No. 6 — September 14, 1983

This is our sixth issue. Issues are published occasionally, that is, whenever I have anything to communicate. As you know, the publication is uncopyrighted and free, but readers who want to help may send in money to pay for the postage, etc. Thanks again to those who have written and/or sent in items for publication, and to those who have been sending in checks, postage stamps, international reply coupons, food stamps, etc. I hope the newsletter will grow eventually into a sort of networking agency, and I would like it to reach more translators working in the field in this country and overseas. Next issue we will welcome ten new readers who are now on LKA's mailing list. They will be receiving the Newsletter directly from me. If you know any J-E technical translators who are not on the mailing list, please share your issues with then, or have then drop me a line to get on the mailing list.

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The Pentel LETA-CON electronic typewriter has arrived, and I am using it in preparing the Japanese texts for this issue. I will report in detail about it in a future issue.

First, we discuss the crisis in the Japanese language. Then we continue the debate about whether or not technical translation is a rewarding career. Some new questions are raised. We discuss two kinds of word processors: the Wang Ideographic Word Processor and the Sanyo SWP-3400 (SanWord). We describe some publications (a 1983 catalog of Japanese periodicals and a list of Japanese publications in English) and give some international news items. There is an article about how IBM has commissioned the manufacturing of its "Peanut" home computer to Matsushita. And someone is doing something, finally, about "Lousy English." (Aren't you glad?)

And last, some news about services offered by Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST).

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It has always seemed to most of us that the Japanese as a nation are remarkably liberal about using foreign words and expressions. Xenophobic they are not, when it comes to vocabulary. If we compare them with the French, we can easily see the difference. There is no Japanese Academy which is charged with approving or preventing neologisms, and the Japanese seem to have almost no prejudices at all against massive inundations of foreign words. This would be no problem at all for translators if the foreign words were obvious and transparent. The problem arises because of the strangely garbled forms in which the foreign words appear, so that we sometimes cannot tell if a word or bit of a word is foreign or not. My recent experience with karaoke is a case in point. Oke is a perfectly good Japanese word, and how is anyone to know that, in this case only, oke is a bastardized form of the English word "orchestra"? (See page 18 for more.)

Odd neologisms crop up. I have seen an adjective naui in newspapers. It is written either ナウイ or ナウい identifying the word as a Japanese adjective. The word is obviously a trendy neologism meaning "nowish" or "up-to-the-minute." For example, in advertising a new stereo hearing aid called "New-Ear" (¥49,800), Sony uses the following utaimonku: "kakegogochi ga yokute, oto ga yoku, dezain no naui" (it is comfortable to wear, has a good sound, and has a 'nowish' design). I have seen mention also of imai, written also in kana, and suppose that it also has the same meaning, except that ima is a Japanese word meaning the same thing as "now." The English article the is regularly written in English or with the katakana za, as if to emphasize that the following Japanese word is something special, as if we had to do with the name of some rock group (The Beetles, The Rolling Stones, etc.). For example, Fujitsu calls one of its word processors "The Bunbōgu."

Some quite respectable foreign words are found in the oddest combinations. The sofuto of sofutowea (software) has apparently taken on a wider range of meanings, and we find references to things like "sofuto tekunorojii" and "sofuto saiensu" I do not know whether people talk about "soft technology" and "soft science" in English, but it is at least understandable if we make an effort to bear in mind the difference that there might be between them and "hard science" or "hard technology." There is a hard and a soft to just about everything, I imagine. We English-speaking people don't like the word "soft" because it reminds us of sloppy, loose things, not to mention other unpleasant things. But now the Japanese are talking about "softness" of the economy. That doesn't mean that the economy is weak and sloppy or has diarrhea; it means an affluent economy in which the service industries are more prominent than before. Software- and services-oriented, in other words. A study commissioned by the Finance Ministry has applied a new name "softnomics" (the nomics is the same as in Reaganomics) to this service-oriented economy, which is expected to usher in a new age of development for smaller business, especially those oriented towards service-related needs. There have been articles and lectures about "keizai no sofuto-ka" (softening of the economy), and a man called Ryuichiro Tate has actually written a book called Sofutonomikkusu published by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Sha. I doubt very much whether serious economists will find the concept of "softonomics" a very fruitful one; it is much too vague; but how very odd it is that the Japanese take English words and twist them around in this way.

The question of stylishness has a definite bearing on the use of katakana foreign words. For example, there are a number of trendy occupations which are attracting large numbers of young women. Some of them are sutairisuto, kopiiraitaa, shinario raitaa. Not only are these occupations stylish and trendy, but they are also new fields and women seem to be attracted to them because male domination has not yet been established and there are better opportunities for women. (Nihon keizai shimbun, Sept. 1, 1983)

According to an article in the Nihon keizai shimbun (August 22, 1983, p. 11), in spite of the seeming popularity of neologisms, experts agree today that the ability of the Japanese language to create new words from its own resources has reached the lowest point in the entire history of the language.

The Meiji period, when the country was inundated by an influx of Western novelties, was the period when Japanese displayed its greatest vitality. Countless neologisms were created. At that period, many of the colonies coming under Western influence began to use English or French words in their untranslated form to express new concepts. It was a form of cultural imperialism, and some of the colonial peoples even gave up using their own languages and adopted English or French, at least for official purposes. In India English still remains a sort of official language today. The Japanee also had the opportunity to do this if they had wanted, but decided wisely, under the phrase wakon yoosai (Japanese spirit, Western skills), to retain their own national individuality and create new words of their own for the novel concepts. Rather than using native Japanese words (yamato-kotoba) to express novel things, the Meiji Japanese most commonly chose to use two-kanji combinations like ginkoo, tetsudoo, seifu, shimbun, eiga, hoosoo, byooin etc. The Japanese before the Meiji period were already well-versed in the kanji tradition, and suitable kanji combinations were not too difficult for them to make up skillfully from the vast store of these polysemantic characters. The Chinese also were busy making up kanji words for the same concepts, but the combinations devised in China were not always the same as the ones devised by the Japanese. Don't you think it is unfortunate that both the Chinese and the Japanese did not decide to use the same kanji in making up neologisms which both nations could share? That would certainly have facilitated communication between the two kanji-using nations.

Today, experts say, the neologistic power of the kanji has declined to an extreme degree in Japan. This is because there are natural limits on the possible combinations of kanji with each other. Some kanji lend themselves readily to new combinations, but others are totally refractory to combining. Today's would-be neologists are likely to find that all the best morsels were already gobbled up by the Meiji Japanese, and only crumbs are left for use today.

There has been a kind of nostalgic reawakening of interest in kanji, and we sometimes notice newspaper advertisements (or advertisements hanging in the subway cars, I understand) with names of foreign countries and cities written in very antiquated, undecipherable kanji, or with names of foods and drinks written whimsically in unexpected kanji forms. Some say that this vogue is caused by the dissemination of Japanese-language word processors, on which even an inexperienced operator can, by inputting something phonetically, call up a whole list of fresh, unfamiliar-looking kanji combinations on the screen. The Japanese have always liked to amuse themselves by thinking up bizarre kanji combinations. I think its rather nice. that the Japanese themselves find their own native script so novel and fresh. (See the unsigned front-page commentary on this subject in the Nikkan kōgyō shimbun, August 22, 1983.)

Some Japanese have recently been expressing the opinion that their writing system, far from being clumsy and inefficient, is superior to that of other languages. For example, an anonymous writer says:


That is, "kanji are ideographs in which one character expresses a single word. Kana are syllabic characters each one of which expresses one syllable. On the other hand, a Roman letter is nothing but a component element of a sound; they are just phonetic symbols which even after being combined express nothing but a syllable. The Japanese lanquage, written in a combination of ideographs and syllabic characters, is an extremely effective language for expressing oneself very succinctly. It is said to be difficult or complicated, but of the languaces of the world, the Japanese language has the richest ability to express information..." (unsigned commentary on the front page of Nihon keizai shimbun, August 20. 1983). It is certainly true that a person who can read Japanese can scan Japanese newspaper articles much more rapidly than newspaper articles in English. The 26 phonetic letters of the English alphabet repeat themselves tediously, and you have to read the combinations as words before they make any sense, but the kanji each have a meaning which is immediately obvious. Kanji jump right off the newspaper page at you, and you know what an article is about immediately by just glancing at a few kanji in its headline. It's amazing how succinct and subtle Japanese newspaper headlines can be. From a pedagogical point of view, of course, the Japanese script may be something close to a national disaster, but from other points of view it can be said to be a marvelous creation. The very difficulties it imposes on the whole nation may be a blessing, since memorizing the large number of kanji inculcates mental agility, imparts an ability to recognize patterns and may have a subtle influence on the creativity of the Japanese people as a whole. (On this point, I am indebted to an article "Patterns of creativity" in The Economist, June 19, 1982, pp. 6–9 of "Survey: Japanese Technology.")

But back to the crisis. A researcher at the National Language Research Institute expresses the opinion that, with today's rapidly advancing science and technology, the Japanese language has now reached a saturation point beyond which it can no longer continue to rely exclusively on kanji for scientific and technical terms. Many are lamenting the proliferation of foreign words in popular magazines and the fashion industry, but the next problem area will be the scientific and technological terms of the age of High Tech. (Nihon keizai shimbun, August 22, 1983, p. 11)

Although contemporary science and technology is intimately connected with daily life, the basic vocabulary for advanced technology consists almost exclusively of words of foreign origin. If this situation continues, the gap between the speech of specialists and that of the general populace will inevitably continue to expand. Even if specialists try to make up weird-sounding new kanji words, they will have no chance of being accepted as Japanese words. For example, the Japanese National Railways has something called a "linear motor car," or rather riniya mootaa kaa. The exact Japanese term for this is said to be:


an utterly barbaric expression which could not possibly be accepted as Japanese words.

The NLR researcher thinks it necessary to accept a number of scientific and technical terms of foreign origin and combine them with native Japanese words and kanji words to create new Japanese words. A narrow-minded rejection of foreign terms would merely lower the ability of the language to create neologisms. In the years ahead we are likely to see more and more neologisms based on foreign words, many of them consisting of foreign-derived words combined with kanji.

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Too late for inclusion in my last issue I received the following contribution, dated August 17, from Betsy Kuga, 219 Eleventh Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030. It gives a generally pessimistic conclusion and also raises some new questions.

In response to your big question "Is Technical Translation Rewarding?" I have a few thoughts to offer and a few questions of my own to ask.

After nearly a year of doing technical translation almost exclusively, following upon about five years of J to E general translation, I would have to say my answer to your question is no — unfortunately, this profession does not seem to promise many rewards.

I am not able, at this point, to get enough work to support myself satisfactorily, let alone enough to pay for a "must-have" word processor. I work, like your British reader, about one day in four.

One peculiar difficulty of J to E technical translation that I have come across is the difficulty of obtaining reference materials quickly enough to be useful on a specific job. I don't think clients and agencies recognize the crucial importance of dictionaries, glossaries, etc. in our work. Sometimes I suspect my Japanese clients feel I should already know all of the specialized jargon of their field (yes, including those boo-boo prone bastard katakana acronyms/abbreviations of English tech words) if I am to do the job well — they often completely discount the necessity for, and value of, good reference materials. But the job is often over before I can get my hands on the right dictionary.

Another related problem is due to my position as a generalist. It's hard to convince a client that an experienced translator using good dictionaries can often do the job as well or better than a specialist in the field who knows little about translation. I would like to hear other translators' thoughts on this issue, and I'd like to hear how you convince clients one way or the other, depending on whether you're a generalist or specialist.

I don't know anything about pay differentials between J-E people and other language people. I would like to know more about how much most J-E people get paid, though. I have very little idea about pay averages.

Finally, my major gripe about J-E work is this: because I am American and a woman, I'm constantly battling what I feel can only be distrust of and outright discrimination against American women by Japanese businessmen. Japanese men, in short, just don't want to be convinced I can do the job. Despite my numerous countermeasures, this phenomenon has caused so much frustration and depression over the years that I'm now seriously considering dropping all work with the Japanese and starting something altogether different, difficult as that prospect may appear. It's harder and harder to try to bridge communication gaps when I am feeling more and more like a victim of those very gaps

Survival tips, anyone? How does one, as a female American translator, win the trust and professional respect of one's (male) Japanese clients? (See enclosed article)

Enclosed with the letter was an article by Ruth Finstein, "Cultural Pitfalls Often Snare American Women at US. Units of Japanese Firms," from the April 25, 1983 issue of The Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly. I have no information about this question but can say that many translators prefer to work through agencies rather than battling directly with clients, although this is not always because of a dislike for what they perceive as the clients' discriminatory attitudes. Some would rather just be left alone. If you work through an agency, the client very often does not even know who you are, certainly not whether you are male or female. It seems like a good idea to have someone acting as an intermediary to smooth things out between the translator and the client, and that is what the agency does. If direct contact with clients is making you feel unhappy, my advice would be: by all means stop going to them directly. You can bridge communication gaps just as well if you find an agency which can supply you with a steady volume of work, and you can also stop worrying about the Japanese businessmen and their troublesome attitudes.

Incidentally, you might like to know that at least three translation agencies on the West Coast are owned or run by women. Also the president of Toin, reputed to be the largest translation agency in Japan, is a woman. Do other women readers have anything to add?

About the question of generalist versus specialist, D.A.F., our reader in England who complains that he cannot get enough work (see No. 4, p. 8) supplies the following explanation in his letter dated August 11:

The reason why perhaps I do not receive as much work as some of my competitors is that I confine myself to a narrow subject field in a fairly large number of languages, the fields being chemistry + life sciences (medicine, biology, pharmacology, ecology etc.) No doubt I would make a much fatter living if I understood electronics and engineering, but I don't and translating then would bore me to death even if I did. Having an Arts Faculty and literary background I had to train myself in some speciality to make a living as a translator and found that I understand the subjects mentioned best and could even summon up some interest in them sometimes.

This adds another dimension to our discussion: the question of specialists versus generalists. To put it another way: does a translator specialize in a specific subject area (medicine, biology, electronics) and translate texts exclusively about that subject (and closely related subjects) from one language or a number of different languages, or does the translator specialize in a specific language (Japanese, German, Russian) and translate texts from that one language in a wide range of areas? Do readers have thoughts about this subject?

My comment would be that, although we all have our favorite subjects, very often we can't afford to be very selective about what jobs we accept. We may not exactly be beggars, but most of us can't be chosers. If we let it be known that we will emphatically never touch electronics or engineering, we may run the risk of starving while we wait for that rare job on our favorite subject. Better bored than hungry, I say.

To get back to the original question: Is technical translating a possibly rewarding career? My answer, based on my personal experience, is that that might depend to some degree on a person's lifestyle and personality. You may be highly gregarious and dislike solitude. If that is your personality, you may not be able to stand the translator's life, which requires prolonged concentration and freedom from interruptions. In that case, you should take an office job where you will always have plenty of company. I don't mind working alone for hours and days on end, and I also have an odd disability: I am an incurable insomniac. My problem is so acute that I can hardly follow any kind of a schedule, at least if it involves getting up in the morning. My biological clockwork has never functioned properly, but I can get along quite well if only I don't take a normal job requiring me to be somewhere at 9:00 AM. Instead of forcing myself into someone else's mold or treating my disability as a tragedy, I decided to convert it into an advantage and even build my life around it. It is true that I can't do what normal people do, but on the other hand I can and will do what they can't do. I can stay up all night translating a rush job while the normal people are all asleep. They can't stand to sit still at a desk translating for prolonged periods of time — but I don't mind it at all. Besides, I enjoy listening to music while I work. Being a translator, I am able to stay home and listen to music all day long, or rather all night long, if I want to. If I were working in a factory or office environment that would probably be impossible. That is why I think translating is rewarding and even healthful, especially for incurable insomniacs and introverts. There is so little stress! Anyway, my definition of "freedom" is to be able to live at my own pace, with few external obligations, without having to promise to be in any definite place at any definite time, and without having to come into contact with large numbers of people I would rather not meet. My career as a technical translator has enabled me to realize this kind of freedom more fully than probably any other career. Besides, it was just about the only thing that I could do, and it has kept me busy for 23 years. Yes, I think it is rewarding. What do other readers think about this?

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A capsule bed, or rather kapuseru beddo is a small hotel compartment about 2 meters long, 1 meter wide and 1 meter tall made of fiber reinforced plastic (FRP). It has a bed, a desk, a color television, a light, and an alarm clock inside it. The product appeared in Japan in 1979, and "capsule hotels" where people spend the night in capsule beds made their appearance this year, in Osaka in January and in Tokyo in June. Now they are enjoying a nationwide boom. There were 40 capsule hotels, with a total of about 4,000 capsule beds, around April of this year. Taking up much less space than a regular hotel room, they also cost less than half. (Nihon keizai shimbun, August 20, 1983)

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Quite a while ago (one year, two years?) I saw an article in a nationally circulated computer magazine about the Wang Ideographic Word Processor, a type of word processor which can handle two kinds of Chinese (conventional and simplified), Japanese, and English. When I contacted the local Wang office by phone to inquire about prices and availability, they first wanted to know where I lived and would not even begin to answer questions until they knew my address, evidently because their sales representative operate by geographical area rather than type of equipment. Evidently it is assumed that all the clients in a particular area will want to buy exactly the same equipment and can be served best by a single representative. After I had finally been put into contact with the proper sales representative, (you guessed it) that person had never even heard of the product. Other sales representatives had to be consulted hurriedly, but all in vain. They had never heard of the product, either. Finally I decided to write them a letter, enclosing a xeroxed copy of the magazine article I had seen. Several weeks later, I was told to telephone some man at a research laboratory in Boston, Mass., who might be able to tell me something about the product. After this whole rigmarole, there seemed to be very little hope that I would ever be able to find out how much the thing cost, let alone to see a demonstration. I even wondered whether the article I read was wrong; maybe the product really was not available, after all. I had almost given up hope of ever finding out anything about the elusive product.

But recently Lynda Brown of the Army Language School in Monterey sent me some information. According to the Wang literature she sent me, the "Ideograohic Word Processor (IWP) is a versatile CRT/disk-based, visual text processor that allows documents to be created, edited and printed in Conventional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, or English. Hosted by a Wang Office Information System 105-1, 115, 130A, 140 or 145, the IWP has a basic configuration of a master processor with a single diskette drive, a Model 5536-CI or Model 5536-CIJ CRT Workstation with 64K memory, and a Model 5531-IP or Model 9563-I Impact Matrix Printer .... The user may construct an IWP system around one, two, or three dictionary options: the Conventional Chinese dictionary, the Simplified Chinese dictionary, and the Japanese dictionary. Over 10,000 individual characters are included in each of the Chinese dictionaries. The Japanese dictionary includes the three character components of that language: Katakana, Hiragana, and over 6000 Kanji characters. Additional characters may be created by the user to accommodate individual needs."

An ordinary English keyboard is used, but if the user employs the Japanese dictionary, the keys on the keyboard are labeled for access of the katakana and hiragana characters as well as the English characters. Keyboards on both workstations "also include a numerical keyboard from which the user can access Conventional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese Kanji characters."

The method used to access the Chinese and Japanese kanji is called the "Three-Corner Coding Method." Each kanji character has been given a 6-digit identification number "derived from a newly developed coding, indexing and retrieving system called the Three-Corner Coding Method. This method," says the explanatory booklet, "eliminates the former tedious means of coding characters. Based on the simpler analysis of the shape of Chinese characters, the method matches the patterns in three corners of a character with the 300 logically assigned, fundamental symbols of the Chinese writing system."

The booklet goes on: "To input a Chinese or Japanese Kanji character, the operator enters a maximum of six numeric digits for each character by using the numeric keypad. A field on the top status line displays the selected digits as they are entered. After the user selects the last digit, the chosen character appears at the current cursor position." But alas, it appears that one code number may refer to more than one character. What happens then? "When more than one character corresponds to a single code number, characters appear according to frequency of use; the most frequently used character appears first. A warning sound alerts th user to this condition and the prompt 'duplicate character' appears on the screen. The operator ignores the warning if the desired character appears. By pressing the Replace key, the next most frequently used character replaces the first character. The replace process can be repeated to return to the original character." Another "three-corner system" has been developed by C. Itoh Data System in Japan, but I am not sure what the differences are between the C. Itoh system and the Wang system. (See No. 5, p. 2)

"Within the Japanese option of the IWP, both the Japanese and the English character sets are available through the Model 5536-CIJ keyboard. COMMAND+J moves the system into Japanese; COMMAND+E invokes English. Chinese and Japanese Kanji characters are accessed immediately by using the numeric keypad."

"The Model 5531-IP or the Model 9563-I Matrix Printer offers document printing in both the traditional vertical (columnar) style and the contemporary horizontal style. On the Print menu, the user selects the number of characters per line, the number of lines per page, single or double spacing, the number of desired copies, and the printer number."

The booklet contains photographic reproductions of the appearance of a Japanese document and a Chinese document on the screen. The Japanese screen seems to be of inferior quality in comparison with the screen displays currently used in Japanese word processors manufactured in Japan. Lynda Brown says that it is her understanding that the Wang equipment is available now. "I understand the cost will be somewhere between $12,000 to $13,000 for the hardware, and the software will be approximately $1,000."

An advantage (probably the only advantage) of the Ideographic Word Processor is its multilanguage capability. It quite probably is the only word processor anywhere which can handle Japanese, both types of Chinese, and English — virtually four different scripts — on the same equipment. But the big disadvantage is Wang's Three-Corner Coding method, which requires six keystrokes for accessing every kanji, and even then some of the code numbers correspond to more than one kanji! I am not sure about Chinese, but it would be extremely laborious to input Japanese kanji texts by this method. Other similar methods used in Japan have codes requiring only three keystrokes per kanji (see No. 5, page 2). The full-keyboard system requires only one keystroke for any character, although of course the characters in that system are arranged on a touch-sensitive tablet and are accessed by means of a stylus, rather than by pressing on keys with the fingers.

The advantages and disadvantages of the Wang Ideographic Word Processor should be compared with those of the Japanese software for the Xerox Star which will become available later this year (see No. 2, p. 13), and also with the highly sophisticated Japanese-manufactured word processors which are now becoming available (see article below about Sanyo's English-Japanese word processor). Because of its rather expensive price and the clumsiness of its inputting system, I doubt whether the Wang Ideographic Word Processor will win over many users.

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Last May, Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. announced that it would put on sale in August its highquality SWP-3400 word processor, also known as the SanWord . This is a very sophisticated, completely bilingual word processor capable of handling Japanese, English and graphics as well. (See No. 2, p. 12) Evidently the SW-3400 is now becoming available. I saw a large advertisement for it in the August 29 issue of the Dempa Shimbun This is what I have been able to learn about it from newspaper articles and advertisements.

The word processor has hardware consisting of 1 megabyte RAM and 128 kilobyte ROM. The CPU is an Intel 16-bit 8086 microcomputer.

Exactly the same processes are applied to both Japanese and English texts, so that the word processor can be used equally well to create and print Japanese or English documents, or documents consisting of a mixture of both Japanese and English text. The manufacturer recommends the word processor especially for use in trading companies which need to create documents describing products in both languages (you and I could also think of a few other possible applications, too). The Japanese dictionary has about 7,200 Japanese characters and 25,000 basic words (equivalent to 80,000 when processed grammatically), and there is capacity for 2,000 user-registered words and 5,000 user-registered compound words. Users can also create their own novel characters which are not contained in the dictionary.

Sanyo has developed a multi-font system which allows an exceptionally rich variety of different type styles. Characters can be displayed and printed in half-size, full size, and enlarged size. Altogether there are 32 different Japanese type fonts, chiefly those of the Ming dynasty type, and five English type fonts, such as Prestige, Century Old, etc. Each type face can also be displayed in black-white transposed form.

The input system for Japanee texts is the usual conversion system, either kana-to-kanji or romaji-to-kanji, or a mixture of them both. But the kanji input system is a sophisticated system using grammatical analysis functions in which long phrases are converted, with automatic processing of the affixes and endings.

The printer is a 32 x 32 dot matrix thermal line printer with a speed of 80 characters per second. Sanyo claims that the printing quality is on the same level as movable-type printing. Six types of graphs can be created, as well as maps and flowcharts. There are various sophisticated sorting and formatting functions, as well as the usual functions such as Find, Copy, etc.

The standard price for this high-quality word processor is ¥2,450,000. At an exchange rate of ¥243, this roughly equals $10,082.

No doubt about it: this is a sophisticated word processor, and it would be regarded so anywhere in the world. I like the variety of different type faces and the completely bilingual nature of the product. The price is expensive for a Japanese word processor, but not excessively so in comparison with the prices tbat we have to pay for quite ordinary American word processors which cannot even do Japanese. Sanyo is planning to manufacture around 300 units a month at first. I think that Sanyo is to be commended for coming out with a product which is truly superior. I haven't found out yet whether Sanyo plans to sell it in this country (the product has just come off the line in Japan), but it would be a wonderful product for us if it were ever to become available here.

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In the last issue (No. 5, p. 6) I mentioned that the Media Research Center (Shinjuku 5-101, Tokyo) is supplying data retrieval services for about 14,800 Japanese periodicals. Now the fifth edition of their periodical catalog has been published in book form under the title '83 han Zasshi shimbun soo katarogu. 18 items of data are given for each of the 14,796 titles, organized into 274 fields. The catalog has 1,564 pages and is sold for ¥9,800.

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OCS America, Inc. has put out a 20-page list of Japanese publications in English, entitled: "List of publications, governmental & similars. 1983 No. 2" Dollar prices are given for each of the publications, and an order form is included. The publications are from the Printing Bureau Ministry of Finance, Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Defense Agency, Ministry of Construction, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, Ministry of Health & Welfare, Ministry of Int'l Trade & Industry, JETRO, and Ministry of Labor. Also listed are publications by the Japan Foreign Press Center, the Japan Times, Ltd., and some monthly periodicals in English. Many statistical compilations and trade directories are listed. A number of Ministry of Health & Welfare publications deal with pharmaceutical affairs and the Japanese drug industry. The following might be of interest to us:

The address is:

OCS America, Inc. Att.: Order Dept.
Rm. 461 Nat'l Press Bldg.
14th & F St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20045
Tel.: (202) 347-4233 638-2911

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It has been becoming obvious that the only way to overcome the current problems between Japan and the rest of us is to increase the information flow and try to become more interdependent. Here are some news items about this general area:

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Materials Research Corporation (MRC, Orangeburg, New York), an American manufacturer of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, has recently set up a consulting company called Pacific Basin Associates for the purpose of supplying information about Japanese high technology to American industry. The consulting company will collaborate with the Yano Economic Research Institute, Co., Ltd., a Japanese market-researching company, which will prepare market-research reports for NRC.

The main activity of the new company will be to hold two-day seminars four times a year on specific topics. It plans to hold its first seminar in November of this year. The research reports prepared by Yano on the topics covered by these seminars will be supplemented by analysis provided by American university professors and specialists.

In a similar move, the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials Institute, Inc. (SEMI) of the U.S. has requested the Nomura Research Institute to prepare for it reports about the Japanese semiconductor industry. These developments indicate an emerging trend for American organizations and companies to make use of Jpanese researchers for obtaining information about the Japanese market. (Nikkei Sangyō shimbun, August 30, 1983)

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Data Quest, an American research company, has established a service on the Japanese semiconductor industry which will provide analysis and forecasting information about the Japanese industry. The research results will be supplied in the form of a biweekly publication called JSIS (Japan Semiconductor Industry Service) and will cost $9,500 a year. Data Quest established its own company in Japan for this purpose a year ago. (Nikkei Sangyō shimbun, June 27, 1983)

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Fuji Corporation, a Tokyo company in the information business, has completed an English translation of the Science and Technology Agency's White Paper on Science and Technology and will distribute it on September 10 to government agencies, manufacturers, research institutes and universities all over the world. The translation was completed by the company's staff of five foreigners. This is the first time that a Japanese White Paper on Science and Technology has been translated into a foreign language and published. The White Paper is the 1981 edition which was published at the end of 1982. Its English title is "JAPAN Science & Technology Outlook." The English translation is 240 pages and will be sold for $65 or ¥14,400 in Japan. (Nikkei Sangyō shimbun, Sept. 5, 1983)

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Oxford University Press will collaborate with Katena Business Service, an information-processing company in Kawasaki, in developing databases and educational software. A database concerning English sentence structures will be prepared by means of the FORTH program language and made available for use in word processors to assist Japanese businessmen in preparing documents in idiomatically correct English. The composition-assisting system will be prepared for use with the IBM 5150 and 5550 personal computers and will be marketed early next year.

Educational software for English learners will be based on OUP's bestselling series of textbooks called "Start with English" and will be prepared for interactive learning using a computer of the MSX home computer type. (Nikkei Sangyō shimbun, September 1, 1983)

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A five-member advisory committee on foreign students (Nijisseiki e no ryugakusei seisaku kondankai) for the Minister of Education completed its report on August 31. The report will form the guideline for future planning about foreign students coming to Japan.

The report says that the number of foreign students received in Japan is currently about 8.000 (1982), much smaller than the comparable numbers received by the U.S. (about 312,000), France (119,000), West Germany (57,000) and the U.K. (53,000). The number of privately financed foreign students is very small in comparison with the number with government grants. The report says that Japan is in the state of a 'desert' with respect to its facilities for receiving foreign students.

The following reasons for the small number of foreign students are given: (1) High cost of living and housing problems in Japan impose heavy economic burdens; (2) Japanese language is difficult to learn; (3) Japanese university degrees, especially Ph.D.s, are difficult to acquire; (4) The closed nature of Japanese society.

The report recommends increasing the number of foreign students by around 1990 to the same level as that of West Germany and the U.K. It also recommends amplifying the system for teaching the Japanese language to foreign students. (Nihon keizai shimbun, September 1, 1983)

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In a number of cases Japanese venture businesses have begun to hire foreign specialists. Because of their small size, such companies often find it difficult to hire specialists domestically, and they also find it useful to employ foreigners because of their familiarity with overseas conditions. Graphica, a Tokyo manufacturer of computer graphics equipment, will in September hire as an engineer an Englishman who has just received his Master's degree from Oxford University, and Kokusai Gijutsu Kaihatsu, a Tokyo manufacturer of applied electronics equipment, this spring hired a British specialist in mechanical engineering who graduated from Leeds University. A Tokyo system house called Riido scouted a high-ranking systems consultant from a California company called System Development and hired him as the head of its overseas department. The Japanese venture businesses are not confining the activities of their foreign specialists merely to in-house language training for their Japanese employees, but hope to give them central roles to play in developing new technologies and in overseas activities. President Iwata of Graphica says:


That is, if possible he wants to hire highly-motivated foreigners who are even willing to become naturalized Japanese citizens. (Nihon keizai shimbun, August 29, 1983)

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Among the Japanese best-sellers in August has been the Japanese translation of a book on American companies (Japanese title: "Ekuserento kampanii," published by Kodansha, evidently a translation of the book called "The search for excellence"), which is already in its sixth printing and has sold some 300,000 copies. Another best-seller has been the translation of Feigenbaum and McCorduck's book "The fifth generation" (published by TBS Britannica, see No. 2, pp. 8–11, No. 4, p. 1). This book has sold 150,000 copies. Large numbers of copies have been bought by corporations. For example, NEC bought 430 copies. (Nihon keizai shimbun, September 4, 1983)

*  *  *  *

Sadahiko Tamura, a Japanese who has lived in America for nearly 30 years and has reportedly worked as an interpreter for summit conferences, has written a book about America. The book is entitled "Inside the American Myth: Dynosaurs and LSI' (Amerika shinwa no uchigawa, Kyoryu to LSI") and purports to reveal the "unvarnished truth" about America for Japanese readers. The book was just published by Toyo Keizai Shimop Sha and sells for ¥1,100 in Japan.

*  *  *  *

I recently read an interesting book about patents by Masahiro Miyazaki. (Nichibei sentan tokkyo senso. Daiyamondo Sha, 1983, ¥1,100) It seems to be the first book by a Japanese to focus attention on the political and military aspects of patents in the international arena. Miyazaki's thesis is that the current friction between Japan and the U.S. boils down to a struggle for control over high technology, and that American business and government are together mounting a "patent war" (tokkyo senso) against Japan in order to maintain American domination in technology and to prevent the outflow of military technology to the U.S.S.R. The author gives numerous examples of how the U.S. employs legislation and a system of secret patents to maintain American superiority in strategic technological fields. "Without understanding patents," he says "one cannot talk about advanced technology. With patent rights, one can either permit manufacturing by license or can prevent the use of patents. The patent strategy of American Big Business in this point surpasses the understanding of the Japanese. America can in this way obstruct the development of Japan's technological power. The most recent trends of the American Congress hint at this." The author argues that patents are the barometer of a technologically-oriented nation like Japan and recommends that Japan formulate a basic national policy to deal with the patent wars launched against it by the U.S. There is obviously much to say in favor of the author's analysis of the situation, and after reading his book I have found the newspaper headlines about U.S.Japanese patent litigation to be much more intelligible.

* * *


According to a front-page article in the Nikkan kōgyō shimbun of September 5, it was learned on September 4 that U.S. IBM has contracted with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. to produce IBM's next generation of personal computer, code-named "Peanut." It is reported that some production has already been started by Matsushita. This follows on the heels of the collaboration between IBM Japan and Matsushita in manufacturing the IBM Multistation 5550 (see No. 2, p. 12, No. 3, p. 30), and IBM-Matsushita collaboration will be further strengthened. However, the "Peanut" will be manufactured by Matsushita for IBM U.S. and will be aimed at a world-wide market.

The specifications of the "Peanut" are not clearly known because the product has not yet been officially announced by IBM, but there has been widespread speculation in the U.S. press about the product, and it is believed that it will be a high-end product in the home computer market, having two 4" floppy, disk drives and selling for some $600 – $800. It is expected to be marketed within six months, according to the newspaper.

This IBM-Matsushita agreement would lead one to assume that the collaboration between the two companies has become even closer than before. However, it is also pointed out that this strengthened collaboration in the production area will not necessarily advance the plans for setting up a joint venture, which IBM and Matsushita have been discussing for several years now. These discussions are bogged down. The mutual advantages to the companies in setting up a joint venture have evidently not been adjusted to the satisfaction of both, and in the meantime Matsushita has been strengthening its relations with Fujitsu, with which it has established joint ventures (see No. 2, p. 12). Questions are being asked about whether the chumminess between IBM and Matsushita will really increase now with the "Peanut" agreement. Even though collaboration in the production area may make advances, this will not necessarily lead to a conclusion of the negotiations about a joint venture.

At the same time, Matsushita is itself aiming at making inroads on the home computer market through the "MSX" standard software for 8-bit personal computers promoted by Microsoft. Stormy days ahead are being predicted for the personal and home computer markets. (Nikkan kōgyō shimbun, September 5, 1983)

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John David Lamb (see No. 5, p. 9–10) writes (August 30) from Nagoya:

I read in a recent ATA Chronicle that the standard of translation in Japan is higher than in the U.S., but I don't believe it. Certainly the amount of gibberish passing itself off as English over here is staggering. I have seen promotional brochures for electronics firms that would make you wince. Sometimes my wife does promotional narrations for Toyota, but the translation is so bad that she has to spend more time editing the thing into decent English than it takes to record the narration! Perhaps the difference is that they can find editors easier in the States. Editing translations by Japanese people into decent English is a dreadful task, as you may know, horribly unrewarding on every level. My impression is that it's difficult to find native speakers over here who'll do it. Have you been to Japan recently? The amount of gibberish on T-shirts and store names and advertising generally is also staggering. Just because it's in romaji and looks as if it must be English, to the Japanese at least, that's enough to make it 'fashionable'. Well, as Japan reaches out more — and as people like Maggie Thatcher come over here and insist that Japan invest more in Britain, etc. — they are going to have to get better language services than they have been putting up with for too long. What's your guess?

I think that the problem stems largely from the attitude of Japanese businessmen who think that they already know English well enough (after all, they had to suffer through ten years of it at school) and who consider linguistic refinements to be rather unimportant anyway, a question of delicacy of taste at best. Refinement and delicacy are quite all right for the young women who have majored in English literature in college. But the men, as long as they can make themselves understood, in a broad, general way, couldn't care less about the niceties of spelling and grammar. They have little understanding of translating techniques and sometimes refer to translation as "changing vertical script to horizontal script" (tatemoji wo yokomoji ni naosu), as if going from Japanese to English were a question of lining up the words horizontally across the page instead of vertically. Since translation seems to them to be such a lowly task, demanding merely mechanical skills, roughly on the same level as typing or typesetting, they find the rates demanded by professional translators outrageous and would probably rather do the work themselves. If the boss insists, they will call in someone and grudgingly have their work corrected, but such minutiae are hardly the sort of thing that prominent businessmen ought to bother themselves about. If hilarious errors in their English are pointed out to them, they are certainly not above joining in the fun. They enjoy a good laugh and will laugh heartily at their own expense. But basically, they attribute little importance to linguistic excellence and don't consider it their role to be linguistic perfectionists.

Some foreigners also have abetted the trend towards linguistic deviance among the Japanese speakers of English. I recall discussing this very topic with cultured Europeans in Tokyo in the 1960's. I expected that they too would be aghast at the peculiarities of Japanese English. But, on the contrary, their attitude was this: "The Japanese have a way of expressing themselves in English and other foreign languages which is so idiosyncratic that it is quite beautiful. Their unique accent when they speak is charming, and they bring to English such unexpected twists of phraseology and vocabulary that one is forced to stop and listen to them with pleasure. Rather than being suppressed, the Japanese way of using English deserves to be appreciated as a rare and unique art form." I am sure there is something to be said in favor of this argument, which is based on aesthetic rather than practical criteria. Idiosyncratic forms of English are accepted in some milieus. Remember the debates which used to rage in the U.S. about Black English? It was at one time considered to be racist to attempt to suppress sub-standard English spoken by Blacks and substitute for it the English spoken by the white middle class. Would we be justified in looking for racist attitudes in the persistent critiques of Japanese English by foreigners?

But to get back to the original question: Yes, I agree. There can be no question about it. Ludicrous-looking English-language advertisements and catalogs cannot possibly do anything but harm to exports of Japanese products, and business companies ought to put out advertising materials which read correctly in the target language. That much is obvious.

However, some awareness of the problem is emerging, and help may now be on the way. I saw the following advertisement in the Nikkei Sangyō shimbun of September 5, 1983:

[Scanned Image]

To summarize for the monolingual, this means: "you must not let this be said about you by foreigners (gaijin). Our company has top-level American copywriters and Japanese staff who prepare English advertisements, pamphlets, and catalogs. We also have Americans who go out to check English and do rewriting, translations, and interpreting." The company's name and address are:

Overseas K.K.
Urban Shinjuku Bldg. B-kan 9th Floor
Shinjuku 4-2-23, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160

* * *


A friend who just arrived from Tokyo brought me a stack of booklets and leaflets in Japanese and English describing the services of the Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST). The friend went to visit the JICST and reported that the staff was very friendly and eager to be of help to foreign users. (I think foreigners visiting Japan should make a special point of paying them a visit, as this will help to convince the staff that there is interest abroad in their services, which I believe may be unique.) I was especially interested in their bibliographic publications and the translation service which they are now making available to overseas customers.

The JICST (see No. 2, p. 1, No. 3, p. 2–3) is a special non-profit organization under the executive control of the Science and Technology Agency, Prime Minister's Office. In fiscal year 1983 it had a total of 330 employees. It collects publications from Japan and more than 50 countries overseas. Its holdings as of 1963 are:

Useful articles in these publications are selected, abstracted and indexed by a network consisting of about 100 JICST specialists and about 5,000 external collaborators. Some 400,000 abstracts are prepared each year, and the abstracts are published in journals and kept in computerized databases. JICST has an on-line information network called JOIS for accessing its databases, and customers can also have searches made for them and can obtain copies and translations of articles.

JICST publishes the following series of abstract journals called Current Bibliography on Science and Technology (CBST), Kagaku Gijutsu Bunken Sokuho. (Dollar amounts are annual subscription rates in U.S. dollars, including an annual index.)

JICST also publishes a large number of other periodicals, including:

For overseas customers, JICST provides literature and patent searches as well as translations from Japanese into English and vice-versa. It claims to have about 1,000 collaborating specialists working with its translation service. The prices for translations from Japanese to English for overseas customers are US $48.00 per 1,000 Japanese "letters" (the leaflets say that 1,000 Japanese letters correspond on an average to about 400 English words), including airmail postage. They add a 30% surcharge for rush jobs. The standard delivery time for regular jobs ranges from 15 days (about 2,000 Japanese letters) to 35 days (16,000 letters), and the rush delivery schedule is 12 days. (The prices and delivery schedules for domestic customers are different.) The mailing address of the translation service is:

Marketing Section
C.P.0. Box 1478, Tokyo
100-91 JAPAN

* * *


Now that the LETA-CON has arrived, I will try to make the format of future issues more bilingual. Now you can write for publication in Japanese if you wish.

I would like to hear from readers in Texas. What is going on down there?

Do readers have anything to say about the differences in the translation business between the West Coast and the East Coast? Do you have any comments about the specialist vs. generalist question? And what about sex discrimination against women and the "lousy English" question?

In future issues I would like to do interviews with translators who have interesting viewpoints. The first interview will be with Frederik L. Schodt, author of "Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics" (Kodansha International). Another interview I'd like to do is about Japanese technical translation in the U.S.S.R.

The Japanese-English-Latin glossary of fish names is coming along. Although the first part will be ready for publication soon, the problem is that the complete glossary will be quite lengthy, and I may decide to issue it as a separate publication.

By the way, is gaijin a derogatory, racist word? Am I the only one who always winces whenever I am called that?

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新版:工博 井上寿雄着 「マイコンOA辞典」 B6判 472頁 提栽用語数 4200語 英文索引付 電波新聞社刊 定価2300円

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Let me know if any of you turn up information which might be of interest to professionals working in the field, and I will incorporate it in another issue. Keep those tidbits coming in.

September 14, 1963

Donald L. Philippi
715 Tenth Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 752-7735