Thursday, February 25, 2010

Japanese Translation for Language Proficiency

Earlier this year, Barbara Schramm engaged in an interesting educational experiment, using translations of William Stafford poems into Japanese as a means of enhancing the students' comprehension and vocabulary skills in English. She writes:

This is my tenth year facilitating an intensive three-day January Seminar with the Academy of International Education at St. Martin’s University. Established in California in 1981, the Academy of International Education (AIE) has been running its study-abroad program in Washington over the past twenty years, partnering with Saint Martin's University and other local universities and colleges. AIE founder, Dr. Toshio Ogoshi, bases his educational philosophy on building individual character while exposing students to American life and language. AIE offers various programs with the goal of building internationally minded Japanese.

Students are enrolled in ESL and the liberal arts curriculum simultaneously and have varying degrees of English language proficiency.

This January, Paul Merchant, Director of the William Stafford Archives, asked me to choose four of my favorite poems, poems I thought meaningful for the students, for translating from English into Japanese. I sent “For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid”, “A Ritual To Read To Each Other”, “A Valley Like This”, and “Ask Me”, to the students in late October to “live with” the poems so to speak, knowing they wouldn’t have much time to study the poems given their academic schedules. On the first day of the seminar it became clear that most of the thirty-one students were considering the poetry for the first time.

Since I don’t speak Japanese, there is a senior student who translates my speaking into Japanese. The students ask me questions in English. This works well, better than one might expect. The student translators are fluent in English and, of course in Japanese. Through the years I’ve encouraged students to speak to each other across the room to help clarify each other’s thoughts and to help with translating my remarks. This works well. The class is theirs and is open and lively.

For this project we divided the class into six groups, five/six students in each group, making certain that third and fourth year students were in each of the groups. This year’s students were Kenta Toyomura, Hirotsugu Kojima, Kohei Shimada, Makoto Yuasa, Maki Korai, Yusuke Takami, Tetsuro Ohira, So Sato, Hirotsugu Kawai, Ryoko Wada, Kimiko Hakomori, Hiroko Momose, Takahiro Kato, Shingo Kojima, Kodai Kojima, Atsuhito Sekiya, Takumi Iizuka, Kokoro Iwano, Yoshiko Watanabe, Kaoru Fujita, Koshiro Ueda, Maki Endo, Ayumi Mikuriya, Hirofumi Kuroda, Yuki Otsuki, Tetsuya Yonetsu, Takashi Fujii, Yosuke Oi, Yuki Kato, Yasuyuki Shimada, Takuya Hashimoto, Mayumi Iwata, Ryota Mizutani, Eriko Nekomoto.

We began with “For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid,” one of the most difficult of the four poems. AIE students read the poem aloud first in Japanese and then in English, twice, using the poem as a meditation. (I’ve previously worked with the students practicing meditation so they understand the process and purpose). The other three poems were “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” “A Valley Like This,” and “Ask Me.”

The readings of each poem were followed by class discussion then writing in student journals, responding to questions such as: Write about the title, what does it seem to prefigure? How does it work to assist the ideas of this poem? Choose one line from the poem and respond to it: What are your associations with it? What does it remind you of? What question does it ask or answer? Why did you choose this line? Which one word is at the heart or core of this poem? If you had to choose one word to represent the entire poem, which would it be? Explain your choices.

It was a great joy to watch the lively activity in each group—laughing, serious conversation, questions for me, much work with hand-held computer dictionaries. There was a lot of language learning going on. At the William Stafford birthday celebration, one of the new students said the translating helped him realize how limited his own Japanese vocabulary is. We worked five and one-half hours for three full days and the students worked with their Winter 2010 Interim Director, Chie Yuhara, during the evenings, coming up with a final translation of the poems selected for the Friends of William Stafford website.

On the third day we concluded with an art project, an All Hands Poem. We divided into four groups---the students chose the poem they most wanted to work with. Students selected a line or two from their journal writing, wrote those lines on strips of watercolor paper that they’d washed, then glued the strips on tag board, also washed and shaped by their creative imagination. Their new poem was given a title with reference to the original WS poem and then signed at the bottom by each of the students. These were beautiful creations. I wish you could see them.

On Saturday, January 16, we held a William Stafford birthday celebration in Heron Hall on the St. Martin’s campus where we again read all the poems, eight students reading in English and Japanese. We discussed the translation process and students described the “All Hands Poems” that hung on the wall. One of the AIE students said he realized that his Japanese vocabulary was limited and wants to work to correct that. The students’ ESL instructor was one of the guests. He said he was amazed at the language learning that took place and asked to be invited next year to see their seminar work.

One of the St. Martin's monks attending our William Stafford birthday celebration told me that Stafford had spent time on campus through the years, attending the Washington State Poetry Association, or some such organization. How appropriate that we should have this opportunity to translate his poems into Japanese on the campus where, according to Father Benedict, he walked in the woods.

My heartfelt thanks to Paul Merchant for suggesting this excellent language-learning project, introducing William Stafford’s philosophy for student discussion. Thanks also to writer, poet and FWS Board member, Ann Staley, for sharing her process for the All Hands Poem project. Finally, I'd like to thank Takuya Otani, AIE Director, for his good-natured support throughout this project.

Barbara Schramm


The three most successful group translations (of “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” “A Valley Like This,” and “Ask Me”) are printed here.

William Stafford has been translated into Japanese in the past by two other translators. Yorifumi Yaguchi, a friend of William Stafford’s who collaborated with him on translations of Japanese poems into English, and also engaged with him in a handful of renga-type alternating poems, has published a number of translations of Stafford poems into Japanese. And Portland poet Ritz Kyoko Mori gathered a collection of her translations of William Stafford in the second William Stafford Chapbook series at Lewis & Clark College.


Collaborative translations into Japanese by AIE students, AIE Winter Seminar 2010


A Ritual To Read To Each Other 互いに読み合う儀式

もし、あなたが、私がどんな人間であるかを知らず、
そして、私が、あなたがどんな人間であるかを知らなければ、
誰かの手によって作られた模範が世に広まり、
そして、誤った偶像を追い、私たちの星を見失うかもしれない。

なぜなら、心の中には、小さな裏切りがたくさんある。
崩れた堤(つつみ)を通り抜けて遊びに行こうと飛び出してしまったような、
子どもの頃の恐ろしい過ちを、叫びながら、
肩をすくめて見てみる振りをして、
脆いつながりを壊してしまうようなことだ。

象が前の象の尻尾を鼻でつかみながら、連なり行進しているとき、
その中の一頭が群れを外れて迷ってしまうと、
他の象も行き着くべき場所を見失ってしまう。
私は、それを残酷と呼ぶ。そして、何が起こるかを知りながら、
その事実を認識しようとしないというすべての残酷さの源となる。

だから、私は、影となっている声に問いかける。
話をする人々すべてのなかにある、遠く離れているが大切な場所なのだが、
それは陰に隠れている。
私たちは、互いにからかうことはできるが、
互いの人生の行進が闇へと迷いこまないように、
深く考えるべきである。

なぜなら、目覚めている人は、目覚め続けていることが大切であり、
そうしなければ、行進の列を崩すことで、人を眠りに戻してしまうからだ。
私たちが出す合図は、「はい」か「いいえ」か、「たぶん」であり、
それらは、明確でなければならない。
私たちを取り囲む暗闇は、深い。



A Valley Like This  このような谷

ときどき、あなたは、このような空虚な谷を見る。
そして突然、雪がその空間を埋める。
こうしてすべての世界は生まれた。
そこには何もなかった。そして、それから・・・

しかし、あなたが外を見ると、ある時、
山さえも消えているかもしれない。
世界は再び、無に返る。
世界を元に戻すのに、人は何ができるのだろうか。

私たちは、世界を見て、そしてそれから互いのことも見なければならない。
一緒に、まるで、注意して見ておかないと消えてしまう泡を持つように、
寄り添い、その世界を守っていくのだ。

生き続けながら、このことをよく考えてください。
世界に息を吹きかけてください。
世界に手を差し伸べてください。
朝と夜が繰り返される中で、どのように日が昇って沈み、
あなたの人生という祝宴に、世界がどのようにあなたを招き入れるのかを、
よく見てください。


Ask Me たずねなさい

いつか、川が凍りつくとき、私にたずねなさい。
私が犯した過ちを。
私がしてきたことが、私の人生となってきたのかどうかも、
自身にたずねなさい。
私ではない他人が、私の思考の中にゆっくりと入ってくる。
そして、私を助けようとする者もいたし、傷つけようとする者もいた。
彼らのもっとも強い愛と憎しみは、どんな違いを生んだのか、
たずねなさい。

あなたが言うことを、私は聞こう。
あなたと私は向きを変え、
その音のない川を見つめながら、待つこともできる。
私たちは、そこに流れがあることを知っている。隠れているが、
何マイルも彼方から流れこみ、流れすぎて行く。
そして、ちょうど私たちの目の前では、その静かな流れを止めている。
その川が言うこと、それは私が言うことなのだ。

3 comments:

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  2. I can't see machines taking over the jobs of human translators in the near future, as they have done with so many other professions (remember telephone operators?)
    These machine translators are ok when all u need is a quick understanding of a some rather simple text, but if you are running a business, or otherwise depend on accuracy of a translation, using professional translation services is the only way to go.

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  3. thank you, this is awesome share
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