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.

For the last time, Tokyo is not a city

HR consulting firm Mercer recently released their 2012 cost of living ranking for cities, and the “city” of Tokyo is ranked as the most expensive city to live in in the world. Of course, the survey is based on the cost of living for a (Western) expat who likes his Western-style comforts, making comparisons with Western nations rather fuzzy, but fair enough.

The real problem here is that Tokyo is not a city. Tokyo is a prefecture – a state/province/administrative district encompassing several cities. True, a city called Tokyo once existed, but it was merged with the prefecture of Tokyo in 1943.

So what, exactly, does Mercer mean when it says Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in in the World? Perhaps they are referring to the 23 special wards of Tokyo, which occupy the area where the old city of Tokyo existed and which are basically administered as independent cities. Even so – which one?

The lack of due diligence on the part of foreign media on this most basic of facts is astonishing. Even articles which acknowledge the existence Tokyo’s wards, such as this one, still refer to Tokyo as a city. For the last time, Tokyo is not a city and has not been one for 69 years and counting.

Basic Japanese translation tips: Titles, names, “法律”

Needless to say, Japanese is a difficult language to translate into English. Just one of the many reasons for this difficulty is that generally there’s nothing to indicate that the title of a book, document, etc. is actually a title in a written Japanese text. Occasionally, titles are encased in quotes (「」), but this is usually only the case of book titles or other media, and even then not only is this rare, but quotes are also often used just to add emphasis.

Documents from large companies are often littered with references to other official documents, manuals, and applications. Often, these documents will already have an official English title. If you are in doubt as to where a particular block of text is a title or not, it’s best just to contact the client or agency you received the document from. At the very least, leave a translator’s note in the form of a comment in Word, etc., indicating your uncertainty and providing two separate translations (one that can be used if the highlighted text is an official title and one that can be used if it’s just a general phrase).

One type of title that is particularly easy to overlook if you haven’t encountered them before is the name of laws. Take, for example, “資源の有効な利用の促進に関する法律.” At first glance, this may look like a general phrase about “laws concerning the promotion of the effective utilization of resources,” but actually, it’s the name of a law which would be more properly translated as the “Act on the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources.” (part of the tip off that this is the name of a law could be the stiffness of the phrase, but sometimes the style of the document is just as stiff).

The official source for “unofficial” English translations of Japanese law names is theJapanese Law Translation website operated by the Japanese government (from which the above translation comes). Any time you see the word “法律,” treat it with a modicum of caution and plug it and the phrase proceeding it into the site. Often, however, laws are referred to by common names shorter than the full, official title used by Japanese Law Translation, which frequently fails to recognize the shorter version. Even if you don’t get a hit on that site, it’s often a good idea to also try the excellent dictionary composite site Weblio or even just do a regular Google search to be safe.

As you should be well aware if you are a current or aspiring Japanese translator, Japanese personal names are simply impossible to translate without help. Even the characters used in common names can be pronounced multiple ways, never mind the increasingly creative pronunciations and character combinations given to the names of members of younger generations. Further, even if you are verbally told the pronunciation, you still need to know the correct romanization, since several romanization systems are currently in use. In a best case scenario, your client will provide you with a list of all personal names appearing in the document as well as their proper romanization before the project starts. If you didn’t get such a list in advance and run into a name you didn’t notice before accepting the assignment, email the client. If the client is difficult to reach or has specified so, you could also leave personal names untranslated with translator’s notes attached to each indicating the need to fill in its romanization. If you are working with a big company and they have a website that is available in both English and Japanese, you can try searching for pages on their site that contain the Japanese name and then look for the matching English page. If the site itself does not have a search engine, you can search their site from Google by first searching for the term you are looking for, clicking the gear button on the right side of the search results page and selecting “Advanced search,” and then typing the address of the site you wish to search in the “site or domain” field on the advanced search page.

Unfortunately, however, most Japanese companies do not translate every page on their website, instead offering a sort of mini version of their site in English. In that case, you can try searching their site for the Japanese name and looking for other relevant information about the person such as their job title or projects they worked on. Then search the English site using probable pronunciations of the person’s name, taking care to match any hits you find with the information you discovered about the person when searching the Japanese site. Even if this method yields results, always attach a translator’s note. Especially in the case of personal names, there’s nothing wrong with asking the client to check your information; as mentioned above, it’s simply impossible to know the pronunciation or preferred romanization of personal names without being explicitly informed of them.

Possible pronunciations of names can be found by searching with Weblio, but I find usingFirefox with the Rikaichan add-on and a blank text entry field such as this one is much more flexible and faster as well.

Bug hunt

One of my hobbies, and I wouldn’t go so far as to gussy it up with the word ‘entomology,’ is bug hunting. I’ve never really bug hunted in Japan before so in preparation for the summer I recently went out and bought a bug identification book, magnifying glass, bug cage, and skimmer net (the kind used for aquariums – I couldn’t find any ‘official’ bug nets that weren’t ginormous and, despite this being a hobby that is conducted in public, I like to keep my geekiness on the downlow as much as possible, so a net that can at least be hidden in a bag or some such when not in use is a must). Today I took all this out for a little test spin. Pictures and info after the break. Needless to say, don’t click on the link if you’re squeamish about insects. Continue reading

‘Leading linguist’ says mediocre communication is our future

According to a recent article in the Telegraph, ’leading linguist’ Nicolas Ostler has stated that English as a lingua franca will soon die out, to be replaced not by a new language of trade but rather by machine translation. I have no qualms with the premise that English will eventually cease to be the ‘global language.’ Languages, like people and civilizations themselves, eventually pass away. However, as I posted just a short time ago, I don’t see machine translation truly becoming ‘translation,’ mainly because without a true brain behind the wheel, it is quite literally impossible to accurately translate any sort of content. Of course, many people are pushing for the machine translation revolution, Google included. Unfortunately, however, without true artificial intelligence powering your machine translation, all you end up with is garbage data that gives you a vague idea of what the original content actually said, usually with mixed up negatives and literal translations of figurative expressions that can lead to serious consequences when used for actual communication purposes. Google Translate is the state of the art in the field and even theyadmit both that it’s just about reached its limit and should only be used for gisting, not actual communication. In other words, the ‘future’ of inter-language communication according to Ostler and others is already here and that future is mediocre at best, dangerous at worst. To give you a taste of this ‘glorious’ future, I’ve taken the liberty of translating this article into Japanese and back again using Google and posted the result below.


According to a recent article in the Telegraph, hostler Nicholas scholars “major languages” is not in the new language of trade English as a common language is not to soon be replaced by machine translation rather, there is to go extinct said that the funnel. English is the language I no pangs of conscience with the premise. “Global language”, as people and civilization itself, and eventually passes away to cease to be final. But I have posted a little while ago, I if there is no true brain behind the wheel, the main reason is literally impossible to convert any sort of content precisely, the machine translation it does not appear in the ‘translation’ really. Of course, it contains a lot of people are promoting the revolution of machine translation, and Google. However, without the need for true artificial intelligence unfortunately, to supply power to the machine translation of your After all, it is garbage data, or a literal of figurative expression may lead to negative is usually mixed when used for the purposes of the actual communication serious consequences give you an idea of what vague translation, the original content of what you said actually. Google Translate, and even a state-of-the-art field, they both admit that should be used to create only the gist of it is not only the actual communication, have about reached the limit. In other words, According to the hostler, “future” of inter-language communication, where its future is a commonplace in critical condition, the best of the worst already. In order to give you a taste of the future “of glory” this to you, I will use again and Japan, Google has posted the following results, a letter of translating this article.

If true machine translation becomes a reality, everybody (not just translators) is screwed

The only way I see true, usable-for-any-situation MT becoming a reality would be with the invention of true AI. Translating meaning necessitates understanding and understanding necessitates consciousness. Especially with context – in Japanese, whole passages can go by without the subject being explicitly stated, which works fine and dandy for Japanese but makes it impossible to accurately translate it into English on a sentence-by-sentence basis.

However, even if we ever managed to create a true, human level (or beyond) AI, would we use it just to translate some random financial documents? Assuming that a true AI can be created, I see two possibilities as to its nature: either each AI is unique and has to be ‘grown’ through experience like a living person or you can make unlimited copies of the AI and run it on any computer that has the CPU muscle to power it like any other piece of software. If it ends up being the first possibility, it will be far too precious to use for ‘mere’ translation and far too expensive to make it profitable even if you did. If it ends up being the second possibility, that AI plus some general-purpose robot bodies (like the Honda Asimo already in existence) means that virtually every person on the planet will be out of a job and we’ll either enter a sci-fi paradise where people only work for pleasure or most of the world’s population will instantly be out of a job and revert to a literal hunter-gatherer existence to survive on the outskirts of Detroit et. al. while the handful of CEOs that run the robot and AI companies live a cushy existence until their eventual overthrow by their cybernetic slaves.

Even if an AI is doing the translating, you’d need to equip it with many of the same tools a human translator needs, like internet access to research new terms and confirm terminology use (as language is constantly evolving, especially in technical fields) and even a phone line so it could confirm, for example, names of businesses that have no website, which is a big concern in Japanese and other languages that use a writing system not descended from Latin. Or you could just have it email those names to you so you can confirm them. Not deal-breakers, to be sure, but that AI translator starts to have the same concerns and drawbacks that a human translator has, though presumably it would work like a slave for free once you bought or rented it.

My ultimate concern, though, would be whether you could truly trust this AI, especially with sensitive information. What if it got hacked? Your company could lose all of its trade secrets in one blow because everything was being funneled through the AI for translation and all of that data was sitting in the AIs files for future reference. Further, how can you be absolutely sure that it’s translating everything correctly? Of course, human translators make mistakes as well, but how do you check the machine’s translations? With a human translator? With another, but different AI? And then there’s the fact that it’s just not a human intelligence -it’s not using a human brain, evolved over countless generation to have specific features that operate within a fairly definite range even between different people. It would be using software and a computer, or maybe a specialized device designed to facilitate AI, to operate. Either way, that’s not a human brain and it’s not going to think exactly like a human. If you give it its freedom and allow it to build trust like any living person – by working and not screwing up and holding it accountable for its action when it does – that’s one thing. But trusting what is effectively an alien slave is probably not something a lot of companies would want to do when faced with the reality.

But I should stop now that I’m neck-deep in science fiction. I think Steve Vitek said it quite eloquently, however, on his blog when he asked “Do you think that it is possible to create software, similar to machine translation software, that would write steamy romance novels that women would actually be buying and reading?”

From bacon and Obama to AKB48

I have no idea if this applies to all Android phones, but at the very least on the old Samsung Galaxy S: Episode I I’m using, I can choose to set my language and location to, for example, the United States or Japan, but I can’t set my language to English and my location to Japan or the opposite. Not that it really matters; I can work in either language just fine. However, assuming this is how it works for all Android phones, or even just the Galaxy S, I wonder what people do in Switzerland, or virtually anywhere in Africa? Considering both the large number of multilingual countries and the general trend of increasingly multilingual users (see for example this survey that indicates the majority of internet users search in more than one language), it seems to me that location and language should be separate settings.

Having just this morning re-switched my location back to Japan after an extended period of being “located” in the U.S., I opened my Google+ feed only to find that that the posts in the What’s Hot section have gone from being by Barack Obama and about bacon (oh, how American!) to being 90% teen idol girl group AKB48 (oh how Japanese!). I will tell you this, however – it’s nice not seeing the empty platitudes in the image quotes posted by the self-proclaimed Funny Images. Nope, from here on out it’s all AKB48 platitudes.

I also re-discovered why I had switched my location to America in the first place. With my location set to the states, search results came back in English when I searched in English and in Japanese when I searched in Japanese. Now whenever I use Google from my phone, Japanese language results are given precedence, no matter what language I search in, which is rather inconvenient. I guess from now on I’ll be switching several times a day to get the best of both worlds.