Japanese magazine review: 通訳翻訳ジャーナル (Intrepretation/Translation Journal)

By | December 29, 2018

In my college years, I used to read a lot of magazines. But I gradually realized that, while entertaining, they often lack much real content and are seriously bloated by ads. I’ll still peruse them now and then when I am relaxing at a bookstore, but it’s usually just for a few minutes and I don’t really get much out of it.

One of the exceptions is magazines about literature or writing, which tend to have both interesting content as well as ads that are relevant to me. However, having already so many things to read at home it’s rare I will actually buy one of these magazines and read it all the way through.

If you ever get an opportunity to go to a bookstore in Japan, not only will be greeted by many interesting novels written in Japanese, but also a good amount of magazines focused on topics that are difficult to find parallel magazines about in English. On my last trip to Japan, I came across one such magazine about a topic I had never seen a magazine focus on before: translation and interpretation.

“通訳翻訳ジャーナル” (Interpretation/Translation Journal) is a quarterly magazine published by Fellow Academy and lists for 1100 Yen plus tax. The issue I purchased was “2018 Summer” and was around 120 pages long. You can still get it here on Amazon Japan.

This magazine is packed with interesting content and advertisements about translation and interpretation, and as someone who is deeply interested in these topics, I really want to read it from cover-to-cover.

The magazine starts out with an interesting page about the need for translation and interpretation volunteers for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, detailing the various areas (分野) and the corresponding estimate of people required (人数の目安). Then there is a section of newly-published books about T/I (I’ll use this as a short form for “translation or interpretation”) and books that have been translated to Japanese. That is followed by an article about, of all things, wine-related interpretation, and then an article about “what should be expressed in translation” written by the translator of the latest Japanese version of Huckleberry Finn (Motoyuki Shibata).

This issue contains a large special feature (特集) about breaking into T/I from middle age or later, containing several interviews of people who changed their career late in life to T/I, along with a timeline of their career steps and specific advice from them entering the field. For example: “don’t be afraid of the risks”, or “brush up your research and PC skills”. There are also a few detailed examples of writing resumes (職務履歴書の書き方) and some specific advice for those wanting to translate books (出版翻訳), for which it is mentioned that age doesn’t matter and “interest is everything”.

Following that is another special feature about translation of childrens and YA books that highlights 30 books from 1960 to the present. Part of this is a multi-page section about translation children’s stories that uses specific textual examples with discussion.

A little later in the magazine is a section on translation drills for legal agreements (規約書の翻訳ドリル). These texts can get pretty advanced, with expressions like “defend, indemnify, and hold” and “exclusive jurisdiction”. I’ve never tried translating a legal text but I think it would take me a lot of work to get up to speed at first. In the drills section––which is confusingly structured so that the pages need to be flipped left-to-right––there is another translation drill and one about interpretation as well. Each of the drills has a series of questions (translate this text, etc.), and then a discussion after each question.

Near the end of the magazine is a very thought-provoking article about maintaining the proper order to information when doing T/I, and this process is referred to as “順送り訳”. I actually found this entire article online here for free. After that there are a few other columns: one about what types of translations are selling in the book industry, one about translation and intellectual property, and one comparing the process of translation to running a marathon.

Finally, there are a few sections with information on T/I contests/auditions, contact information for companies, and a calendar for important events like certain T/I tests. There was also a section about contest winners with their submissions (this was earlier in the magazine, however).

For me, the main problem with this book was that most of the translation stuff was focused on English->Japanese (英和翻訳), not Japanese->English (英和翻訳). However, some of the contests I read about seemed to have 和英 components, and the articles about theory still conceptually applied to translating in either direction. But had the magazine been more focused on Japanese->English it would have been much more useful overall.

If you want to see more information about this magazine, including how to purchase back-issues, or free online content, check their website here. Despite the problem I mentioned above and the fact much of the stuff focused on wasn’t directly related to my translation work, this magazine is still very rare for its amount of high-quality content regarding translation and interpretation. Even if you just skim it and read a few parts, I think it’s worth the purchase. Perhaps even more valuable than the content itself is the new terms you will learn, like 訳文、訳出、or 文脈. (This vocabulary list of mine contains some translation-related words you may find helpful)

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