Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Random Thoughts 1207

Sometimes, when I have a translation in front of me that's been "checked" by a co-worker and they are looking at me, I want to just throw it down and say, "I really don't care."

This sentiment is probably shared by millions of working people, so I know I'm not alone. 

I feel frustrated with my inability to explain written and spoken English grammar. I also am frustrated with my writing. It wasn't until after I graduated university and moved to Japan that my mom told me she thought I wrote well. Throughout school I remember hearing, "What is this? This is something a retarded kindergartner would write, not a seventh grader." Or something in a similar vein. Similarly, grammar wasn't exactly a subject in school. We learned of verbs and adjectives...conjunction junctions and their functions, but anything more than that makes my eyes gloss over.

However working in translation with Japanese people means I must...need to learn how to explain grammatical concepts to them in the way that they understand. Usually I turn to a writing manual I bought in my first year of university; I search for the grammar point and kind of shove it in their faces.

Sometimes that works.

Many times I'm told that my understanding of the Japanese is wrong and that X is the subject, not Y. In these cases, I find myself up against something I often encountered in elementary school. You know when you turn in your first draft paper and the teacher rewrites some of your sentences? Your teacher keeps your ideas, but uses more sophisticated writing to make everything cleaner. 

Well...it's like the opposite of that. I would write, "In response, the minister spoke about the importance of the project." I then get a rewrite back that goes, "The minister said, 'This project is important,' in response to the CEO." My coworker would say something about how "the minister" is the subject, so that should come first, the quote is a direct quote in the original Japanese, so we must keep it the same in English and finally something about how my English was "off."

So, I change it. I prefer what I wrote 9 times out of 10. However, if that's what they want, and it makes sense, I'll keep it. But, I really want to tell them "fuck it." A lot of what I translate will never been seen by anyone other than Google's bots. 

What annoys me, what really rubs me the wrong way, is how often I have to hear, "This English doesn't make sense." I do not have time to comb through hundreds of years of English-language evolution and grammar to explain why, "We would be really happy if you can come to our humble event," may be grammatically "correct" but "wrong" for everything. Trust me when I say it sounds weird. Trust me even more if you have never lived in an English-speaking country.

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