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 the term, however, it is quite common to find that “transmit” or “send” do not really work as natural English in the context. This is when considering the purpose of the message helps in considering alternatives.

One common goal is to persuade. In Japanese sentences, there is the regular combination 魅力発信, but the tourist spot operator, for example, does not want to “send” the 魅力—it aims to persuade people that the place is attractive. The four-character phrase can be summarized simply as “promoting” or become something like “promoting (Kyūshū) as a tourist destination.” Depending on context, it might be preferable to spell out 魅力を発信, such as “We want people around the world to know how good (Japanese rice) is.”

Another aim is to inform. If a local government decides to 発信 some 防災情報, it will “communicate” “information on disaster preparedness” to residents. If the communication is to be online, we might say it will “share” that information on its website or social media. If on the radio or television, we could use the word “broadcast.” It is also possible to use the word “inform” itself, such as when informing residents of crowding at evacuation shelters.

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