April 24, 2005

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Diction and Translation

I'd hate to start my Simon World appearance with a post against another guest, but open discussion of the issues never hurt anyone, and I've always been known to be something of an @$$. Plus, I'm mostly duplicating what a mainstream newspaper is Hong Kong is saying, so it's not like these are fringe concepts. I hope Enzo isn't offended. ;)

As Enzo mentioned previously, Japanese PM Koizumi has once again issued a statement of apology on Japan's historical aggression. How the PRC government will respond is still not certain, but a Ming Pao article reflects on the sentiments of many Chinese people on the sincerity and forthrightness of Japan's words:

According to the original Japanese transcript provided to Ming Pao via the Japanese consulate, Koizumi used such terms as "deep introspection" (痛切なる反省) and "heartfelt apology" (心からのお詫び), but the English translation used such terms as "deep remorse" and "heartfelt apology" [see note below], which was used by most non-Japanese media, creating confusion. When asked by reporters on whether Koizumi did in fact apologize, PRC Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said that "it depends on how you translate it."

Note: Babelfish translated 心からのお詫び to "apology from heart", but "heartfelt apology" translated back into Chinese is 衷心道歉, which is somewhat stronger. Notably, 心からのお詫び is passive, but 衷心道歉 is active.

Some knowledged Japanese in Hong Kong point out that when Japanese people wish to express remorse, they can use "owabi" (お詫び) or "shazai" (謝罪). "Owabi" is a lighter form of apology, while "shazai" is considerably stronger. Some experts point out that although Japan has "apologized" for war on multiple occasions, they have continued to avoid using "shazai".

A lot of people would probably see such distinctions as nit-picking and trite, but a lot of people in China and Korea are hoping to see Japan feel apologetic (by whatever definitions they are using), not just to utter the words. I think that the PRC government has done much damage in not clarifying on exactly what Japan has said and done over the past sixty years on this issue. I also think that a lot of the protest tactics and extremist sentiments in the mainland are conducive to solving anything, and are downright revolting. But I don't think it's all state-sponsored anger. This is particularly true in Hong Kong: no one has yet given a good explanation to me how PRC censorship has made Hong Kong also so angry at Japan too. Indeed, "a lighter form of apology" seem hardly appropriate for the heinous atrocities that Japan committed in 1937-45.

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posted by Kelvin on 04.24.05 at 07:15 AM in the Blogging category.


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Saturday on SimonWorld
Excerpt: Apologies for the paltry posts today. In addition to Biz's temporary return to South Dakota, I am a guest blogger on the esteemed Simon World this week. tdaxp's posts Thanksgiving - a shout-out to my friends Asia by Democratic Underground - t...
Weblog: tdaxp
Tracked: April 24, 2005 09:25 AM

Excerpt: Kelvin is guest-posting as Simon World and wrote yesterday about how Chinese news sources are discussing Prime Minister Koizumi's
Weblog: The White Peril 白禍
Tracked: April 25, 2005 02:23 PM


"Notably, 心からのお詫び is passive, but 衷心道歉 is active."

Well, it's nominalized, but it's not passive. The reason apology was made a noun was that Koizumi was saying that that feeling should always be etched or ingrained (気持ちを常に刻む). Also, translating 痛切 as "heartfelt" is a little off, but that's because it's more like "acute" or "unsparing."

The idea that it could be translated as not being an apology is odd. It's true that, as in a lot of cases, the Chinese-derived compound is more formal than the native Japanese wording; but, you know, in a strange way, you could argue that that makes it less heartfelt-sounding and more like a rote formulation.

posted by: Sean Kinsell on 04.24.05 at 06:13 PM [permalink]

Thanks for the grammatical correction.

I really don't want to get into the nitty-gritty as to exactly how much did Japan apologize for this time. I'm just reflecting the popular sentiments in China right now.

I recall someone said that Japan is saying 'We're sorry that this happened to you' but not 'We're sorry that WE did this to you'. Now I don't think this apology is as insincere as that first example, but I'm getting a bit annoyed at counting how many apologies Japan has made since 19xx. I don't think 'an apology is an apology is an apology'. And whatever apology Koizumi makes always seems to get cancelled out by yet another visit to a certain revisionist Shinto shrine.

posted by: Kelvin on 04.25.05 at 11:58 AM [permalink]

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