Basic Japanese translation lingo: 银联

In your translator travails, you may come across the term 银联, particularly if you’re translating documents for stores, malls, and the like, and it may make you nearly tear your hair out in frustration trying to look up the kanji. That’s because 银联 is not kanji but in fact full-on Chinese. The funny-looking (for a person who studies Japanese) shape of the characters are a big tip off. 银联 is actually UnionPay, China’s home-grown bank card, which more and more Japanese retailers are beginning to accept. Now you should have no problem if they pop up.

Japanese soft drinks: Acerola Soda, Salty Watermelon, and Espressoda

Today I’ll give you a three-fer of Japanese soft drinks. The first is this Acerola Soda, of which I’m quite fond. Acerola is berry, similar to a cherry, which contains the highest amount of vitamin C of any fruit known. Vitamin C content is also a marketing point of this soda. The taste is somewhere in between cherry and watermelon.

 

Next is the new Pepsi flavor for this summer, Salty Watermelon. Pepsi makes a new flavor every summer. In fact, by this point, Salty Watermelon is probably already gone. Japanese food makers love their limited time items, although it makes little sense to me – developing new products takes quite a bit of money, and with the vast majority of limited time items only being sold for a handful of months, often in limited territories, I wonder if they’re making back what they invested. But, anyway, Salty Watermelon soda. Actually, its a very appropriate flavor for a summer-themed drink in Japan. In Japan, its quite common to sprinkle a small amount of salt on watermelon, which contrary to expectations actually make it taste sweeter (this fact is now being picked up in some “life hack” articles). So although it sounds strange now, in a decade or so, it may seem perfectly normal. The taste wasn’t bad, which was surprising to me as I don’t like watermelon in the first place. It was basically as the name described – your standard artificial watermelon flavor with a hint of salt. Actually, it was a lot like a sports drink, which contain salt to help replenish sodium lost during exercise.

Last up is Espressoda, an espresso-flavored soda which tasted absolutely awful to me – but then, I don’t like coffee. My girlfriend described it as tasting like a carbonated coffee candy drop. She felt it was far too sweet. Eventually, after sitting in the fridge for several days, she turned it into coffee-flavored jello which she liked much better.

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Quick translation tip: Felix won’t register a translation

At some later date I’d like to go a bit more into Felix and why I think it’s a great CAT tool, but for now I’ll just share a little point about using Felix.

Are you using Felix with multiple documents and now suddenly Felix isn’t registering translations? Apparently, as I’ve just discovered, if you’re switching between different programs (say, Excel and PowerPoint) and you switch Felix into Review Mode while in one program and, without switching back to Translation Mode in that program, attempt to use Felix in Translation Mode in another program, Felix gets stuck in Review Mode (which can’t register translations – the root of your problem). To fix things, you have to go back to the program you switched Felix into Review Mode and, in that program, switch Felix back to Translation Mode, after which it should register translations in that other program just fine.

For example, I was working on an Excel document and a PowerPoint presentation at the same time with Felix open. While editing the Excel document, I switched Felix into review mode. Then I close the document (and Excel itself) and tried to register a new translation in the PowerPoint presentation (which was still on Translation Mode). However, none of my translations would register and when I tried to switch Felix from Translation Mode to Review Mode and then back again, all I got were error messages. By opening up Excel again and switching Felix back to Translation Mode in Excel, I was also once again able to register translations in PowerPoint (and switch between Review Mode and Translation Mode without getting error messages, after shutting all the programs down and reopening them again).

Quick translation tip: mysterious acronym

Got an acronym that you just can’t find no matter how much you Google it? If you’re working on a document for a company, take another look at who you’re working for – that acronym may just be the company’s name. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to re-learn this lesson (including just a few moments ago). In translation, sometimes the answer is right in front of your face.

Basic Japanese translation lingo: ベタ打ち

There are a few different ways a client might ask for a translation to be delivered; ベタ打ち (betauchi) is one of them. ベタ打ち basically means to type your translation (usually in MS Word) more or less exactly the same as it appears in the source document. This method is only used when the source document is a picture, un-copy-able PDF, or other document format from which the source text cannot simply be copy and pasted (if you have an editable Word file as your source document, for example, you can just write your translation right over the original text, or below it). For example, if a title in the source document is centered and in bold, your translation of that title will be centered and in bold as well.

Where it gets tricky is when you have diagrams and other non-linear forms of text. One way to handle this would be to paste a copy of an image of the diagram in your Word document and place text boxes over the areas to be translated. Text boxes are messy, however, and due to spacing issues and text size, this isn’t always a viable option. I prefer to make a table and try to orient the translations so their relationship to each other approximates how they appear in the original. Sometimes, however, this is just not possible, or at least not practical – there are so many bits of text in so many odd positions in a diagram that even if you turned them into a table, a monolingual editor looking at it will have no idea what’s supposed to go where. In these cases you have to bend the rules a bit. I usually just create a two-columned dictionary table, with each phrase or term from the original document typed on the left and their translation typed on the right. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious or just typing the terms seems insufficient (for example when the same term appears twice or more in the same diagram but, due to context, each instance has to be translated differently), I’ll cut out an image of that term and paste it into the left hand column instead (the Snapshot tool in the free PDF editor PDF-XChange Viewer is a lifesaver here).

What will the end result look like?

Crowdsourced translation and community translation are translation models in which, instead of hiring a professional, you entrust the translation of your content to strangers on the internet. Sounds like the worst idea ever, doesn’t it?

We translated your website for you, Mister.

With community translation, you ask the community of users interested in your content to translate it. It’s a lot like having a bunch of neighborhood kids paint your house. They’re willing to do it for free because it sounds like fun. Of course, they really only have a general idea of how to paint a house, so you’ll have to show them. And provide all the tools and paint. And, even if you tell them you want the walls painted white and the trim red, you’ll probably have to watch them like a hawk and keep reminding them. And take care of the inevitable disputes that arise. And deal with some of the kids getting bored in the middle and leaving, or painting their name on the floor instead of painting your house. And I’m sure you can imagine the clean up you’ll have to do afterwards. And you’ll probably have to do the tricky areas yourself or hire a professional to do them, anyway.

Crowdsourced translation is similar to the above, only instead of asking people at least interested in your content, you relegate the translation of your content to a mass of completely uninterested and poorly paid amateurs, “volunteers,” or even just machines. It’s like the above, only paying slightly less than what a professional painter costs to hire a company that uses kids from a couple towns over and pays them 10 cents an hour.

Whether you hire a professional or let the neighborhood kids paint your house, it’ll get done one way or another. The question is, what will the end result look like?

Crowdsourcing translation – worst idea ever

Comic Book Guy thinks crowdsourcing translation is a terrible idea.

A recent article on Business Insider provided by some company called Smartling suggests crowdsourcing the translation of your website.

I particularly like that the page title reads “An Easy Way for Businesses to Get People To Translate Their Websites For Free.” As even their own infographic indicates, crowdsourcing involves significantly more work (and subsequently money) than just hiring a professional.

Trust the translation of your website to random strangers on the internet and spend more money and effort in the process?

As Comic Book Guy would say, worst idea ever.

First, you’ll need to hire people just to create that crowdsourcing infrastructure. Presumably, Smartling would recommend itself for this job. You then need people, either internally or provided by a company that believes you should trust your company’s website to strangers on the internet, to monitor submissions, control quality, and provide technical support. Smartling itself also recommends hiring or establishing a team of reviewers, involving professional translators, and creating style guides and glossaries. In other words, a significant amount of time and effort to utilize the work of the average Joe Schmoe on the internet, who may get tired or bored in the middle of the project, who has little interest or incentive in reading all those style guides you created, who bears no responsibility for what they are providing regardless of whether it’s trash (most likely) or treasure. All so that you end up with a website that looks like it was translated by a first year language student (because it was) and users who are disgruntled either because their translation wasn’t used, they’re not getting paid for all the effort they put in, or the translations are terrible (which, again, they will be). For example, everybody (who isn’t using the English language interface) complains about Facebook’s crowd-translated interfaces.

And let’s not put the cart before the horse. Unless you’re a gigantic, Facebook-sized social website, it’s unlikely you have the community of users needed to even attempt to implement this flawed idea.

Compare this to hiring a translator. You give the translator your documents. The translator translates them, doing all the research necessary in a professional manner and re-writing your copy to the best of their ability to make sure your website’s as beautiful in another language as it is in the original (if not more so), because that’s how a translator gets paid and that’s how any translator worth their salt takes pride in their work. The only effort on your part will be answering a few questions from the translator, putting the files they provide you on the internet, and, of course, paying said translator.

One other supposed disadvantage of professional translators, Smartling argues, goes as follows:

Twitter uses the word “unfollow” to label the button that stops following another account. If you ask an LSP to translate this they will likely return a phrase such as “Nicht mehr folgen” in German. If you ask a translator (or linguist) directly they will probably point out that “unfollow” isn’t a word. Twitter’s language is very informal in English and community translation has helped us keep that playful tone in every language (even the ungrammatical “Entfolgen” in German).

In other words, translators are apparently robots. “Error! Error! Ungrammatical phrase! That does not compute!” What makes random internet users any more likely to come up “Entfolgen” than a professional writer/translator? In reality, the reverse of the above situation is more likely. While your average bilingual on the internet may be able to understand and express themselves in two languages, a professional translator makes their living both through language and writing. A professional translator plumbs the very depths of their native and working languages, keeps up to date on the latest trends in the fields they work in, and hones their writing skills so they can provide the best possible product to their customers. The average bilingual person is far more likely to translate something literally, while a proper professional translator will reflect on the cultural background to the piece their working on, the intended audience, and how best to express the piece in the target language.

Pay for professionalism or pay (however you want to take that) for amateurism – the choice is yours.

Japanese soft drinks: rice-based soda

Summer is the season for new Japanese soft drinks, with quite a few seemingly just spit-balling, such as the eel-based soda from a few years ago. Today I give you 三代目米づくり (Sandaime-komezukuri, roughly, “third-generation rice cultivation”). As the name indicates, it’s a rice-based carbonated beverage produced by Japan Tobacco, which makes a surprising number of drinks for a tobacco company. In addition to saccharified rice flour, it’s made with sweetened condensed milk, giving it a flavor similar to Calpis, which to me tastes like crushed-up Smarties melted in water. Take that as you will.

Becoming a freelance translator in Japan: Notifying the tax office

*First, let it be duly noted that I am not a tax accountant or any sort of legal authority. All information provided below is for reference only. Please be sure to confirm the appropriateness of any and all actions you may take based on the information provided here with an appropriate authority.

 

While I have heard and read about what one should do, legally speaking, when becoming a freelance translator in other countries, I have not yet seen anything that covers becoming a freelance translator (or any other kind of freelancer) in Japan. In fact, it is exceedingly simple and painless. All you are required to do is file a single document, 個人事業の開業・廃業等届出書 (available here) with your local tax office (税務署; find the one nearest you here) declaring that you are starting your own business. There is no need to obtain a business license, tax number, etc.

Actually, like many laws in Japan, although you are “required” to file this document, there are no punishments for failing to do so. However, 1) you should do it because you are a good citizen, 2) it’s incredibly easy to file (see below), and 3) filing it enables you to enter the money you earn translating as business income (営業所得) on your tax return rather than as miscellaneous income (雑所得扱). It’s also required if you want to file the fabled blue tax return (青色申告), which offers all sorts of benefits for business owners but looks to be a real pain to file, so I’m not bothering with it for now (learn more from this pamphlet here).

You’re also supposed to file it within one month of starting your business but, again, there are no punishments for filing it later than this.

Click to view large version.

Anyway, as I said, filing the 個人事業の開業・廃業等届出書 is easy. The following instructions assume you are (or will be) a freelance translator operating out of your home and have no employees. I’ve provided an example form on the right. Click to enlarge.

First, in the 納税地 section, circle 住所地 and fill in your address and phone number. A cell phone number is fine. Next, since your “office” and home are the same, skip the next section (上記以外の住所地・事業所等) and fill in your name, circle your sex, and write in your birthday using the Japanese year system in the appropriate boxes. Don’t forget to add your seal (a signature may be acceptable as well – check with your local tax office). In the 職業 section, write “翻訳者.”

In the 届出の区分 section, circle 開業 at the top. The address line below that is only used when you move, so there’s no need to fill that in (conversely, should you move, you have to refile this document with your new address; you also have to file it again should you stop your work as a freelance translator and “close” your business, hence the 廃業 part). Below the address line, circle 新設 to indicate that you are opening a new office.

Skip down four sections to the section called 開業・廃業に従う届出書の提出の有無. There are two sub-sections here: 「青色申告承認申請書」又は「青色申告の取りやめる届出書, which concerns the application to use the blue tax return; and 消費税に関する「課税事業者選択届出書」又は「事業廃止届出書」, which is for consumption tax exempt businesses that wish to be taxed regularly. For both subsections, circle 無 (unless you want to do the whole blue tax return thing, in which case, consult with a staff member at the tax office first).

Lastly, in the 事業の概要 section, write “自宅で翻訳を行っています。.” That’s it!

Now all you have to do is give it to one of the staff at the main reception desk in your local tax office. They’ll stamp it and probably offer to give you a copy, as well. They won’t even ask to see your ID or visa status. There’s also no need to confirm anything – you’re all done! Just don’t forget to keep records of all your income and business expenses and file your tax return on time.

Deleting that pesky comment field from your WordPress pages

How about a little WordPress tip for today? If you’re using a WordPress to run your site like I am and want to remove the comment field from the pages other than your blog, just do the following.

On your WordPress admin page, click on “Appearance,” then “Editor”. In the Editor page, click on the “Page Template” from among the templates listed on the right-hand side. You are now editing the basic template used to make the pages on your WordPress site. Find the code that reads:

<?php comments_template( ”, true ); ?>


and change it to this:

<?php// comments_template( ”, true ); ?>

Do you see the difference? You just add two forward slashes after “<?php”. That’s the line of code that adds comment fields to your pages. Putting those two slashes in turns that code into a comment (not the comment field we were just talking about; a comment in the code instead of the actual code itself), which WordPress then doesn’t use when building the page, effectively turning comment fields “off” for regular pages. Comments on your blog posts, however, will still remain. After you add those two slashes, make sure to click the “Update File” button below the Editor window. If you ever want those comment fields back (though I don’t know why you’d want to enable people to comment on your welcome page, etc.), just go back to the Page Template in the Editor and delete those two slashes.