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Translation and Rewriting (Japanese-English)

Part 3

Japan's economic situation and the role of trade policy

もちろん、それは、日本が抱える様々な問題が小さくなったことを意味するわけではありません。少子高齢化問題、年金・医療等の社会保障問題、地域の再生、公的部門の一層のスリム化、金融機関の不良債権問題等、多くの解決すべき問題が残っています。

私は、現在の日本経済の回復の兆しは、日本が、様々な問題を認識した上で、その解決に正面から取り組み、痛みに耐えつつ構造改革を行って、それでも先に進み続けるのだ、という強い意思を明らかにしつつあることの現れだと思っております。我々はこの意思を一層強固にしていく必要があります。そして、日本の通商政策も、こうした強い意志をサポートするものでなければなりません。

こうした観点から、私は、現在の日本が追求すべき通商政策は、日本経済と世界経済、なかんずく日本と世界の成長センターである東アジアとの一体性をより強固なものとし、モノ・カネ・ヒト・情報の自由な流通を促進していくことだと考えています。それが、我が国の構造改革を進め、我が国が東アジアおよび世界の経済と一体となって成長することを可能とするからです。そして、WTOとFTAは、こうした通商政策の両輪であると考えております。

My translation

Needless to say, that does not mean that the various economic problems facing Japan have lessened in severity. Many issues remain to be resolved, including low fertility and the aging of the population, social security issues such as pensions and the medical system, the revitalisation of local areas, the slimming down of the public sector, and the problem of non-performing loans on the books of financial institutions.

I believe that the current signs of recovery in the Japanese economy indicate a recognition of these issues, a willingness to tackle them head on, and a strong determination to take the pain of structural reform and forge ahead. This determination must be further strengthened and Japan's trade policies should support this.

From this perspective, I believe that the goals of Japan's trade policy should be to strengthen the integration of the Japanese economy into the world economy, in particular its economic integration with East Asia, which is a world growth centre, and to encourage the free flow of goods, money, people and information. This will assist Japan's structural reform and facilitate economic growth in tandem with the East Asian and world economies. The WTO and free trade agreements (FTA) are two important pillars of such a trade policy.

Official translation

Yet such is not to say that Japan is entirely out of the woods. We still face many serious problems, among them the low birth rate and the aging population; the issue of pensions, medical care, and other social services; the need to revitalize our communities, the imperative of streamlining the public sector, and the need for the financial sector to come to grips with its non-performing loans.

These problems admitted, I believe the economy is looking up because the Japanese people have been willing to acknowledge the problems we face, have begun making a serious effort to tackle them head-on, and have pressed forward with structural reform. In short, things are getting better because people are determined to do what needs to be done. And the more determined we are, the better things will get.

Because Japanese trade policy is obviously geared to supporting this commitment, I see it as designed to further integrate the Japanese and global economies -- especially East Asia, which has become a center of global growth -- to promote the freer flow of goods, capital, people, and information in East Asia and worldwide. For it is precisely such policies that will advance the cause of structural reform and enable Japan to grow together with the rest of the East Asian region and the global economy. The WTO and FTAs are integral parts of this policy stance.

Structure and flow

This section follows on from the previous statement of confidence in the resilience of the current recovery.

The first paragraph recognises the problems facing Japan on the road to recovery. The first sentence in Japanese follows the pattern, もちろん、それは....を意味するわけではありません ('Of course, this does not mean that...').

My translation starts with a pedestrian 'Needless to say, that does not mean that...' The official version uses the much more concise and rhetorically effective 'Yet such is not to say that ...'

The second paragraph sees the recovery as resulting from a willingness to overcome these problems, which trade policy should support. This will/determination involves at least four steps: (1) recognise the problem, (2) be willing to address it head on, (3) be determined to take the pain, (4) forge ahead despite the pain. Signs of economic recovery are a 'manifestation' (現れ) of the fact that this will/determination is becoming clearer.

The third paragraph describes what trade policy should do. This includes: (1) strengthening the integration of the Japanese economy with the world economy, in particular the East Asian economies and (2) encouraging the free flow of goods, money, people and information. These will help Japan's structural reform and economic growth. The WTO and FTA are identified as the key elements of such a trade policy.

My translation glosses over the awkward structure of the second paragraph quite lightly: 'signs of recovery indicate a recognition, a willingness, and a determination' etc. I start the third paragraph with an unimposing 'From this perspective...' and the rest is fairly unremarkable.

The official translation completely recasts the second and third paragraphs. The second paragraph starts with 'These problems admitted,...'. This is not in the original Japanese but provides a good opener to the optimism that is then described. From here the original is completely remoulded: 'I believe it is looking up because (1) the Japanese people have been willing to acknowledge the problems we face, (2) have begun making a serious effort to tackle them head-on, and (3) have pressed forward with structural reform'.

Then there is the following upbeat sentence, which does not seem to occur at all in the Japanese: 'In short, things are getting better because people are determined to do what needs to be done'. The sentence 我々はこの意思を一層強固にしていく必要があります is then rewritten as 'And the more determined we are, the better things will get.' This definitely oversteps the bounds of the original. The advantage, of course, is that it is more upbeat than the normally staid Japanese style and tells foreign observers what they want to hear. However, it risks saying more than the Japanese government really wants to say. Since people in METI must have seen this speech, this is assumedly not the case here.

The final sentence of the second paragraph in the Japanese, which merely observes that trade policy has a part to play in strengthening this determination, is moved to the beginning of the third paragraph and transformed into 'Because Japanese trade policy is obviously geared to supporting this commitment', a much more vigorous contention. The goals of trade policy follow the original but the idea that these will help Japan's structural reform and economic growth is asserted much more aggressively: 'For it is precisely such policies that will advance the cause of structural reform and enable Japan to grow together with the rest of the East Asian region and the global economy'. While the Japanese is not so forceful either rhetorically or in making clear a causative connection, this style of expression is arguably legitimate in an English context and adds greatly to the impact of the sentence.

Vocabulary

The following shows some of the vocabulary choices made in the translations. 問題 occurs 6 times in the first two paragraphs, which is not excessive for Japanese but would be in English. In my translation, this is handled rather mechanically by alternating between 'problem', 'issue', and omission. The treatment adopted by the official translation cannot be fully conveyed by a one-to-one comparison. The translator has omitted any direct translation of the word 問題 in some places; in others he/she has added a 'need' or 'imperative' where the word 問題 does not actually occur in the original.

The enumeration of the issues themselves is an interesting challenge. Words like 高齢化問題 ('issue of rising age') are common expressions in Japanese and tend to be translated in 'cookie-cutter' fashion -- standard English equivalents are in general use and tend to be used somewhat mindlessly. The official translation of this speech quite brilliantly manages to avoid the trap of literally translating an anodyone list of 問題.

Japanese original Literal meaning My translation Official translation
問題 'problem, issue, question'
  1. 'problems'
  2. omitted
  3. 'issues'
  4. 'problem'
  5. 'issues'
  6. 'issues'
  1. different expression used ('not out of the woods')
  2. omitted
  3. 'issue'
  4. 'need'
  5. 'problems'
  6. 'problems'
少子高齢化問題 'low birth rate / aging problem' 'low fertility and the aging of the population' 'low birth rate and the aging population'
年金・医療等の社会保障問題 'social security issues such as pension, medical insurance' 'social security issues such as pensions and the medical system' 'the issue of pensions, medical care, and other social services'
地域の再生 'revitalisation of regions' 'the revitalisation of local areas' 'the need to revitalize our communities'
公的部門の一層のスリム化 'further slimming of the public sector' 'the slimming down of the public sector' 'the imperative of streamlining the public sector'
金融機関の不良債権問題 'the problem of non-performing loans of financial institutions' 'the problem of non-performing loans on the books of financial institutions' 'the need for the financial sector to come to grips with its non-performing loans'
解決に取り組み 'tackle their resolution' 'tackle them head on' 'tackle them head-on'
意思を一層強固にしていく 'make the determination even firmer' 'determination must be further strengthened' 'the more determined we are, the better things will get' (see above)
一体性をより強固なものとし 'make the integration even firmer' 'strengthen the integration' 'further integrate'
政策の両輪 'two wheels of the policy' 'two important pillars of ... policy' 'integral parts of this policy stance'

 

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