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English Books in Japan

Dark Gami

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Everywhere you hear stuff about how bad Japanese people are with learning English and about all the spelling mistakes they make, etc. Personally I don't think they can be that bad at learning it, but my question is: what are the ods of success of releasing in Japan a book written in English?
 

JimmySeal

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I don't really know what it's like in Tokyo since I live way out in the country, but I'd estimate that considerably less than 1% of the population of Japan regularly reads books in English.


I'd say that the Japanese are worse at teaching English than they are at learning it, and it's a self-repeating cycle.
 

GaijinPunch

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I would say way less than 1%. Just a hunch I'm pulling out of my ***, but maybe 1% of those that actively and seriously study English attempt to read a book in said language. Probably 1% of those understand it.
 

Glenn

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So you're talking about .001% of Japanese people would buy, read, and understand a book in English?
 

Dark Gami

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Hmmm... Considering this it would be better to have it translated into Japanese and then published there...
Which are the types of novels that sell best in Japan? Love stories, fantasy, mystery, police novels, others (which?)? Which ones?
 

JimmySeal

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So you're talking about .001% of Japanese people would buy, read, and understand a book in English?

I think you misinterpreted GaijinPunch's post, but I could be wrong. It does look like he said what you said he said. In my observation, most Japanese, even the ones who go around saying "I want to learn English" don't make the logical connection that reading books would improve one's English, and stick to gimmicks like the English Asahi Times. I'm sure that if Japanese English Teachers read a book now and then they would speak more natural English and probably realize that lecture-style isn't the best way to teach it either.
 

pipokun

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Hideo Levy translated manyoshu and write novels in Japanese.
Arthur Binard, a poet, writes waka and poem in Japanese and refuses to be a henna gaijin. He is writing essays in Web Japan.
Richard Collasse, President of Chanel KK, wrote his novel in the Japanese shishosetsu style.

窶「ツ≫?凖岩?堙固ステ。ナステ停?堋ェナ暖窶佚堕渉ャツ静?ツ ニ遅ニ湛ニ暖ニ短ニ停?ーツー窶堙?窶伉アツ々
ツ催ャ窶ーテ?スu窶転窶堙??堙?窶堙遺?堋「窶「ツ≫?凖岩?堙固ステ。ナステ停?堋ス窶堋ソ窶堋ェニ単ツーニ耽ニ辰窶堙?鞘?倪?堋「窶堋スツ渉ャツ静?窶堋ゥ窶堙ァツ、ツ絶?敖十窶毒凪?「窶昶?堙姑遅ニ湛ニ暖ニ短ニ停?ーツー窶堋ェ窶伉アツ々窶堙?青カ窶堙懌?堙ェ窶堙??堋「窶堙ゥツ。
Moble phones of ordinary young guys creates tons of best-selling novels.
http://www.asahi.com/culture/news_culture/TKY200702100253.html
If you intend to write your keitai novels, I think you can find lots of gold mines in love stories. So far, I've never heard of non-Japanese keitai novelists yet.
 

GaijinPunch

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So you're talking about .001% of Japanese people would buy, read, and understand a book in English?
Well, that really depends on your definition of
1) Read
2) Understand
Also depends on how many Japanese people actively study English (could be 1%, but I don't know). Back in my teaching days, I had a few students that bought and read books. Never had one that finished it, or got much out of chapter 1.

I would simply suggest looking the number of English books on newstands across the country and online, compared to Japanese ones.
 
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I always suggest to the students I tutor to read a book in their native language and then read it in English. I do this myself. To brush up on my French reading comprehension, I'm reading Le Seigneur des Anneaux (a.k.a. The Lord of the Rings) French translation by LeDeaux, which is good since I've already read it about 10 times in English during my lifetime.

So, I suggest to students who've read Harry Potter or The DaVinci Code in Korean, Japanese, or Spanish, to pick up the original English versions and read them. But I wouldn't suggest this for someone who a) isn't very interested in the book or b) hasn't already read it in their native tongue beforehand, because all it is going to do is frustrate you. But so long as you fit those two criteria, it is an excellent way to improve your skill in any language.
 

Dark Gami

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From what I get from this it's not a very good ideea to publish a book in English in Japan... Well, I guess I can always translate it and publish it in Japanese once my knowledge of this language improves to a decent level...

But what about the types of novels that are successful in Japan? Which types are the most apreciated? Fantasy, action, love novels, which ones?
 

senseiman

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I spent about 5 years teaching English in Japan. I would guess I had at least a thousand students over that stretch of time and I can only think of 3 who actually read an English novel while I was teaching them. I would imagine more than 3 read a book in English which I didn't know about but I'm guessing the number would be 1% of the total. And that is 1% total out of students studying English, so the figure for the Japanese population at large has got to be way less than that.

The other thing too is that even of that small number of Japanese who do read English books the number of English books they purchase and read over their lifetime is going to be way less than the number of English books a native speaker who enjoyed reading would purchase. Most would probably just read one or two for the experience.

If you go to a bookstore in Japan most of the major chains like Junkudo and Maruzen have half-decent selections of English books. But the vast majority of the people who purchase these are foreigners and not Japanese.
 

Samraiwise

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Reading, when it comes to learning English, unlike speaking and writing, requires no one but yourself.

Though I love English novels, since childhood I have found Japanese translations from English novels available at bookstores are poor collections of cryptic lingoes at best.
So that was one of the reasons I started to learn English, to read English novels in its original language.
I know five people at my work place other than me who read English and two who read French books, all are over forty years old, but we seldom talk about books we read except when we have drinks.
Maybe reading Foreign language books is more a private thing here in Japan than people thought. *shrug*

Or young Japanese people are too busy playing with Keitai(cell phone) or internet to read books, whether written in English or not.
Either way, personally I want to believe there'd be more Japanese people like us than 1%.

P.S. I always love Steven King, Tom Clancy, R. A. Salvatore, John Grisham, J. R. R. Tolkien, Star Trek series
I once loved, Robert Ludlum, John Le Carre, Craig Thomas, Frederick Forsyth, Arthur C. Clarke, R. A. Heinlein, Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, John Saul, Anne Rice, Robin Cook, P. Cornwell, J.K. Rowling, etc.

Unintentionally revealing my age... :p
 
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GaijinPunch

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Well, I guess I can always translate it and publish it in Japanese once my knowledge of this language improves to a decent level...

Actually, you can't... not w/o help. Technically I think you have to be a native speaker of the langauge you're speaking INTO. I've done a few things in Japanese, but am always the first to admit I'm not qualified.
 

Glenn

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If only Japanese companies had that same attitude about English.
 

JimmySeal

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Actually, you can't... not w/o help. Technically I think you have to be a native speaker of the langauge you're speaking INTO. I've done a few things in Japanese, but am always the first to admit I'm not qualified.

Although not far from the truth, I think that's a bit pessimistic. I believe there is no reason someone cannot translate something into a second language as skillfully as a native-speaker translator though it surely does require tremendously more ability than translating into one's first language. I think Murakami and Keene work without translators, but surely have editors and proofreaders.

Still, Glenn's comment is very valid. If only Japanese "translators" would recognize their own shortcomings. But then again, money doesn't grow on trees and translating things "well enough" probably saves a lot of cash.
 

GaijinPunch

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Well, I wish anyone luck that wants to translate from their native langauge to their non-native. It will take a tremendous grasp of the langauge, and yes, proofreaders. I know one guy that is a non-native English speaker that can translate into English, but only b/c his wife will go over it before he submits it.
 
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If only Japanese companies had that same attitude about English.
Final Fantasy Tactics.

GaijinPunch said:
Well, I wish anyone luck that wants to translate from their native langauge to their non-native.
People have been doing this with Latin for centuries. Hence, Church, Medieval, and Renaissance Latin is not the same as Ciceronian Latin.
 

GaijinPunch

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Latin != Japanese (although I didn't flat out say it in my previous post)
 

JerseyBoy

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When I was in a senior high in Japan, I used to go to Kinokuniya to get some English books. I read several C. Dickens' novels, along with the contemporary non-fiction/fiction books. I read too many of those books and my Japanese started getting some "English" accent (not directly from books; but, rather from the short wave radio programs from BBC and VOA).

I am one of those people who don't trust "translation." I prefer reading, listening,and understanding issues discussed in that native language. When an extra filter of translation gets in the way, the subtle nuances could be affected through translation.
 

Glenn

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Final Fantasy Tactics.

I find it very strange that that was translated by the Japanese branch of the company and not the North American branch. Why would they do that? I mean, there's the whole other section of the company that could handle it; it's not like they would have had to hire a native English speaking translator themselves. Or so I assume.

Jersey Boy said:
I am one of those people who don't trust "translation." I prefer reading, listening,and understanding issues discussed in that native language. When an extra filter of translation gets in the way, the subtle nuances could be affected through translation.

I almost completely agree. I'd much rather get something in the source language, but I don't not trust translation. If a translation is said to be good by people who know, then I trust it, but I'd still rather get it in the source language if I can understand that language.
 

GaijinPunch

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I mean, there's the whole other section of the company that could handle it; it's not like they would have had to hire a native English speaking translator themselves.

B/c the company rarely, if ever, handles it. Translations are outsourced to professional translation houses. I can't imagine Square, no matter how big, being any different.
 

Glenn

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Which makes it extremely odd that that game would be riddled with wrong translations and Engrish that render the game nearly unplayable due to incomprehensibility. That must mean that they sent it to a professional translation house that has only Japanese people who translate to English, but don't know English all that well. It's still baffling.
 
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Which makes it extremely odd that that game would be riddled with wrong translations and Engrish that render the game nearly unplayable due to incomprehensibility. That must mean that they sent it to a professional translation house that has only Japanese people who translate to English, but don't know English all that well. It's still baffling.
I wouldn't say it's unplayable, but it is darn difficult to get the gist of the notes and backstory. Most of the actual cut-scenes and in-game dialogue are pretty decently translated. It's all of the extra stuff that makes the game understandable that is impossible to get past.

GaijinPunch said:
Latin != Japanese
I know Latin does not equal Japanese. I was just trying to illustrate how not knowing a language from birth inhibits your ability to effectively use it in writing, especially when translating into it. Hence, the "evolution" of Latin, technically a dead language when it was still being widely used (or misused) for centuries. Everyone used to write it during the medieval and renaissance eras, but it wasn't anyone's native tongue. Hence, anyone translating their work into Latin wouldn't be as natural and idiomatically correct as Roman writing in his native-born tongue... just like an English-speaker trying to write in Japanese or vice-versa.
 

GaijinPunch

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Which makes it extremely odd that that game would be riddled with wrong translations and Engrish that render the game nearly unplayable due to incomprehensibility.
Call me a dinosaur. But I'm at a stage now where I think games that require more than 3 buttons and a digital arcade stick are overkill. Analogue? Me. As such, I hate Square. :)

Anyways, might be interesting to know I have an acquaintance that translates for a living. Kind of weird setup I think. He's mainly a contractor, not working for any company, but one of his main clients is Capcom. He did Onimusha, amongst other games. He lives in Tokyo, so I'm sure there's quite a few games whose localizations are actually done in Japan.
 
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