Swet Columns

EVENT REPORT: SWET Zoom Workshops Experiment 2020

By Richard Medhurst

Talking to other translators and wordsmiths at events and workshops inspires new discoveries and ways of thinking about what we do, as well as providing the chance to get to know people in the business. We used to do this in person until the pandemic made real-world meetings impossible, and led us to reconsider online spaces. One benefit of... more

SWET Reference Shelf

Japanese Wood and Carpentry: Rustic and Refined. By Mechtild Mertz. Otsu, Shiga Prefecture: Kaiseisha Press, 2020. ¥4,800.

Reviewed by Judith Clancy

Japan’s remarkable history of wooden structures ranges from massive temples to delicate cabinetry. All their parts, from supporting pillars to decorative tokonoma posts are made from carefully selected wood species. Translators and editors frequently encounter the diverse... more

Word Wise: Getting It Out There

By Richard Medhurst

The Internet has made it possible to send whatever we want around the world with the stroke of a key, but what do we hope to achieve by doing so? Some basic uses for the Japanese word 発信 are to do with transmitting or sending various kinds of messages, such as an SOS when in danger. When translating... more

Word Wise: Keeping Active

By Richard Medhurst

It is time to take the initiative again and consider various ways of translating Japanese words. This column is on the pairing of 積極的 and 消極的, looking particularly at the former, which is commonly encountered. One way to think about how to translate 積極的 is to roughly divide usage into three categories. The first is how a... more

Toda Natsuko Talks About Her Life

If you watch English-language movies in Japan, you have probably seen the name Natsuko Toda in the subtitling credits. She is at the pinnacle of her profession. You may have wondered about the foundations of this pinnacle if, reading some of her subtitles, like me, you occasionally suffer a mental snort of disapproval at her Japanese renderings of English. Ms.... more

Word Wise: Number Puzzles

By Richard Medhurst

This column often looks at cases where the same concept is expressed differently in Japanese and English. This is a particular issue when it comes to terms related to numbers. For starters, the numerical system in Japan of counting by ten thousands (万, 億, 兆) can trip up the unwary. One pitfall is not noticing a... more