Translation and Rewriting (Japanese-English)
'Balance' and 'Flexibility'
Japan very much supports the objective of reaching agreement on a framework for agricultural and non-agricultural products by the end of July. Because it would be fatal were we to fail again, it is essential that all parties temper their own ambitions with the flexibility needed to reach an agreement. In the agricultural area, we need to facilitate the coexistence of "various types of agriculture," promote agrarian reform, and achieve balance between the demands of the exporting countries and those of importing countries such as Japan. In non-agricultural market access, we very much aspire to adopt a formula that can narrow the differences between the high-tariff countries and the low-tariff countries and can achieve significant sectoral tariff eliminations or harmonizations, and there is a real need to be looking at these elements flexibly so they can be made acceptable to all concerned.
Structure and flow
The passage starts by stating Japan's support for an agreement by the end-of-July (2004) deadline. It then elaborates on the need to balance 'ambition' and 'flexibility' so as to avoid a repitition of Cancun. Balance is needed in both agricultural products and non-agricultural products. For agricultural products, the need is to (1) facilitate the coexistence of 'various types of agriculture', (2) promote agricultural reform, and (3) maintain a balance between exporters and importers. For non-agricultural products, 'ambition' is needed to reduce the gap between high-tariff and low-tariff countries while 'flexibility' is needed so that proposals can be accepted by all countries.
My translation follows the sentence structure of the Japanese quite closely. This is most clearly seen in the sentence カンクンの失敗を２度繰り返さないよう、「志」と「柔軟性」のバランスを模索することが不可欠です, which I have rendered as 'In order to avoid a repeat of Cancun, it is essential to seek a balance between ambition and flexibility'. This is a quite bald rendition in impersonal style ('it is essential to') using abstract, disembodied terms ('seek a balance between ambition and flexibility'). The subject is understood -- participants in the process -- but not spelt out.
The official translation is much more forceful: 'Because it would be fatal were we to fail again, it is essential that all parties temper their own ambitions with the flexibility needed to reach an agreement'. The translation starts out with the emphatic 'Because it would be fatal were we to fail again...' It then explicitly lays the onus on 'all parties' to 'temper their ambitions with flexibility', changing the impersonal tone of the Japanese to a very direct appeal to 'all parties'.
The last sentence in the Japanese uses 一方 as a concrete way of expressing the balance between 'ambition' and 'flexibility': '高い志を維持する一方で、すべての国が受け入れ可能となるような一定の柔軟性を模索する'. My translation uses the mundane but serviceable 'at the same time' to achieve a similar effect. The official translation moves away from this balanced and unremarkable structure to make the second statement reinforce the first: 'We very much aspire to adopt a formula...., and there is a real need to be looking at these elements flexibly so that...' This subtly alters the logical thrust of the sentence and makes the argument sound more convincing.
The following table shows some of the vocabulary choices in the two translations.
|Japanese original||Literal meaning||My translation||Official translation|
|非農産品||'non-agricultural products'||'non-agricultural goods'||'non-agricultural products'|
|模索する||'grope (towards)'||'to seek'||Omitted|
|多様な農業の共存||'co-existence of various types of agriculture'||'coexistence of different types of agriculture'||the coexistence of "various types of agriculture,"|
|農業改革||'agricultural reform'||'agricultural reform'||'agrarian reform'|
|分野別関税撤廃||'sectoral tariff eliminations'||'sectoral tariff removal'||'sectoral tariff eliminations or harmonizations'|
|高い志を維持する||'maintain a high level of ambition'||'remain ambitious in our efforts'||'very much aspire to'|
|一定の柔軟性||'a certain level of flexibility'||'a level of flexibility'||'(look) flexibly'|
|検討を進めていく||'carry out consideration'||'seek'||'to be looking'|
In the official translation, the entire passage is smoothly written in natural-sounding English.
- 意味ある分野別関税撤廃等の実現について mentions only 'the aboliton of sectoral tariffs etc'. This becomes 'achieve significant sectoral tariff eliminations or harmonizations' in the translation.
- The official translation cops out on the expression 多様な農業の共存 'the coexistence of various kinds of agriculture'. The term is obviously related to the fact that agriculture is a major stumbling block to any Japanese FTA strategy. Quite simply, Japan is extremely reluctant to open up its markets to overseas agricultural products, but without such an opening up, concluding meaningful or broad-ranging FTAs with any country will be difficult. The concept of allowing 'various types of agriculture' to coexist is clearly an attempt to break this impasse, presumably by allowing Japanese agriculture to 'coexist' -- i.e., allowing it to stay exactly as it is. The official translation, which has no trouble coming up with ringing phrases in the rest of the speech, completely stumbles over this. Moreover, it retains the inverted commas quote marks) used in the original, which greatly weakens the point in English. Japanese quote marks are quite different from English, serving an emphatic or encapsulating function. English inverted commas, on the other hand, are a distancing device, used to apologise to the reader for an expression which is inappropriately colloquial or to tell the reader that the author takes no responsibilty for what is contained between them. My suspicion is that the rewriter was reluctant to tamper with this expression, either because he/she was unable to grasp the meaning of the 'code word', or because he/she was at a loss to give a simple, convincing explanation in English, or because he/she felt confident that the concept was familiar enough to those in the field to be understood without elaboration.