What's new

Welcome to Japan Reference (JREF) - the community for all Things Japanese.

Join Today! It is fast, simple, and FREE!

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

Translation of phrases

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,257
The chances that a modern Japanese-American could read a clearly printed article in a modern newspaper in modern Japanese are low enough. The chances that one could even make out the characters from a handwritten brush-and-ink 18th century diary are a big fat zero. Even if they could figure out the characters, the chances they could understand the text at all are still pretty much zero. This is something they would have to hire someone to do for them. You'd have as much luck reading hieroglyphics.
 

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
The chances that a modern Japanese-American could read a clearly printed article in a modern newspaper in modern Japanese are low enough. The chances that one could even make out the characters from a handwritten brush-and-ink 18th century diary are a big fat zero. Even if they could figure out the characters, the chances they could understand the text at all are still pretty much zero. This is something they would have to hire someone to do for them. You'd have as much luck reading hieroglyphics.

I agree with you, and that is why the Japanese American character in the modern day has to enlist the aid of a professor of the language of the time (Lisa Okamoto in the novel). He is able to read the journal of Shimazu because Shimazu (aka as William Couch in the British army) has mastered English as well as his native tongue. Henry Yamaguchi (the Japanese American in modern times) can clearly read Shimazu's journal, which details the stunning account of George Washington (that's a plot point that is resolved later). But reading the book of Shimazu's wife, which is entirely written in 18th century Japanese, is something Henry can not do. That's is where the Japanese prof comes in to translate, and interpret symbolic meanings as well.

From the novel's point of view, it is at 112,017 words. Less than 80 of those words are Japanese, so it's just a few words and simple phrases I seek. Thanks again for you suggestions!

I'm not talking about "vertical writing vs. horizontal writing". Classical and modern Japanese are different in vocabulary, grammar such like conjugation of verbs/adjectives/auxiliary verbs, functions of particles, the word order, or many other things, as I listed in my previous post. For instance, 私 was never used as a male first-person pronoun in that era.
As for the title of books, it's usually named in the style 帰家日記, 帰家紀行 or like that, and the sentence such like 我家に帰らん was rarely (or almost never) used, not to speak of 私は家に帰る.

example of a real diary of a woman in the late Edo Period
御とのゐにま、いるぶしほわづらひ・みまひにつぼねへゆく、物いふ事いとくるしげにて、こよなくはあらぬわづらひなれど、いと心ぼそげ也、き
modern Japanese translation
お殿様が寝る時、足を痛められたので、奥方のところへお見舞いに行った。しゃべることも大変苦しそうで、具合はひどくはないけれど、大変心配そうだった。
I completely understand what you are pointing out and appreciate the help! Let me start over with this: In 18th century Japanese, how would "My Journey" be written?

Because the novel is more than 112,000 words, part of the proofing process has involved me double and triple checking the Japanese translations (i.e. Google at first, which I have learned in not good to use!). I also spoke with a foreign exchange student at the university I worked at, and his opinions varied on the meanings and translations. His advice was because my novel is written in English was to show the thoughts of Shimazu and the woodland girl (from 1755 and also Japanese) through modern Japanese as to not confuse readers. He did think it was a good idea for Shimazu's journal cover to read 18th-century Japanese as well as Shimazu's wife's book, which becomes a plot point later. At no time in the novel are any of her book's writings articulated in Japanese, only through the translations of the character. to condense this, my goal is to have the few words and phrases from the 18th century for Shimazu's journal and his wife's book. The rest can be modern Japanese. That's on the advice of several other people involved as well, but none of them are educated in Japanese language. But I am happy for any help you provide!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,257
Okay, just didn't want you to get blindsided by a huge implausibility issue. Looks like you had that covered.
 

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Okay, just didn't want you to get blindsided by a huge implausibility issue. Looks like you had that covered.

Yes, that had been covered from the start. The professor of Japanese language in the novel is an expert in the matter. Her problem becomes an issue of what is actually written in the book, which provides the conflict (or part of the conflict) in the novel.

A spoiler alert for the novel re: the Japanese professor who translate the 18th century.

........this is at the end of a chapter from henry's character and begins his intro to the prof.....

“I need to call Tui or Trayneese, have them direct me to another professor,” he said under his breath. “An expert in Japanese literature, linguistics—or something like that. This is too much for me.”


10. Lisa Okamoto

Feb. 28, 2013 (10:19 a.m. PACIFIC TIME)

Lisa Okamoto had been one of Trayneese’s college roommates while a student at UCLA. Now a professor of Japanese language, literature and history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Lisa agreed to talk with Henry about the project. Trayneese warned her old college roomie to expect many questions from Henry, and a long meeting on the subject of his research. Lisa welcomed the opportunity, saying it would be a nice diversion from her everyday teaching routine.

Henry explained the project and his progress, where he was in the translation and interpreting, and the odd nature of the writing. He emailed Lisa almost one hundred translated pages before the meeting, which took place the day before Russell was scheduled to arrive in California.

After the initial greetings and introductions, Lisa asked Henry to have a seat as she returned behind her desk. She opened a folder, grabbed a stapled document and put it on her desk. It was the emailed copy of Tsunako’s book that Henry had sent her.

“Under normal circumstances, I’m hard to impress with any type of old literature that’s coming from Japan,” she said with a smile. “In this case, I’m completely . . . blown away. I know you referred to these as ‘poems or parables’ when we spoke, but they’re neither.”

Henry’s face formed into a blank expression. “Then what are they?” he politely asked, shrugging his shoulders.

“It’s a diary, events Tsunako actually witnessed,” Lisa said with a straight face, paging through the document. “This is about one person’s rebirth—succession of lifetimes, so to speak—and what happened in each. Of course, a person must buy into this belief or it means very little. My parents taught me about it when I was growing up in Japan; we moved to California right before I turned fourteen. You mentioned possible Buddhism principles in the book, but it includes Shinto, Hindu, and Tagalog beliefs as well. This lady was possibly a member of the royal family, well-versed in this . . . path to divinity, and the ‘pure’ self or soul that she sought. This is about her different paths, what happened, what she learned along the way. Tons of symbolism included, and you’ve done a great job translating, given the Japanese syntax of that period. Even though I’m certain there’s a lot more to translate, I found it a remarkable read thus far.”
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,460
Reaction score
3,587
watashi no tabu
This might be just a typo, but the correct reading of 私の旅 is Watashi no tabi.

Just for confirmation, "My Journey" is the title of his journal and "Watashi wa ienikaeru" is for his wife's book?
 

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
This might be just a typo, but the correct reading of 私の旅 is Watashi no tabi.

Just for confirmation, "My Journey" is the title of his journal and "Watashi wa ienikaeru" is for his wife's book?

Yes, Watashi no tabi. I typed in a hurry! "My Journey" is the title of Shimazu's journal, "Watashi wa ienikaeru" or in English "I Go Home" is what I am looking for in 18th-century Japanese for his wife's book.
 

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,460
Reaction score
3,587
It’s a diary, events Tsunako actually witnessed
Does that mean she considered that the book was not read by other people? Also, what do you mean by "home"? 家 usually refers to the house their family members live in, and it's almost impossible to represent all the concept of "home" by a single Japanese word.
 

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
This might be just a typo, but the correct reading of 私の旅 is Watashi no tabi.

Just for confirmation, "My Journey" is the title of his journal and "Watashi wa ienikaeru" is for his wife's book?

This is another I had found: Heishi ga ō ni naru unmei for a Soldier Destined to be King. I was looking for the modern Japanese way of saying it after it has been translated from the 18th century.

Does that mean she considered that the book was not read by other people? Also, what do you mean by "home"? 家 usually refers to the house their family members live in, and it's almost impossible to represent all the concept of "home" by a single Japanese word.

Her book was only to be read by her husband, and later another person whom she refers in this book. "Home" is her way of returning to a place where she began her journey (and, as the novel reveals, someone else as well) and ends it. Home is symbolic in its meaning in this case, with many interpretations possible based on what she has seen in a series of visions. I hope that makes sense!

I was informed the attachment here is a visual of an 18th-century Japanese document. In my novel, Tsunako's book has been preserved in a climate-controlled environment in the state of Tennessee here in North America.
 

Attachments

  • 18th century.jpg
    18th century.jpg
    128.1 KB · Views: 89
Last edited by a moderator:

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,460
Reaction score
3,587
This is another I had found: Heishi ga ō ni naru unmei for a Soldier Destined to be King. I was looking for the modern Japanese way of saying it after it has been translated from the 18th century.
Where did you get the translation from? It actually means "the fate that a soldier becomes king". I would say 王となる定めの戦士 ō to naru sadame no senshi in a written language style.

My attempt is 旅行記 Ryokōki and 帰郷記 Kikyōki for his journal and his wife's diary, respectively.
 

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Where did you get the translation from? It actually means "the fate that a soldier becomes king". I would say 王となる定めの戦士 ō to naru sadame no senshi in a written language style.

My attempt is 旅行記 Ryokōki and 帰郷記 Kikyōki for his journal and his wife's diary, respectively.

Another Google Translate when writing the first draft! I also tried the Japanese Translator Online site and it gave me several options that were close to it. I will go with your suggestion!

Thank you again for your help and patience with me. I am an English major and worked in the journalism field for 24 years in various roles. I apologize for my inability to communicate the thoughts/meanings of my novel's Japanese characters more effectively, but I appreciate your forum's assistance!

Here was my draft with the Japanese writing/cover:
-------------

Russell took the key from Elsie, unlocked the case and stepped back as Henry carefully picked up the compass. It felt very cold, like a bottle of beer that had been in a refrigerator for an extended amount of time.

“Well, was the trip worth it?” Elsie asked with a wide grin.

“More than I could have even imagined,” Henry said, continuing to inspect the compass. Holding the object made him feel as though he had finally connected with Shimazu Masahiro, physically and spiritually. A sense of comfort—and relief—dominated Henry’s thoughts as he continued examining the old artifact.

When Henry finished inspecting the compass, Russell placed it back in the display case. For more than a half hour, the trio talked about the item, and its mysterious significance to Shimazu Masahiro.

“I think the next exhibit is related, but I don’t know why,” Russell said. “Let’s show him the book, Maw-maw. Maybe Mister Yamaguchi will be able to help us with that artifact.”

They walked into the corridor that led to the huge room surrounded by glass, where numerous displays featuring old books, antiques, and clothing were housed.

Elsie used her walker and slowly waddled over to the safe. She then punched the numbers into the digital code-reader, opened the safe, and pulled out the old document that was protected by a clear, plastic-type wrapping.

The front page contained a foreign language, but a white piece of notebook paper was attached outside the plastic wrapping that read:

Watashi wa ienikaeru

私は家に帰る

“This is Japanese, correct?” Elsie asked Henry, pointing at the front page.

Henry stood frozen with a stunned look for a moment, but his smile gave away his feelings. “Yes,” he answered softly, never taking his gaze off the book. “It says ‘I go home.’ ”

Elsie smiled and looked at Russell. “See, I was close on what that title meant,” she said with a chuckle.

“What do you think this is about?” Russell asked.

“I’m not certain,” Henry replied. “In fact, I have no idea. The title has no meaning that I recognize. Look . . . the seal on the front has not been broken. You’re correct to assume Luther Smith never opened it. He probably didn’t even know what the contents were, unless Shimazu Masahiro told him. May I touch this item?”
-------

The Soldier Destined to be King is referring to George Washington, whose actual fate in 1755 becomes a huge plot point in the novel due to Shimazu's eyewitness account. This is what ignites Henry Yamaguchi's search for answers in 2012, more than 257 years after the incident.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,460
Reaction score
3,587
You can edit your post within (if I remember correctly) 20 minutes instead of double/multiple posting.

As I wrote previously, it's quite uncommon and odd to use a sentence like that as the title of a book or diary in that era. It's modern Japanese in the first place. 帰郷記 can avoid using the term "home". That's the main reason of my translation (and the readers who only know modern Japanese can understand the meaning of the title "record of (my) homecoming").

王となる定めの兵士 ō to naru sadame no heishi might be more appropriate, then.
 

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
You can edit your post within (if I remember correctly) 20 minutes instead of double/multiple posting.

As I wrote previously, it's quite uncommon and odd to use a sentence like that as the title of a book or diary in that era. It's modern Japanese in the first place. 帰郷記 can avoid using the term "home". That's the main reason of my translation (and the readers who only know modern Japanese can understand the meaning of the title "record of (my) homecoming").

王となる定めの兵士 ō to naru sadame no heishi might be more appropriate, then.

Thank you once again for the assistance. One of the passages in the novel reads as follows:
-------------------------
While he spoke fluent modern Japanese, Henry initially struggled with the vernacular of the eighteenth-century kanbun. What he thought might take a couple of hours to complete instead turned into an all-night struggle to put together sentences in proper form. Some pages flowed nicely, but others—mostly Japanese kanbun calligraphy describing eighteenth-century English words and phrases—caused him much frustration in putting down the accounts into his computer.

“Shimazu was very comfortable in kanbun,” Henry said, typing notes on his computer. “His descriptions of English expressions are hard to translate in sentence form at times—the words of the English back then were . . . difficult because of the multiple meanings and spellings. But he was very detailed in his writing. The kanbun calligraphy is magnificent.”
 

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,460
Reaction score
3,587
Shimazu translated English words/phrases into Japanese and wrote it in kanbun, and Henry is reading it now?
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,257
While he spoke fluent modern Japanese, Henry initially struggled with the vernacular of the eighteenth-century kanbun. What he thought might take a couple of hours to complete instead turned into an all-night struggle to put together sentences in proper form. Some pages flowed nicely, but others—mostly Japanese kanbun calligraphy describing eighteenth-century English words and phrases—caused him much frustration in putting down the accounts into his computer.

Is Henry supposed to be reading directly from the manuscript here or from something someone else has already input into a computer?

The trouble he would have reading this isn't simply a matter of a difference in grammar, style, or vocabulary and therefore analogous to the trouble speakers of modern English would have reading Chaucer, for example....tough, but doable with a little coaching and determination. As I mentioned earlier, most Japanese-Americans would do well to read modern clearly printed material written in modern Japanese. I don't think you appreciate the amount of trouble they would have reading even modern Japanese handwritten. Handwritten Japanese is a whole 'nuther beast unto itself. If he is supposed to be reading this straight from the manuscript, in the words of the immortal Del Griffith, he would have better luck playing pick-up-sticks with his butt cheeks. "Implausible" doesn't begin to describe it.
 

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Is Henry supposed to be reading directly from the manuscript here or from something someone else has already input into a computer?

The trouble he would have reading this isn't simply a matter of a difference in grammar, style, or vocabulary and therefore analogous to the trouble speakers of modern English would have reading Chaucer, for example....tough, but doable with a little coaching and determination. As I mentioned earlier, most Japanese-Americans would do well to read modern clearly printed material written in modern Japanese. I don't think you appreciate the amount of trouble they would have reading even modern Japanese handwritten. Handwritten Japanese is a whole 'nuther beast unto itself. If he is supposed to be reading this straight from the manuscript, in the words of the immortal Del Griffith, he would have better luck playing pick-up-sticks with his butt cheeks. "Implausible" doesn't begin to describe it.

Henry is actually reading Shimazu's journal, which is written in both English and Japanese. Shimazu was fluent in both languages in 1755, and his journal includes entries in both languages. The reasons are explained later in the novel, as is Henry's background.

Now, Shimazu's wife's book is written entirely in the 18th-century Japanese. Henry is able to translate some of the material, but he must turn to an expert in the language to get the exact translations and interpretations, many of which seem to be symbolic. You are correct about the reading straight from the manuscript. Born in California, Henry is well-educated and spent many years in Japan after turning 20. He does know 18th-century Japanese to an extent (explained later in the novel), but the abstract nature of Tsunako's document forces him to ask for help in the translation. It begins to make sense as the novel progresses and is not implausible at all once you see what has transpired in the plot. In fact, it will make total sense and tie up some of the loose ends to which you allude. Thank you for your comments and suggestions!

Shimazu translated English words/phrases into Japanese and wrote it in kanbun, and Henry is reading it now?

Shimazu (aka as William Couch, based on a character from the Braddock expedition) wrote entries in his journal during the march to Fort Duquesne in both Japanese and English. He is a physician in the British army (his backstory is told in the novel) and fluent in both languages. By the end of the story, it all makes sense.

Keep in mind that many words in the English language used in the 18th century and even 19th century also had vastly different meanings and uses than they do today. While I enjoy James Fenimore Cooper's collection of the "Leatherstocking Tales," many people complain his use of English is confusing and unreadable. I disagree with them, but I also understand his descriptions and sentence structures are from the early 19th century. English is in no way, shape, or form as complex as Japanese, though.

A quote I found on the impossible. The impossible or implausible simply do not exist.
---Nothing is impossible in this world. Firm determination, it is said, can move heaven and earth. Things appear far beyond one's power, because one cannot set his heart on any arduous project due to want of strong will. Yamamoto Tsunetomo---
Read more at: Nothing Is Impossible Quotes - BrainyQuote


I found this on the kanbun subject, and the complex nature of the Japanese language. These observations from a pair of English professors....
----
William C. Hannas points out the linguistic hurdles involved in kanbun transformation.

Kambun, literally "Chinese writing," refers to a genre of techniques for making Chinese texts read like Japanese, or for writing in a way imitative of Chinese. For a Japanese, neither of these tasks could be accomplished easily because of the two languages' different structures. As I have mentioned, Chinese is an isolating language. Its grammatical relations are identified in subject–verb–object (SVO) order and through the use of particles similar to English prepositions. Inflection plays no role in the grammar. Morphemes are typically one syllable in length and combine to form words without modification to their phonetic structures (tone excepted). Conversely, the basic structure of a transitive Japanese sentence is SOV, with the usual syntactic features associated with languages of this typology, including post positions, that is, grammar particles that appear after the words and phrases to which they apply. (1997:32)

He lists four major Japanese problems: word order, parsing which Chinese characters should be read together, deciding how to pronounce the characters, and finding suitable equivalents for Chinese function words.

According to John Timothy Wixted, scholars have disregarded kanbun.

In terms of its size, often its quality, and certainly its importance both at the time it was written and cumulatively in the cultural tradition, kanbunis arguably the biggest and most important area of Japanese literary study that has been ignored in recent times, and the one least properly represented as part of the canon. (1998:23)
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,257
It begins to make sense as the novel progresses and is not implausible at all

What I find implausible is his being able to recognize the characters well enough to even figure out what they are, not whether he may be able to suss out the 18th century language. I don't think you fully appreciate how impenetrable a lot of that stuff is visually, nor do you appreciate the complexities added by a lack of orthographical standards back then and subsequent developments and reforms which have made reading/writing Japanese much easier but which have unavoidably had the side effect of severely limiting modern people's ability to sight-read older stuff as-is. I've been in the room when educated native speakers were examining late 19th century school notebooks belonging to a schoolgirl. Nobody could figure out anything that was written there. Seriously, it may as well have been Mayan hieroglyphs for all that anyone could make of it. It was sort of sad to reflect on the idea that here were writings from only about 120~130 years ago, and which would have been readily legible to anyone in her day who had learned to read at all...and yet was now as inaccessible as the far side of the moon.

Unless Henry's adult education in Japan specifically included learning to read this old handwritten stuff, this scene in the book is where I'd roll my eyes so far back in my head it would rip my optic nerves loose and the blindness would make me have to settle for just vigorously flinging the book at anything at all rather than something in particular. It really is implausible. I fear that your apparent total lack of knowledge of the language or familiarity with the nature of its writing is just going to make it impossible for you to understand just how implausible it really is.

A quote I found on the impossible. The impossible or implausible simply do not exist.
---Nothing is impossible in this world. Firm determination, it is said, can move heaven and earth. Things appear far beyond one's power, because one cannot set his heart on any arduous project due to want of strong will. Yamamoto Tsunetomo---
Read more at: Nothing Is Impossible Quotes - BrainyQuote

Your book, your art, your artistic license. Do as you wish. I'm just offering opinions. You are under no obligation to heed them and no obligation to justify yourself.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Your book, your art, your artistic license. Do as you wish. I'm just offering opinions. You are under no obligation to heed them and no obligation to justify yourself.

I respect your opinions and value any reader's criticisms, as they point out potential flaws in the story. I admit to having a remedial knowledge of the Japanese language, present-day or past, and it's good to discover how complex it is to translate an 18th-century document written in Japanese. I knew there were differences in modern Japanese and that of the 18th century, prompting my original questions about translating a few words and phrases. What I have discovered is the language is even more complex than I ever imagined. I will throw a couple of the comments back to my publisher and get feedback. I am also meeting with a professor of Japanese language this week to go over some of the details and it will give me an opportunity to pose the question of whether it is possible (or implausible) for a present-day gentleman to translate some parts of a journal as my novel includes. Thank you again for the comments!

I am often laughed at by friends and family for telling them I can't watch "Game of Thrones" or "Walking Dead" because the stories aren't real (dragons, magic, etc)! So it is wake-up call to get a reaction that a part of my novel is implausible, and a fair criticism. I appreciate the help and thoughts!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,460
Reaction score
3,587
I asked you not to do multiposting in a very humble way...
You can edit your post within (if I remember correctly) 20 minutes instead of double/multiple posting.

You don't need to explain us what kanbun is. I am a native Japanese speaker and Mike-san is very fluent in Japanese.

So, Shimazu wrote kanbun and the English translation corresponding to it, and Henry is trying to read it? There is no difference from my previous post, anyway. It's just the problem that which one the original is.

There are two major problems; 1) it's handwritten in cursive or semi-cursive script, as Mike-san pointed out, and 2) Henry only has the English translation and doesn't have yomikudashibun, i.e., the Japanese sentence version of the kanbun. Yes, I would be able to read printed kanbun with kaeriten, or might be able to get the gist of it even without keriten, but it's incredibly hard, or more likely impossible to read handwritten kanbun, as same as his wife's diary. (In other words, if Henry can read Shimazu's handwritten journal, he must be able to read his wife's handwritten diary as well.) I have to point out that only experts can read those documents nowadays. Almost all native Japanese speakers can't read it, as Mike-san experienced.

Here's an example of a handwritten book in the 18th century.
29l1wtc.jpg


I can identify the highlighted sentence from the book because I have the modern transcription version of the sentence (the right one). I can pick up some kanji and kana from the sentence, but I can't read most of kana since hentaigana are used there. It would be impossible to specify the position of the sentence if I only have the modern Japanese translation 皆はここを忘れて別のことがあるかのように思って探索し、ここを見つける人がいない。. Shimazu's wife's diary would be closer to this book, and Shimazu's journal must be more difficult to read, since Shimazu wrote it in kanbun and English translation is no doubt less useful than modern Japanese translation.
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,257
From that whole page I can spot 也, 会, 代, 事 and 一年. And I would bet money that would still put me ahead of Henry.

It blows my mind that there was a time a person could write like that and others could read it with ease.
 

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,460
Reaction score
3,587
Yeah, and educated people could read and write even kanbun, i.e, classical Chinese easily.
 

madphysicist

先輩
Joined
20 Aug 2015
Messages
341
Reaction score
131
From the novel's point of view, it is at 112,017 words. Less than 80 of those words are Japanese, so it's just a few words and simple phrases I seek. Thanks again for you suggestions!

Aside from any plausibility issues which I think the others have covered pretty well, do you really need to include so many words in Japanese? It seems unnecessary.

The book is written in English - how many English speakers will appreciate the nuance of what's written in Japanese? Virtually none. Even the small percentage of English speakers who understand modern Japanese reasonably well would not understand 18th century written Japanese if you included it. And native Japanese speakers will be pulled out of the story by any minor mistake that you make.

Of course this is just my opinion as a reader and occasional writer. I find it irritating when an author includes a word or phrase in a foreign language and it's not obvious from the context what it means, or when they immediately translate it to English and I think "why didn't you just write it in translation in the first place?" If you really need a few words in Japanese, e.g. for the title of the book which comes up repeatedly, then fine. But consider your audience, and consider if you really need all these phrases.
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,257
I thoroughly agree with @madphysicist but I must remark that compared to some (aspiring) authors we have helped in the past the OP is the very soul of self-restraint when it comes to this. You should see some of the ones we've had over the years. (Typically they turn out to be such a bunch of tiresome, clueless, thick-skulled knuckleheads that it makes one leery of responding to them at all). The very tiny proportion of gratuitous Japanese vocabulary the OP has held it down to made me suspect from early on in the thread that he may actually have a publisher or have experience publishing in the past. The writers we usually get have rather obviously never had to get anything past an editor at a publishing house, otherwise they wouldn't load up their pages with tons of needless Japanese vocabulary.
 

madphysicist

先輩
Joined
20 Aug 2015
Messages
341
Reaction score
131
@Mike Cash
I admit I myself have been guilty of including a lot of foreign words in some stories I've written (at least I more or less speak the languages in question...). It's easily done. But the fact that it's historical Japanese, which is harder to get right and even fewer people might appreciate, makes me think here the extra effort for even 80 words is really not worth it for the possible benefits.

@Edward T.
I think the problem of the main character not knowing how to read old Japanese could be fixed fairly easily - he just has to enlist the help of the professional translator a bit earlier on. Then if you really think it's necessary to include a lot of Japanese phrases, it would be best to pay a translator to read the book (or at least the passages in question) to make sure the phrases are right in context. I mean, if the book will actually be published it seems worth doing this properly. I'm sure that @Toritoribe 's translations are correct Japanese, however if the characters later on comment on the symbolic meaning of the title (or another word/phrase) then their comments need to make sense. How can you as an author comment on the symbolism of a phrase in a language you don't understand?

By the way, even English texts from 200-300 years ago can be hard to read if they're handwritten. Here's an example of a letter by Shelley from 1821 - not impossible to read, but fairly difficult and moreso for a non-native speaker:
http://www.bl.uk/britishlibrary/~/m...h/e/shelley-percy_bysshe-letter-b20132-80.jpg
 
Last edited:

Edward T.

後輩
Joined
13 Apr 2016
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
I would like to apologize to Toritoribe for my continued usage of the multi-posts. You did ask me to edit them into one, and I completely forgot to do so yesterday with several posts. It will not happen again, and I thank you for the help and suggestions you have provided.

I spoke with both my primary editor and publisher today, pointing out many of the comments/suggestions that have surfaced in this forum. Both agreed that it would help if Shimazu's journal, which is an eyewitness account of the British army's expedition to Fort Duquesne, were written primarily in English since he is fluent in the language and a military physician. Mike-san's opinions and insights are very good, and I am thankful for the help. The editor likes the 18th-century Japanese "My Journey" or its equivalent on the journal's cover, but his thoughts were along the same lines as the mad physicist in that only the document written by Shimazu's wife need be in 18th-century Japanese. Because so few Japanese words and phrases are included in the novel to begin with, this will correct some of the issues discussed yesterday.

I enjoyed the graphic provided by Toritoribe, displaying the 18th-century Japanese writing and pointing out the challenges of translating such a document. Seeing the example and the actual translation you provided on the right made me wonder how anyone could decipher it!

Lastly, thanks to everyone for the help and comments to point me in the right direction. I am always willing to learn, and this forum has provided me with a greater appreciation of the complexities of the Japanese language, modern and pre-modern.
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,257
You're a good egg, Edward.

I hope you will be the first ever writer who came to us with questions who will actually come back and let us know when the work is finished and available for us to read.
 
Top Bottom