Word Wise: Why Can’t We All Just Get On?

共生 Kyōsei

By Richard Medhurst

Look up 共生 in a J-E dictionary and you might find “symbiosis” or “coexistence,” but these rarely fit when I translate Japanese sentences. The former describes a mutual biological dependence, while the latter suggests a grudging acceptance. Take 自然と人類の共生; the ideal relationship between humanity and nature is generally described as “harmonious.” To talk of “harmony between people and nature,” strikes me as a touch incongruous, however, because of the implication of nature as a conscious decision-maker. I would prefer to go one step further and make this “people living in harmony with nature” or “living in harmony with nature,” if the subject is clear.

A related term I have commonly encountered is 多文化共生. Here again, this is a targeted ideal, and as such, “harmonious multicultural communities” or similar phrasing is preferable to the “multicultural coexistence” often seen on municipality English-language materials. The newsletter welcomes feedback in the spirit of friendly (and mutually tolerant) debate. Contact us at info@swet.jp

(For more articles in this series, see here.)



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