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Translation and Rewriting (Japanese-English)

Part 2

Brief rundown on the state of the Japanese and Asian economies




My translation

Since the economic bubble burst at the start of the 90s, Japan has been suffering from prolonged economic stagnation. However, I believe that this stagnation has provided us with a chance to take stock of the past and reconsider issues that had previously been obscured by economic growth.

In East Asia, the past ten or more years have seen rapid economic growth by ASEAN and China, despite the Asian currency crisis of 1997, which they have overcome to achieve even further growth.

And the Japanese economy is now starting to show signs of recovery, which, I believe, will lead to a full-blown recovery.

Official translation

The Japanese economy has been bogged down in prolonged lethargy ever since the bubble economy collapsed in the early 1990s. Yet I see this recession as also having provided an opportunity to identify and address a number of issues that went unnoticed in the high-flying years of rapid growth.

Looking around us in East Asia, we have seen the ASEAN countries and then China achieve very rapid growth in the last decade-plus. Although this surge was briefly interrupted by the 1997 Asian currency crisis, these countries have weathered that crisis and gone on to renewed growth.

At home, we have also recently seen signs of recovery in Japan, where I am confident that the budding recovery will grow into full-blown recovery before long.

Structure and flow

This section briefly sums up the economic situation in Japan and East Asia. The first paragraph notes Japan's prolonged slump but manages to give it a positive twist. The second paragraph notes the strong growth trend in East Asia despite the 1997 currency crisis. The third paragraph takes an optimistic view of signs of recovery in Japan.

While the general message is clear enough, the logical structure is somewhat disjointed, shifting from Japan to East Asia and back again. In my own translation these transitions have been managed quite poorly. By contrast, the official translation handles them extremely well.

In my own translation, rather than saying 'in the past ten or more years ... have achieved rapid economic growth', I chose to say 'the past ten or more years have seen economic growth'.


This section contains a good helping of solid, unimaginative Japanese, much of it based on Chinese character-compounds (e.g., 経済成長を実現しました). The effect is respectable but colourless. Overall, the English in my translation is about as colourless as the Japanese. By contrast, the official version is expressive and explicit, using words and phrases like 'the surge', 'briefly interrupted', 'weathered that crisis', 'renewed growth'. Note that neither 'surge' nor 'briefly interrupted' directly reflects the original Japanese.

I don't like the term 'bubble economy', which is why I call it the 'economic bubble' here. The official version unashamedly uses 'bubble economy' and gets away with it. So much for trivial bugbears!

For the process of looking back, I've chosen 'take stock of the past' and 'reconsider issues'. Mundane but serviceable. The official version uses 'identify and address a number of issues' -- clean and natural English.

Note that the Japanese only says that issues were 'concealed' or 'covered over by growth'. Covered over by what growth? The official version spells it out -- issues 'went unnoticed' during the 'high-flying years of rapid growth'. In a stroke, the whole situation is made comprehensible to a foreign audience.

Finally, in the official translation, note that the humble 考えております becomes a statement of confidence ('I am confident that...').

Some of the most important Japanese expressions can be found in the table below, along with the equivalent expressions in each translation.

Japanese original Literal meaning My translation Official translation
バブル経済 'bubble economy' 'economic bubble' 'bubble economy'
長期にわたる経済の停滞を経験する 'experience long-term economic stagnation/slowdown' 'suffer from prolonged economic stagnation' 'be bogged down in prolonged lethargy'
経済の停滞 (2nd time) 'economic stagnation/slowdown' 'stagnation' 'recession'
過去を振り返り 'look back over the past' 'to take stock of the past' 'identify and address a number of issues'
問題を見つめなおす 'take another close look at a problem' 'reconsider issues'
10年と少しの間 'a period of ten years and a little' 'ten or more years' 'decade-plus'
急速に経済成長を実現しました 'have rapidly realised economic growth' 'have achieved rapid economic growth' 'achieve very rapid growth'
アジア通貨危機 'Asian currency crisis' 'Asian currency crisis' 'Asian currency crisis'
危機を乗り越え 'weather the crisis' 'overcome (the crisis)' 'weather the crisis'
さらなる成長を実現して 'realise even further growth' 'achieve even further growth' 'go on to renewed growth'

In almost all cases the official translation has been able to avoid the trap of following the Japanese original too closely.



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