Was Japanese PM’s “Apology” for WW2 Atrocities Lost in Translation?
Last updated: May 25th, 2015 by admin
This year is the 70th anniversary of the finish of the Asia Pacific war and Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, does not support his country’s preoccupation with their role in the war. When he attends an official visit to Washington he is going to have to watch his words as he has to keep his internal political support for his own country’s attitudes as well as appease the Americans. He also has to watch what other countries think too, such as South Korea, which is not only strongly allied to the US, but has its own grievances about what happened during the Japanese occupation of Korea during the Second World War. By using language skilfully, it will be a matter of interpretation which will affect those showing an interest.
It is expected that despite his leanings, Abe is going to show that he is remorseful when talking about events of the past and this will probably mean using the word “remorse”. In Japanese this is translated into the word “hansei”. This is where the words can get lost in translation and entirely different meanings can develop. In Chinese, when the Japanese word “hansei” is translated, the word f?nshè is used and in Korean “banseong”. When the word “hansei” is used for remorse it is not a strong word at all and is more related to reconsidering past actions rather than being apologetic and regretful. By using this word in the eyes of the Chinese and Koreans he may accidentally appear to be downgrading the catastrophic long term effects of the Japanese occupation.
As patriotic as Abe purports to be, restoring Japanese honour is far more important than being apologetic for Japan’s past actions. He will have to use the word “owabi”, which means “apology” along with ‘hansei” to have the effect of being remorseful of Japan’s past actions. The use of these two words together will please the Chinese and Koreans but will not have the desired effect on the Japanese people. Good relations with America are important, but not showing weakness is important to the Japanese’s concept of honour. It’s a tight balancing act.
There have been many translations in the past that have often triggered unintended reactions because of the words used have been interpreted differently when translated into different languages. There are many words that don’t have words in other languages that have precisely the same meaning. A good translation is more than just exchanging words as it is as important to understand their context when translated into other languages. This is why it is so important to use the right translation services in Australia. A NAATI translator should always be chosen when the documents or other materials to be translated are as sensitive as Shinzo Abe’s speech.