Japanese to English over the phone interpreting

phone interpretingJapanese to English over the phone interpreting reveals unique cultural values for facing adversity. Producer Miki Meek provides live Japanese to English over the phone interpreting as she reports on a phone booth in Japan for the story “One last thing before I go” on This American Life.  After the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, Itaru Sasaki found it difficult to speak with anyone about death and loss. So he set up an old-fashioned, English-style phone booth with a rotary phone in his garden with a view of the Pacific Ocean. He calls the booth the wind telephone because it allows people to try to communicate with the dead. The phone booth to nowhere attracts thousands of Japanese people who lost loved ones in the tsunami. The one-way phone calls help the survivors to express their emotions.

Japanese to English over the phone interpreting

Meek interprets these phone calls from Japanese to English. She keeps a neutral tone as she provides phone interpreting of the one-direction phone calls in Japanese. She gently follows the poignant emotions of the Japanese speakers. Many of the Japanese callers dial the rotary phone with the phone numbers of their missing loved ones. Moshi moshi, say the Japanese callers. They say hello to the imagined friend or family member listening on the other side of the disconnected phone. “If this voice reaches you, please listen,” one young man says. “I want to hear your reply, but I can’t hear anything.” Callers who can imagine their friend or family member listening on the other end speak out loud.

The Japanese phone interpreting reveals 3 things about Japanese cultural values and communication styles:

1. The Japanese indirectly say “I love you.”

Firstly, saying “I love you” directly is rare in Japanese. People rarely say something so direct in Japan. Meek has only seen Japanese people directly express their emotions and say “I love you” in the soap operas. The reporter has never said “I love you” to her mom or grandparents because it sounds “weird” to her. Yet this phone booth allows the Japanese survivors to open up their emotions. Meek observes the direct and indirect ways that the callers say “I love you” and “I miss you” to their lost friends and family members over the phone.

Rather than say “I love you” or “I miss you,” the Japanese callers express their love indirectly. The Japanese callers express their love in an understated way when they ask about the health and location of their loved ones. Over the phone, they request that their lost loved ones stay warm and eat something. Meek interprets the callers saying “return soon” and “be alive somewhere” from Japanese to English. In a phone conversation, a caller promises to rebuild the house one day.

2. The Japanese often endure in silence.

Secondly, the story highlights the Japanese culture of endurance through hardship. The phone booth breaks the Japanese cultural value of suffering in silence. The callers say ganbatteiru, which means, “I’m doing my best. I’m enduring.” The Japanese callers at the phone booth use these phrases to reassure their missing loved ones that they are doing fine, even if they are not. The idea is that willpower, grit, and determination can overcome adversity.

The Japanese survivors struggle with guilt, loneliness, regret, grief, and loss. A Japanese daughter cries over the phone as she tries to speak to her lost father. Her brother encourages her to let it out, not to bottle the emotion in anymore. The Japanese family comforts each other, saying that they successfully endured and suffered in silence up until the phone booth calls.

No matter how difficult the situation may be, living in Japan requires people to endure adversity and suffer in silence. The platitude, however, does not offer any help or encouragement. People should not say ganbatte to anyone at the end of their rope because it adds far too much pressure on mental health.  

3. The Japanese seek to assure, not worry others.

Thirdly, Japanese culture values calming, not worrying others. The Japanese callers often say shinpai shina, which means, “don’t worry about us.” With Japanese culture and Buddhism, people do not want to worry or burden their friends and family, even their dead loved ones. Complaining about problems over the phone, then, would be considered inappropriate. The Japanese survivors finally let go a bit inside the phone booth. The view of the Pacific Ocean may provide a sense of calm. The phone booth allows the Japanese callers to finally express over the phone what they never had the opportunity to communicate in person. This provides great therapy, especially as too much suffering alone in silence can push anyone over the edge.

The Japanese translation of a short story shows how a Buddhist priest of a temple in Fukushima grapples with the aftermath of the 2011 nuwpear disaster in Japan. Japanese novelist, essayist, and priest Gen’y? S?ky?’s short story “Mountain of Light” grapples with the worrisome radiation. Japanese translator Sim Yee Chiang translated the story from Japanese to English. As a young man copes with the death and burial of his father, a priest uses the “it’s okay” mantra to prevent any sense of worry. The Mountain of Light represents a radioactive burial ground. As people wpimb the mountain to receive radiation, a priest says, “It’s okay, no need to rush. Radiation’s not as strong as it was five years ago, but there’s still plenty to soak up.” This sense of calm assurance in the face of disaster represents the Japanese value of enduring adversity without worry.

Japanese to English interpreting and translation

Both Japanese translation and interpreting require a nuanced understanding of the culture. Our translation company’s certified Japanese interpreters and translators provide the best live, in-person, and over the phone Japanese to English interpreting and translation. Our Japanese translators give the most precise and accurate translations for ready-to-publish documents.

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Philip Rosen

Philip Rosen

Capital Linguists’ certified translation service and interpreters service was founded on Philip’s vision of a super-elite translation and interpreting force. Drawing on other high level interpreters and translators, he leads an exclusive cadre of highly skilled, professional language specialists.