JTF Translation Festival 2010 - English as an official language in Japan

I joined JTF Translation Festival 2010 last week.  JTF stands for Japan Translation Federation, which consists of translation companies, client companies, and translators in Japan.  I have been joining this event as an audience, but this year, I spoke in one of the panel discussion and in the seminar about Machine Translation and Post Editing.  It was my first time to deliver such a presentation to professional translators, so I was so excited and very very happy.


First one was the discussion about "English as an official language in Japan - Is it realistic ?  How would it affect translation business ?".  The discussion followed the interesting presentation about India - the history and the latest trend of English as an official language in India".  It was presented by Doctor Giri (Yoshisato) Suzuki, Accosiate Professor at Taisho University.  It was really interesting to see now English is less and less popular in India.  The reason is the people who can read and write is increasing and the contents in Hindi are also increasing.  Hindi is one of the major languages spoken in India.  The key is, in India, English has been "official language" because of the the communication needs to balance the language variety.  Yes, that is the strong motivation.


Now looking at Japan, I have to admit we do not have enough motivation currently to use English.  So, the answer is No ? - to the question "English as an official language in Japan - Is it realistic ?".  I believe the answer is Yes, in the business field.  The reason why more companies chose English as the 1st language is not to make their employees good at speaking English, but to build the basics to hire more English-speaking people.  The purpose is to work with the world more dynamically. 


So, my answer is "Yes, we need English to work in the world".  Speaking English more often, I realized my communication style changes.  I used to keep quiet in public and ask questions personally after the presentation finishes.  I used to start with details and come to the conclusion at the end.  Now I do not hesitate to ask questions in public, and express the conclusion first or state the number of reasons first, such as "That's true.  There are 3 reasons.  They are...".  Whichever language we speak, such an open and clear communication style is important, I believe.  Speaking a specific language means sharing the culture that language is built with, to some extent.  Knowing different culture and sharing it with other countries' people is a benefit.  It will broaden our mind and reduce the worries.  


Suppose more and more companies use English as a second language in the daily work, what will happen to the translation industry ?  The translation market will shrink because they read, write, speak in English ?  My answer is No.  Do the professional translators translate the meeting materials, presentation slides, or email messages which are used in daily work ?  No.  They translate the documents or products which should be shared with customers of such a company.  Those products have to be translated as one of the localization process. 


Then, there is no change expected in the industry ?  ... No.  We should change the communication style like we speak in English.   With more communication done in English, the translators or translation company should change the style.  Rather than wait for direction, ask or suggest more pro-actively.  Use English to explain why you believe the source sentence includes an error.  Once you acquire different style, you can be very strong and unique.  That's because you can switch or balance the communication style.  For example, you can keep politeness which is a good part of Japanese, while you can show your enthusiasm and professionalism like you speak in English.  If you can do the both, you can be very unique and strong.


Well, I realized I wrote too much about the panel discussion.  But this is what I wanted to say if I had more time.  Let me talk about MT & Post Editing in the next entry.

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