Matt Rouge translation update for March 30, 2009

During the month of March, I have been exceptionally busy with Japanese to English translation. For a major Japanese automaker, I have done the following:

  • Translated a script for a video about a new type of engine.
  • Translated website content concerning the company’s social responsibility policies.
  • Translated an interview with an important outgoing executive.

This was a good chunk of work, but, as an exception to the rule, most of my Japanese to English translation work was not for the Japanese automobile industry but instead for one of Japan’s largest manufacturers of steam turbines and process pumps. The company is in the process of updating their website and has added a wealth of new content. I had translated a video script for this company several years ago, and I am quite proud that, based on my work, they selected for this latest project the ad agency in Japan for which I have done work for the past five years.

This has been one of the most difficult translations I have done in my career, which is saying a lot, as I regularly deal with highly technical subjects. I not only translated Web pages about the company’s products but also about global warming, biomass power generation, and other difficult subjects. If I have a good technical Japanese vocabulary, which I do, why does difficulty arise? There are two main reasons:

  1. The Japanese terms involved are not commonly used in industry. They are not in my technical dictionary, and I have to search for relevant cites online in order to come up with a translation about which I can feel confident. I have developed a variety of techniques to come up with these cites, and, at worst the ad agency has to ask the company to confirm a term or two. In the case of the major Japanese automobile makers for which I translate, over the years the ad agency and I have come up with a body of “canon,” or recognized translations for all of the companies’ technical terms, and, for that matter, every aspect of their business. We follow this canon to the letter, developing and confirming new terms when necessary.
  2. The Japanese cites articles, papers, laws, or other materials originally in Japanese or English for which I have to find the “official” translation. For example, the Web content I translated mentioned a Japanese law, and I had to search for the translation that is commonly used in the English-speaking world; I couldn’t just make up my own. As another example, a Japanese document I recently translated cited extensively from the Sarbannes-Oxley Act. I couldn’t just retranslate this back into English; I had to find online the actual text that had been quoted.

The Web content I translated involved both issues, and, in order to provide a correct translation, I had to proceed quite carefully.

In addition to my translation work, in March I also did quite a bit of advertising writing in English, which you can read about in my latest post on Marrubium Writing.

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