TransLiterary Lab (#1): live analysis and translation of Japanese literary excerpts

By | December 18, 2019

I enjoy writing articles on this blog as well as doing translation of various Japanese works, and was considering writing more articles where I analyze passages and talk about translation details. However, some time ago I hit upon an idea that would be much more fun and potentially more educational than a simple article. Now, a few months later, I have finally decided to try it out.

The idea is to do live analysis and translation of short Japanese literary excerpts, each being around a sentence to a paragraph or two. I am calling this “TransLiterary Lab” (Japanese title 文学翻訳ラボ) and will distribute the videos on Youtube. To clarify, by “live” I mean that I am not doing preparation ahead of time, it is not literally “live” in the live-streaming sense, although maybe eventually I will try that as well. (This idea was inspired by another project of mine that involved piano composition.)

In this first episode I will go over a short excerpt of Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s piece “Frog” (蛙), which you can the full text for here. The excerpt is fairy straightforward but I go into some detail about the grammar as well as the meaning of each word. In future videos I expect to take on longer, more difficult excerpts, and spend a little more time on the translation as opposed to the analysis. But I’m open to feedback from everyone to help me steer things.

Keep in mind the purpose of this series is not to achieve at a perfect translation result, but rather to see the process involved and learn some other things along the way. I am purposefully going to avoid over-editing as to show any mistakes I make, since those are an important part of the process.

Also, if you have any suggested passages please feel free to let me know via a comment or email to selftaughtjapanese (at)

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14 thoughts on “TransLiterary Lab (#1): live analysis and translation of Japanese literary excerpts

  1. Jim Miles

    This was great! I saved it until today to watch with Priya (Japanese study partner) and we both really enjoyed it! Super interesting to see the process. We would both love more like this!

    One minor thing was that the volume seemed to be mastered at a relatively low level. This could be my setup, but it seemed quieter than other youtube videos usually are for me.

    Something I am sure you have noticed – and I know how annoying this kind of thing is to realise after the fact – is that you wrote “a old pond” but kept reading it (of course correctly) as “an old pond”. It’s so easy to miss these things but I thought I should point it out. Also, it proves we actually watched the video as I suspect given that I always “like” all your stuff, you may have wondered if we really do watch and read it all, lol!

    Overall, this was awesome. Love it! 🙂

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Jim, thanks for the comments and really glad you liked it!

      I already recorded the 2nd episode, but for the 3rd I’ll see if I can tweak the volume.


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