Previously I wrote about the stereotypes in my Japanese class. But now I’d like to focus on two rather egregious mistakes that people in my class have made. Hopefully other people who are learning Japanese will gain something from this (and if you’re in my class, perhaps you’d like to stop making these mistakes. Also, how did you find this post?)
The first is the use of daisuki – 大好き. Students are taught that the word means ‘love’, and while that’s true, it’s a rather strong word and really shouldn’t be used for describing how much you like Japanese food or something like that. (Also that makes you sound like a weeaboo.) Suki (好き) is a much better word to use in most situations. It still carries the same feeling of like or love, but with somewhat less emphasis. ‘Enamored’ probably isn’t a good translation for either word listed here, but the difference between suki and daisuki is perhaps the relative difference between ‘like’ and ‘enamored’. Oh, and as a side note, aisuru (愛する) and its more common weeaboo form aishiteru, is also on the same relative level as daisuki. Unless you’re writing a love song or a J-drama, you probably shouldn’t use it.
Second, let’s talk about the word koibito (恋人). A decent translation of the word would be “lover”, but it carries a fairly strong connotation. As such, when you’re talking to the class about what you did with your boyfriend this weekend, koibito is definitely not the right word to use. You would never say, “My lover and I went to brunch” or something like that, unless you’re a weirdo. Or maybe you’ve watched far too much anime where they use the word, so you thought that was what was natural in conversation. It isn’t. In these circumstances you would use kare (彼) for your boyfriend or kanojo (彼女) for your girlfriend.
Oh, and just as a side note, don’t pronounce the su at the end of verbs. You come off as a huge tool.
November 11th, 2010 - Posted in japanese
So you want to be a Japanese translator, eh? Is your dream to move to Japan and get a job translating video games/manga/anime – or, better yet, doing interpretation for businessmen? Then you should check the flowchart below to see if you can handle it.
Look, I’m going to be honest. The grim reality is that you will almost certainly never be a Japanese translator. For one, your Japanese isn’t good enough, and it probably won’t be. It requires a truly immense amount of studying, and you have to be nearly fluent both in terms of grammar and incredibly obscure vocabulary. And passing the JLPT doesn’t matter, unless you pass 2kyuu (actually, probably 1kyuu) or higher – and even then you’re probably not going to get it. The fact is that, unfortunately, being Japanese is really the main way to be a translator. There are nuances of Japanese culture that they don’t teach you in class, and having them be innate is a huge leg up.
I was at a talk tonight, and they had a Japanese interpreter. She did a really great job, in terms of speed, efficiency and accuracy. But – and here’s the thing – she was Japanese. I mean, my guess is that she was Japanese-American, and that basically puts her ahead of all the other non-Japanese vying for that position.
So… sorry. Maybe you can do translations for your manga group on the Internet, but that won’t help you in the real world. It’ll earn you some weeaboo credibility, but that’s about it.
There’s an essay online about learning Japanese and, in part, the people who take classes like that. It’s from the early ages of the Internet, but it’s still wholly relevant. I currently take Japanese classes here in New York (at a fairly advanced level) but there are still stereotypes, so I thought I’d write about them. Keep in mind that the average person in the class is somewhere between 20 and 35.
- The recent repatriate. This is the person who just got back from spending somewhere between several months and one hundred years in Japan, so they know everything about everything in Japanese culture, both past and present. Their answers are always overly verbose and end up going on tangents about that one time they were in that one place and saw some really crazy thing. Also, despite having recently gotten back from Japan, they’re still not as fluent as they think.
- The future expatriate. This person is ready to get out of the U.S. and go to Glorious Nippon, where they will undoubtedly immediately be given a job, a beautiful apartment, and a Japanese girlfriend. These classes are just a way for them to get up to the level where they’ll be perfectly fluent and can then go over.
- Still Otaku. Despite easier classes usually weeding out the otaku who realize that they can’t take one session’s worth of classes and translate manga, some still manage to make it through, and their geekdom becomes concentrated at higher levels. They know all the weird aspects of Japanese subcultures and are not afraid to let you and everyone else know it. The Still Otaku archetype often spends half an hour describing the awkward subject they’ve brought up, and are immune to your facepalming.
- The Engrish Master. Despite being in a class to learn Japanese, there are still people who insist on speaking English. These people often raise their hands to answer a question, but then go totally blank, get frustrated because they can’t really elucidate their point, and then have to ask in English for that one word that means something really obscure. Or they’ll try to speak some hybrid of Japanese and English, where most of the words that have actual meaning are English.
- The Know-it-all. In earlier levels there are people who think they really have a grasp on the language but don’t; in the higher levels, there are people who really do know everything. When you pause to think of a word, they’ll jump right in and explain what you’re trying to say, much to your chagrin. These people also have a level of smugness where they know that they’re at the top of the class, having clearly understood the Japanese concept of humility.
- Captain Overshare. We’re often asked to describe situations, and they can be personal stories. But Captain Overshare has no problem telling that one really awkward story about how they had a walk of shame back from the Upper East Side or something. There can be overlap between this group and the otaku guy class.
- The deer in headlights. They’ve somehow made it (read: paid) through the levels, but they’re still lost in the discussions. “What are some examples where you feel rushed?” “Um, er, well.. yes. If you were… yes, that’s right.” This sort of person usually doesn’t speak up unless specifically called on, and then your class will drag while they putter around.
- The old guy. Sort of a subclass of the recent repatriate, the old guy spent a bit of time in Japan some time ago and has more or less forgotten everything, but they’re trying to work their way back up. Admirable, maybe, but they can also end up being deer in headlights.
Now obviously there are regular people who took the language in school and want to maintain their comprehension, or maybe they use Japanese for work. But they’re usually few and far between.