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May 11, 2004

A Pioneer of Interpretation

Sunday's Japan Times carried a couple of interesting language-related articles. One was on Tatsuya Komatsu, a pioneer in simultaneous interpretation in Japan. Now a teacher at Simul Academy, he has helped ease communication for such luminaries as Kakuei Tanaka, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton. Asked whether increased exposure to English in Japan and the advances of computer translation software could spell the end for interpreters, Komatsu replied, "No. Japan is a monolingual society and it is very difficult to improve your English skills. If the demand for interpreters ever decreases, it will be when Japanese people learn to speak English fluently. But I don't see that happening for the next 30, 50 or 100 years."
Simultaneously interpreting both language and culture

The other article was on the subject of Japanese subtitles for English language movies. It looks at the minefield of possible errors that can be made when trying to translate cultural references and jokes. An example given is the Japanese translation of a lawyer's line from the sitcom "thirtysomething": "It's been such a long time since we last met. Don't you have anything else to ask me?" Not quite as funny as the original: "Is that a subpoena in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"
When wrong can be right

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