First Impressions (Week 2)

The Eagle has landed. Okay, we’re not the President… heck, we’re not even Americans. Anyways, after a long flight we have finally landed at Narita International Airport. Of course, we are all excited to begin exploring Tokyo and experience new things. The stark contrast between the bitter Calgary chill and the warm air of Japan was the first thing we noticed; which was especially refreshing after a long winter. We immediately began looking at signs that contained both Japanese and English text. We were very impressed that there were no errors on any of the signs at the airport, though it was to be expected considering that an airport is an area with a high concentration of foreign people, and more care would have been put into the signs.

Univer-city Bus
(Desmond & Vincent)

Immediately after leaving the airport, we saw a minor spelling error on the sign marking our bus. The sign read “Univercity of Calgary”, rather than “University of Calgary". This spelling error probably originated from the fact that the letter “c” can take on the sound of both /k/ as in candy, and /s/ as in sorcery.  Some words even have both such as "concept". Furthermore, they may have assumed that this spelling was correct due to the word “city”. This spelling error still makes sense to anyone that reads the sign, but if anyone pays close attention, they will most definitely notice that one consonant is amiss.

On the first day of sightseeing, we blessed ourselves at the Meiji-jingu; a famous shrine that was constructed during the Meiji Era. While in this area we saw vast green forests and many traditionally-styled buildings. Also, we were able to witness the latter part of a Japanese wedding ceremony. It was a very rare sight to behold, and we’re glad that we had such good timing despite the fact it was only a small portion that we were able to see. The groom was noticeably non-Japanese, so it must have been a very special experience for him. Kudos to him! In regards to translations, the signs and pamphlets were all perfectly translated.

Tutrial and Error
(Jessica & Rebecca)

As part of our stay at Senshu University Ikuta Campus, we met up with some local students and they showed us around the campus.  During our tour, our friend Teigo noticed a misspelling on a 証紙券売機 (shoshi kenbaiki), which is a ticket machine that allows you to pay for certain classes.

However, unlike the "Univercity of Calgary" sign, this mistake was probably due to a typo error.
Teigo has notified the Senshu University staff and they also seemed surprised about this particular error.

So machi fun in Solamachi
(Desmond & Vincent)

Afterwards, we went to Shinjuku and took a train to an area called Solamachi. From there we visited the Tokyo Skytree. However, it wasn’t the stunning view that caught our attention, rather the thing that jumped out at us was the way they transliterated the name of this special attraction. The area around the base of the Skytree is written as 東京ソラマチ (read as “Tokyo soramachi”). However, they decided to stylize the romaji name by using an “l” instead of an “r”. Anyone who has studied Japanese will most likely have encountered the syllables ra, ri, ru, re, ro. There is no equivalent of la, li, lu, le, lo in the Japanese language, therefore any foreign words that contain an /l/ subsequently have that sound substituted with an /r/. In this case, the difference is not an issue of poor translation; rather it is a manipulation of the language to incorporate a different consonant which gives it a unique sound. This matter is similar to how the names Logan and Lily are written as “Rogan” (ロガン) and “Ririi” (リリー) in Japanese, and even pronounced in that way. For instance, many Japanese people have trouble with pronouncing the word “really”. This is due to the same reason.

Taoru Trouble
(Jessica & Rebecca)

After arriving at the Skytree, we explored the variety of stores in the mall at the base of the skyscraper. During our shopping spree, we came across many interesting goods for sale and dumped quite a bit of our money on souvenirs. In one store, we came across this sign...

This error occurred because of the difference in grammar structures between Japanese and English. In Japanese, there are no differences in grammar for singular and plural nouns. For example, ピカチュウのぬいぐるみを 一つ買います; compared to ピカチュウのぬいぐるみを二つ買います。Both sentences are the same except for the underlined number, yet nothing else in the sentence emphasizes the difference between the presence of a singular object, and a plurality of objects.

However, for English, sentences need to have an subject-verb agreement, which can be quite confusing for someone not familiar with this relationship. This means that the verb needs to "agree" with the subject. For instance, "there is one bead" versus "there are five beads". Linking verbs, such as: is/are, has/have, depend on whether the affected noun is singular or plural.

For this error, the problem was the usage of "is" instead of "are". The subject in this sentences is "towels" which is a plural noun. However "is", which is used to describe a singular noun is affecting the plural noun on this sign. Therefore, the verb does not agree with the subject.

Take one, take two, take free
(Jessica & Rebecca)

As our Senshu group made our way back from the Skytree via the elaborate transit system of Japan, like Pokémon trainers collecting rare Pokémon, we searched intensely for translations errors within Tokyo. I gotta say... looking for mistranslations within Tokyo is not as easy as it sounds!! One must search high and low and constantly keep their eyes open for everything such as the signs, menus, T-shirts, and all the other visual objects in the world. One thing we learned on the trip was to not look too hard for mistranslations, like the famous saying: “The more you look for something, the less you seem to be able to find it. Instead one should wait for good things to come.” And that is exactly what we did. After we stopped the excessive scavenging of mistranslated signs we were able to find a lot more signs than we had expected! Aren’t we a lucky bunch of explorers? The first sign that we came across was spotted at 押上 (Oshiage Station), advertising for a selection of magazine companies. If you guys are like me -- a poor student living on meager student loans -- then the first thing you would notice in this picture is the number ZERO!!! And also the keyword “FREE”!!! Hells yeah! Free things in Japan!! Yay~~ But on a serious note, as a native speaker of English, the phrase “Take free” is grammatically wrong. What the advertisement probably wanted to say was “Take one, it’s free” or “Free to take”. The reason for this translation error was probably due to the use of online translators. The meaning that the Japanese wanted to get across was probably “これは無料” (kore wa muryou) or ”ご自由にお取りください” (go jiyuu ni otori-kudasai), which both carry the meaning that the magazines are complimentary. From this awesomely taken photo, we can all agree that certain translation devices do not necessarily make correct translations. 

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