THANK YOU for writing in to share your answers! I shall repeat the translation example from the last session below:
Requests for an itemized call invoice, or the provision of call contents are not accepted. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.
I find 通話内容 problematic or rather the use of 内容 in various contexts in Japanese business writing difficult to translate. It is usually translated directly as “contents” as in “call contents” above, which sounds unnatural. One of you suggested “call details” which I think is good.
Now I would like to share my version:
Ver1. Please note that we do not entertain requests for itemized call invoices or provide information on calls.
Ver2. Please note that we do not issue itemized call invoices or provide information on calls.
Of course there are other possible variations. The important thing is to avoid the passive and use the first person pronoun “we”.
In the last session, I suggested using more personal pronouns in business translation to make your message sound more personal so that potential customers will feel that they are being addressed directly. This week, I am going to discuss improper usage of personal pronouns in a different context. I found the following examples on the website of the Immigration Bureau of Japan in a section explaining the format to be used when submitting visa applications.
(2a) (Note 1) The immigration bureau accepts this format if you print it out on Japanese Industrial Standards A4 format.
(2b) (Note 2) You sometimes print it out on a smaller format than A4. To avoid it, please turn off "Shrink Oversized Pages to Paper Size (K)" in the print dialogue box.
Let’s look at (2b) first, which is the more problematic one. There are no grammar errors in the first sentence, but it is completely inappropriate. Foreigners who don’t understand any Japanese will be wondering why they are being accused of printing in the wrong format!
“Sometimes” is acceptable as a translation for ～場合があります. But the use of “you” in this context is not appropriate as it accuses every single reader of printing in the wrong format. To soften the tone, we can say, “Sometimes, we get applications printed in a smaller format.” This is causal spoken language, which will be appropriate for example if the immigration bureau is doing a briefing session to explain to foreigners how to fill in the application form.
A more formal translation for ～場合があります is “There have been cases ~.” So the first sentence in (2b) can be translated as “There have been cases where some applicants submitted forms printed in a smaller format.” I think it is best to avoid using “you” in this context as it sounds too direct and rather impolite.
The second sentence in (2b) needs a few minor changes to make it sound better: “To avoid this, please remove the check mark beside “shrink page to paper size” in the print dialogue box before printing.
This is a fairly close translation of the Japanese original. It sounds okay as it is, but we can make it short and sweet by combining the two sentences as shown in (2c):
(2c) To avoid printing in a smaller format, please remove the check mark beside “shrink page to paper size” in the print dialogue box before printing.
Next, let’s go back and look at (2a). There are no major grammar errors except for a slight confusion between the use of “format” and “paper”. “A4” is a standard term used to refer to the size of paper, not the format. Thus, the last word should be changed to “paper” to reflect the Japanese original, 用紙, more accurately. (2a) can be slightly changed as shown in (3a) to be consistent and retain the same style as (2d).
(2d) The immigration bureau accepts this format if it is printed out on JIS A4 size paper.
I have 3 more examples below showing the formal and authoritative tone in which the entire explanation section was originally written. Note that there is no direct reference to “you”. Applicants are referred to in the third person as his/her as shown in (4b) below. Getting rid of “you” in (2a) and (2b) above will help these two sentences to fit in with the general tone of the rest of the document.
(4a) The applicant is not subject to the deportation procedures.
(4b) The applicant is not apparently the one who completes the activities authorized under his/her residence of status or has no chance to continue his/her activities.
(4c) The applicant is not regarded as improper as re-entering Japan due to any other reason.
However, the translation in (4a-c) can be improved further as shown below.
(5a) The applicant is not one who is being subjected to deportation procedures.
(5b) The applicant is not one who has completed the activities authorized under his/her status of residence or who has no chance to continue his/her activities.
(5c) The applicant is not one whose re-entry into Japan is regarded as inappropriate for any reason.
All the sentences in (5a-c) follow the original in (3a-c) fairly closely. They can be simplified further as in (6):
(6a) The applicant is not being subjected to deportation.
(6b) The applicant has not completed the activities authorized under his/her status of residence or has a chance to continue his/her activities.
(6c) The applicant’s re-entry into Japan is not regarded as inappropriate for any reason.
That’s all for today’s session. Do be careful in how you use personal pronouns and try to avoid the mistakes in today’s examples. If you have questions or translation examples you would like to share, please write in.