Word Wise: Making Assessments

評価 Hyōka

By Richard Medhurst

Japanese words with distinct, similar meanings can be troublesome. This is especially true when they have small but crucial differences. The primary dictionary definitions of 評価 tell us that this word is used to decide the value of something or someone. This suggests English words like to “assess” or “evaluate.” With 専門家の評価, we have an expert’s “appraisal” or “review.” 財産の評価 is “property assessment.” 高評価の映画 is a “highly regarded film.”

Often though, 評価 is not merely neutral. In explaining why a car wins a prize, a press release may say that 斬新なデザインが評価された. I might put this into English as “it was praised for its original design,” or turn it around to something like “judges singled out the car’s original design.” Most important here, though, is that 評価 is positive even without being preceded by 高 as in the first paragraph’s final example.

A further example discussing Osaka’s bid for Expo 2025 comes in a Nikkei headline: 25年万博誘致 日本のプレゼン、途上国支援など評価. While it could (just about) refer to assessment of the stated factors, a look at the article makes it clear that this is again positive. “Japan’s presentation and support for developing countries wins praise.” When unsure, examining the surrounding text should clear up how 評価 is being used.

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I was happy to come up with "international recognition" as a translation for 国際的評価 recently, which fitted perfectly in the context of the piece I was working on. It's another useful term to add to the arsenal! While the strong collocation with “international” alerted me here, I could see it fitting neatly into other contexts too. (September 26, 2021)


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