Washington, where his father--also a diplomat--was assigned.  Fujisaki-taishi returned in 1970 to study at Brown and Stanford Universities.  After beginning his own career in diplomacy, he returned to serve in the Japanese Embassy in the United States in 1995. 

    “[I]mportant as it may be, ‘inside the beltway’ is only one part of this great country,” says Ambassador Fujisaki.  For that reason, he has made frequent trips outside of Washington, D.C.  As a lecturer, Fujisaki-taishi has appeared at Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, SAIS, Stanford, Yale, and Brigham Young Universities.  His official duties have also taken him all over the United States, including San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Montana, Detroit, New York, and back to Seattle. 

    Fujisaki-taishi has also spent time overseas.  As a diplomat, he has served in Jakarta, Paris, Kiev, and London.  Prior to his current post, he served as the Japanese Ambassador to the UN and to the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland.  While there, he served as the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  In addition, he has worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo--holding the title of Deputy Foreign Minister, among others.  He has also served as a Research Associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and as a lecturer of International Relations at Sophia University in Tokyo. 

    Yoriko Fujisaki, Ambassador Fujisaki’s wife, attended kindergarten at Ben W. Murch Elementary School in Washington, DC.  Yoriko is a skilled physical therapist and has practiced professionally in the past.  Ambassador and Mrs. Fujisaki have two daughters, Mari and Emi.  Both daughters attended high school at Stone Ridge High School in Bethesda, Maryland.  And both daughters now work as journalists in Japan. 

    In their free time, Fujisaki-taishi and his wife enjoy opera, concerts, movies, and, of course, travel.  The Fujisakis spent their recent summer vacation in Japan, where they toured several of their home country’s famous sites.

    What an interesting person the Ambassador is!  We in the United States are honored that Japan has sent to us an ambassador with such a storied and exemplary life and career.

  • 04 Jan 2011 10:33 AM | Deleted user
    Years ago, I was a charter member of JASK.  I met many of the wives of the Japanese executives who came to Kentucky to start up the Toyota Plant and its joint venture companies.  Some of my new friends, having become familiar with my tapestries as well as my farm, suggested that I exhibit in Japan.  When they returned, they helped me find venues for exhibitions in Tokyo and in Ikeda. I first exhibited in Japan in 1993 and then again in Ikeda in 1998.

    Over the years, my husband, Jonathan Greene - a poet, publisher, and book designer - and I have been increasingly influenced by Japan and its art in our work.  We have forged a multi-faceted collaboration of vision and voice from our separate worlds, our life together on a Kentucky River farm north of Frankfort, our travels, and our common interests.  

    Our collaboration has led to a work called: FULL CIRCLE.  Many of the tapestries in the collection were inspired by Japanese design aesthetics.  Jonathan's poems, which accompany many of the tapestries and photographs, have been heavily influenced by Asian poetry and Buddhist thought.

    We hope to bring Japan and Kentucky closer together through an exhibit of FULL CIRCLE at the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington from January 21 through March 27.  We invite our JASK friends to the opening reception on Friday, January 21, 6 - 8 p.m. at the Headley-Whitney Museum.  We also invite you to visit the collection at your convenience with family and friends.

    Ms. Tomoko Yonenaga, Master Koto performer, will play traditional koto music live at the reception.  



    The Headley-Whitney Museum is located at 4435 Old Frankfort Pike in Lexington. Hours are Tuesday - Friday 10 - 5 and Saturday 7 Sunday 12 -5.  For more information, please call the museum at 859-255-6653 or visit www.headley-whitney.org.
  • 27 Oct 2010 1:03 PM | Anonymous member

    Juku is a very popular after school program in Japan. There are several stylesundefinedone in particular is for advanced students. Public schools have a lot of students in one classroom, and teachers normally teach average level material, based on the government curriculum. However, some advanced students want to learn more, making Shingaku (Advanced) Juku the place to go. Hoshu (Complement/Support) Juku is for the students who need support with their regular curriculum in public school. There are classroom type settings or personal (one teacher per few students) ones, allowing different set ups for all students’ needs. Almost everyone in Japan knows what Juku are.  According to one study, 60% of a student age group goes to one of the several kind of Juku nowadays.

    As you know, Japan does not have many natural resources in its own land. Even so, it became a well-known country in the world for its progressive technology and its diligent population.  I believe that is one of the reasons that this style of school has become popular. It is natural to have this kind of school in addition to public school, because studying harder always gives more opportunity to have a successful life. Originally, the parents sent their children without their opinions because, of course all adults know higher education would promise a safer future.  Now Juku are trying to attract customers, which are students 5 to 18 years old, with the quality of classes and services.   I know (as one Juku owner) that we can make studying interesting; and students know that, “learning new things is addictive.”

    The Juku’s history dates back to before the 10th century.  At that time Juku were only open for a few of high society. After the 1600’s, the middle term of the Edo period, this became very popular to the public as Terakoya (Temple School). It was a private elementary school, teaching basic reading, writing and mathematics. This school was open to anyone who desired to study.  Later on, this style became a kind of higher education school (private school at their home) taught by famous professors studying overseas or a person who had a professional skill. You may have also heard the names of Fukuzawa Yukichi (you can see him on a Japanese bill) or Ito Hirofumi (you can see him on the former 1000 yen bill); they are important people for Japanese history.

    I am proud of being a part of the Juku business industry, selected by students and their parents, providing educational support, based on their needs. Especially here in US, Juku is not known to the public. Still, we are a small group of motivators, giving personal support to all ages. I hope that some of my students will become leaders of Japan in the future, like many of the famous people from our history who studied in Juku.

    Mamiko Riesbeck

  • 27 Oct 2010 1:02 PM | Anonymous member

                    In the spring semester of 2009, I went for a study abroad in Akita, Japan.  I had studied Japanese language for four years prior to my trip, but when I stepped off the bullet train and into Akita Station, I was thrown into a new world.  In Tokyo, I could understand a lot of the words people were saying around me--what wasn’t lost in the din of a bustling crowd.  However, once in the Tohoku prefecture of Akita, I couldn’t understand a thing.  At first I thought, “Oh, this is just your nerves, because you need sleep”, but even after a night’s sleep in my hotel, and returning to the station to await pickup, I was lost.  This was what I learned of as “Akiben” or Akita dialect.  What I thought of as an entire other language was nothing more than a Southern accent and colloquialisms here in America.  It was a way of speaking and an accent that transformed regular Japanese into a mystery. 

                    The mystery had enthralled me.  I was so curious about this “Akiben” that I started to ask my fellow students, from Akita and Miyagi prefectures, especially, just what it was.  Through a long history, of which I sadly don’t remember much, I learned how it came to be and I learned many phrases.  I was soon able to charm my host family, from Akita Prefecture themselves, with such idioms as “hara ippei” (“I’m full) and “kaeranebananne” (“I’ve gotta go home”) among others.  This certain intonation and vowel changes that I studied in “Akiben” seemed so much like the “hey y’all” and lengthened vowels of the Southern states.  I loved studying it and talking in my own code of sorts with my Japanese friends. 

                    However, not long after I had gained mastery of a few “Akiben” phrases, a new phenomenon of sound broke upon my ears--“Kansaiben.”  I had been overjoyed at comparing my own state and regions accents to “Akiben” and how happy do you think I was now!  My poor friend from Minnesota had a thick Minnesotan accent, where the vowels seem to be almost sung from their length.  This made him and the rest of Minnesotans everywhere my targets.  So, once I figured out just what it was that my friends from Osaka were saying I started a new comparison.  I’m no linguistics scholar--I merely have an interest--but it seemed that phrases such as “ikana akan” (I’ve gotta go) and “ya” (is/am verb) were similar to the notes of Minnesotan accents.  I loved to compare them, and to try to get them to use their accents as much as possible--sometimes, I was probably quite annoying about it.  Eventually, I mastered a few phrases, mostly because they would put a smile on my friends’ faces. 

                    Which brings me to my point; in the history of Japan dialects have always been seen as a separation of peoples.  However, it is my belief that dialects bring people together.  If two people, speaking two dialects meet and talk, they will find such similarities in the differences that they could talk forever.  If they were to talk about it, they’d certainly never run out of conversation.  Though understanding them at first can be trying, I think that dialects are a unique aspect of a unified Japan; which, having a standard language, yet has these dialects.  So, you may call them dialects, but I will call them bonds--bonds of friendship and bonds of understanding, though they don't seem so at first.

    Sarah Newman

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