Japanese and Occam's razor
Thread poster: Troy Fowler

Troy Fowler  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:57
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
Apr 7, 2005

The idea behind Occam's razor states:
"one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required
to explain anything"

I find translating from Japanese often requires using Occam's razor to produce translations that sound natural. Deciding what to leave out without compromising meaning and style requires good judgement.

Here are some basic examples:

I remember diligently including these "abouts" and "regardings" when I first started out, yet coming to realize trimming the fat makes for a tighter end-product.

One that still stumps me is 約 before a number. 人口約10万人 for example. Is the English equivalent ("approximately", "nearly", "about") really necessary? The character provides additional meaning to the phrase (i.e. "not exactly"), but can convolute the translation.

Any thoughts...?

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Local time: 19:57
English to French
+ ...
estimated? Apr 7, 2005

how about, "the population is estimated at..."? Or even leaving the approximation out altogether, and trust the reader to know there is no way anyone can have the exact figures.

Regarding your first comment, I agree that Japanese sentences can be quite long-winded, in English we would rather use X (as in X ni tsuite) as the subject. Different cultures...

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Kurt Hammond  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:57
Japanese to English
I'd leave it in. Mar 17, 2006

Although I usually just drop について and に関して I am usually more careful with numbers and leave it in. It may be more awkward, but given a choice, I'll usually take accuracy over smoothness, especially with numbers.

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Ben Dooley
Local time: 22:57
Japanese to English
depends on the job Aug 3, 2006

I think your approach will depend on the job.

For highly technical or legal work, I would translate every word as closely as possible. Other projects, tourist brochures being a prime example, demand that you forego accuracy for what I'd call "appeal." Although some see a travel brochure with akward Japanese translations as charming, it would ulitmately lack the impact of a brochure translated with knowledge of American expectations.

When I was interpreting at the Expo, we'd often joke about how much interpreters would leave out. But it's just a fact that formal Japanese is full of circumlocutions that often don't translate well into English.



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Japanese and Occam's razor

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