Saturday, 24 August 2013

A warning in advance

I imagine that most of those who will read the entries here will be like me, learning Japanese as a foreign language. But sometimes I think it would be good to make the things I read available to people who don't read Japanese at all. There are after all a lot more people who can't read Japanese in the world. So I certainly hope to put up a few translations as I go on. I don't expect to do many: writing a translation is a lot more work than reading a book. Still, I have a couple ready in draft (a very short children's story and a short detective story) and I'll put one of them up in a couple of days.

I wouldn't like anyone to put too much reliance on my translations. So this post is here as a warning. (It also applies to the reviews I put up, I guess. For the children's books I mostly try to translate a short passage to give an idea of the book.) I am very far from being truly competent in Japanese. I am self taught, and though I have had lots of opportunities for conversation in Japanese, I've never lived in Japan, so I've never acquired the fluency which normally comes naturally to anyone who lives in a country for a while. My only visit to Japan was for three weeks as a tourist. I know that with a little good will, I can make myself understood in Japanese and understand the person I'm talking to; but sometimes I have to try rephrasing because my attempt wasn't clear, and sometimes I have to ask Japanese speakers to repeat themselves or say something more simply.

Normally when I read detective stories, I'm happy as long as I think I've understood what's going on. I (more or less) know the jouyou kanji and most of the more common non jouyou kanji; but since usage varies from writer to writer I often find a word I don't know. In that case I mostly guess, like I would do meeting a word I don't know in English. Of course for a translation, I look up everything I don't understand in my dictionaries, 三省堂国語辞典, (Sanseido kokugo jiten), and Spahn and Hadamitsky's The Kanji Dictionary. Mostly that's enough; but sometimes there are problems that I can't solve that way. In that case, if the internet doesn't give me an answer, I doubt that I will have the energy to hunt out larger dictionaries in the university library. So most likely in that case I'll just put a guess.

Put simply, any translations I put up are the work of an unqualified amateur. I hope that they can make stories known to people who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to read them. But don't put too much trust in them.

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