Knowledge of Japanese Culture is Necessary when Translating

When a meal invitation is given, Japanese have a custom where guests bring a present as a token of gratitude for the food that is provided. In the case of Westerners, the guest will give a present saying “This is a nice cake sold at a shop near my house. It is very delicious,” and the host will open it at once and make an exaggerated reaction, “Wow! It looks delicious! I do love strawberry cake. I’m very glad.”

Young Japanese who are familiar with Western culture will often express themselves in the same way as Westerners do. On the other hand, there are still many elderly people who use the traditional expressions and mannerisms. For example, a guest will give a present to a host and say, “This is a trifling gift.” And the host will receive it with an expression meaning “Don’t mind about me.” Then, the host will usually place the present in a corner without opening it. This is because the guest is anxious about whether the present will please the host or not, and the host acts to reduce the guests’s anxiety.

Furthermore, when the guest sits at the table, the host, who will likely serve a delicious dish as a treat for the guest, will humbly say something like this. “Sorry, this is nothing” or “I’m afraid whether you will like the taste or not, but please help yourself to as much as possible.” For hosts introducing their wives to others, an appropriately humble expression would be something like “My wife is not smart, nor good at hosting.” But you should not take comments like this at face value.

Traditional Japanese expressions are completely different from those used in the Western world. If an expression such as “My wife is not smart, nor good at hosting,” is translated into English, Westerners will surely wonder why he married the woman. But if someone says “My wife is so smart and can do anything,” a chill will come over Japanese guests who hear this.

“Global Skills” project provides Opportunity to Work in Japan and Take Free Japanese Lessons Offered to Skilled Workers.