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TooBen Creative Writing Based on Translation

Since 2006. Last update November 24, 2021. Copyright (C) TooBen. All rights reserved.
Any reproduction or use of the contents is prohibited.



TooBen Creative Writing Based on Translation

Since 2006. Last update November 24, 2021. Copyright (C) TooBen. All rights reserved.
Any reproduction or use of the contents is prohibited.




Reasons Why We Need More Than Translation

Let’s talk about English and Japanese, two completely different languages. The difference I mean here is much more significant than between English and French, or German, Spanish (my major in university), Italian, etc. These European languages share the same linguistic roots, vocabularies, and cultural, historical, and religious backgrounds. Despite their specific characteristics, they are relatively easily translatable from one to another without major hiccups.

On the other hand, Japanese is very, very different from any European language. The frustrating part is that the language is unknown to many global citizens, and most of you can’t imagine how different it is.

So let me briefly explain: The Japanese language often doesn’t require a subject (the doer of the action); the verb comes at the end of the sentence. It doesn’t mention the conclusion (or the most important thing) first but reserves it until the end. Vocabularies also differ. Many English words don’t find their Japanese counterparts; hence many Gairaigo (imported words). Its cultures and spiritual backgrounds differ. Traditionally, many people prefer not to assert themselves publicly (it’s just not the most graceful way for them). Instead, they often try to express their views indirectly or by using an economized speech.

Those are just a few examples. They may not be convincing enough but hopefully have created a small fissure that can allow the idea to enter somewhere in your mind. As a creative English-Japanese translator for more than thirty years, I want to emphasize one simple fact: Ordinary (or goody-goody) translation can’t be engaging, convincing, or inspiring. It’s just like you try to scratch your body from your heavy coat. Refer to Why Goody Translation Doesn’t Work for details.

If translation can’t bring the same thrill, power, and inspiration as found in the original work, what should we do? There’s one and the only thing: Stop trying to be goody and become a bit nastier to go beyond translation.


Seasonal Haiku 4

柿くへば 鐘が鳴るなり 法隆寺

正岡子規


Photo: Not related to Hōryūji Temple.

Eating persimmons
The bell sounding
Hōryūji Temple
Masaoka Shiki


Find other seasonal haiku pieces in or .


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