Lost in Technical Translation?
By naotoj on Jun 10, 2004
Recently, I had a chance to review a Japanese translation of a technical document written by my colleague (yes, I'm a Japanese). It may be because I have never done a translation to make my living, but every time I review those technical translations, I realize it very difficult to select the most proper Japanese word for a new technical terminology.
For example, we have introduced the Unicode 4.0 in J2SE 1.5 (still in beta 2), there are a lot of new terminologies such as "supplementary character" or "surrogate", and simple translations of those words are not very familiar to most of the Japanese people. So when we translate those words, we have to carefully choose (or even weave) Japanese words that represent the new words most properly.
On the other hand, we Japanese have a handy work around to import those new words, Katakana. Katakana is one of Japanese scripts, which mainly is used to loan foreign words. It's a phonogramic script, so that it can just import foreign word just by how it sounds. For example, "keyboard" is spelled (in Katakana) as "ki-bo-do" (where '-' denotes prolonged sound symbol). We do have an equivalent pure Japanese word for keyboard, but that is rarely used. We could use this work aound for those new technical terminologies, but those do not convey any meanings. That's why we should avoid this work around where possible. Since this is a technical translation, it may not be very useful unless the translated word has a meaning.
Yes, it's a tough job. We don't want to be blamed that we are the one who introduced those weird translations in the first place :)