Presenter: 近藤 正臣（Masaomi Kondo）Distinguished Speaker invited by JLD
Masaomi Kondo began his interpreting career as an escort interpreter with the U.S. Department of State in 1963. After 16 months, he traveled to Europe to study German intensively before returning to Japan. He completed his graduate studies and started teaching at Daito Bunka University (DBU) in Tokyo. During this time, he also interpreted for various international meetings, including the International Labour Conference and for the U.S.-Japan Parliamentary Committee. After retiring from DBU, he taught interpreting at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey from 2013-14.
Summary by Matthew Carpenter
Part I: Three Interpreting Models
In part one of Mr. Kondo’s lecture, he talked about thee interpreting models – the processes that must take place for interpretation to take place.
1: “Cassette Effect”
Matthew Perry forced Japan out of isolationism in 1853. Japan realized as Asia was being colonized by European powers, it needed to industrialize and militarize quickly to avoid the same fate. At the time there were only a few interpreters at Kyushu. During Japan’s isolationism, Dutch merchants were allowed access to Japan through Dejima. The work to translate European materials on military affairs began, along with political ideas. The word Democracy was first introduced to Japan.
During the Tokugawa era, there were no such things as Democracy or a Parliament in Japan and the venular for these concepts did not exist in the Japanese language. The terms were coined, and minshushugi was established as a new term with its origins from Europe.
Life in Japan improved after industrialization. During medieval times only higher classes enjoyed a good life. Commoners were forced to labor. Special value was attached to these newly coined terms, such as gikai and horitsu. People believed these terms in themselves had value, and this led to the cassette effect.
Outside of the interpreting circles, these words were not commonly used. Japanese were not modernized in their thinking.
2: “D. Seleskovitch’s Triangular Model”
The process is as follows: Interpreter grasps the sense of the first speaker. Expresses this perceived sense spontaneously. Interpreter reduces Language 1 to nonverbal sense. An interpreter should intentionally forget individual words and only retain sense. Is it possible to retain the sense without words?
H. Kirchhoff: Accepted among European interpreters. A decoding process and turned into message C.
M. Kondo: The joy of interpreting as a profession.
C1 is expressed to E1. C2 then should equal C1. C2 becomes E2. The result is C3.
Q: Which is most popular?
A: In Europe, the second one. The first one is well known, too.
Comparative linguistics – Japanese doesn’t need a subject.
PART II: Japanese as Source and Target Language
Onion Understanding of Culture – Proposed by Dutch Sociologist
Culture is made out of these layers and the outer layer is most easily affected by contact with other cultures. Symbol: most abstract ideas. Hero: heroes that are valued by that group by that people. In Japan, Ieyasu Tokugawa. France, Napoléon. Girei – what you’re supposed to do, like bowing in Japan. The core of culture: values of the people. Most difficult to change. Even after Meiji Restoration of 1868. The way of life shared by a group of people.
Interpreters work in cross-cultural communication. Very difficult work. Language is a very important part of a culture. But, interpreters are not a policeman.
High Context cultures vs Low Context cultures. High context: context around the conversation is important. You don’t have to rely as much on the language. Low context is the opposite, so you have to explain everything through words.
Yato example: singular or plural? There are more than one opposition parties when there used to be one.
House as an example of wealth. Deaf people have their own culture – their culture is low context. In Japanese sign language no word for chotto – you have to explain how long.
In English – concluding remark or paragraph comes at the beginning. In Japan, it comes at the end. Proceeded by examples and explanations.
The problem is this: when the Japanese started to speak, they usually give reasons.
Consecutive – interpreters can adjust their interpreting. Simul – they cannot.
Nixon shocks, two that came to Japan. PM Sato said Zensho, “I will take appropriate measures.” English came out as “I will take care of it.” In America, the expectation is it will be taken care of. PM Sato didn’t do anything. Kissinger eventually went to the Japanese embassy – no one knew about it, and no one gave a definite answer. Nixon shock one – visit Beijing and recognize China as main government. Second Nixon shock – taking off the gold standard.
What’s would have been a good translation?
- “I’ll look into it.”
- “I will do my best.”
- “I’ll see what I can do.”
This interpreter could’ve hit two Nixon shocks from hitting Japan. Don’t only blame the interpreter, but both parties.
Situations where interpreters are hard put from his own experience.
- Kan jin chou – Ushiwaka maru and Benkei.
They two came to a sekisho in-between two provinces as he fled his older brother. The warrior beat Ushiwakamaru when they were questions, which softened the inspector.
Cross-cultural communication – interpreters alone should not be involved in communication.
Mr. Konto talked about theory with actual examples of dilemmas involving interpretation. From interpreting models to the role of interpreters in cross-cultural communication with examples from history, Mr. Kondo underscored the nuanced, vital nature of the work and the challenges interpreters face as they work with the process of interpretation to the breakdowns in communication that come from the cultural divide of two very different languages.