Writing has not been the easiest for me lately: partly schedule, partly inspiration. Neglecting my blog is an option; however, recently I have been working on an article for a newsletter – with a deadline. Clearly that is something which can’t be ignored.
My wife works in social services raising children who have been removed from their home environment. She has many ways to refresh during her breaks, one of which is to visit a center which helps young people build independence. Another focus of this center is to support people working in related fields. Sometimes they have study sessions about something special. For example, one time I participated when the guest speaker was teaching about how he rescued an almost extinct variety of lily and many of the human barriers to that success. Other times they have group sessions to talk about their work and how to do it better.
Recently she wrote an article for the center’s newsletter. The column is a relay, so she tagged me for the next issue. Figuring out who the audience would be and what they wanted me to talk about was a bit of a chore. Figuring out what kind of polite language or professional jargon is needed was an even larger chore. Figuring out how to keep my readers on target was a crushing chore. Had my wife not been helping with the translation, I think the final article would have been an incomprehensible mess.
One problem is nuance. I wanted to translate the sentence, “Children are important.”, and ended up with something that was very cold and sterile and made children seem like an object. My wife gave me a sentence which patched that all up. You can see that if such a simple sentence is so hard to get right, this task could be monumental. For significant portions, I would read the English to my wife, translate it into my words in Japanese, explain in Japanese why I wrote that section, let her type something into the computer, and then discuss with her whether we got the idea.
Once we got it all translated, we really hacked it up and moved things around and changed the objectives. Our collaboration has resulted in a much better document which we hope will inspire our readers without seeming superior. Another key concern for me was that many Japanese people focus in on the differences between people and processes which can shut down exchange of ideas, so we worked on phrasing information in ways that would discourage this tendency.
I hope the article is well received. We sent a 2nd draft off last night and will ruminate on it for the next day and a half.
The first sentence is “Children are a gift from God.” 子供は神様からの贈り物。