In this session, I am going to discuss the translation of modified nouns. What do I mean by modified nouns? Let’s look at the example below.
(1b) Customers of convenience stores, who used to be mainly men in the 20’s and 30’s, are gradually changing.
I am referring specifically to nouns (double underline) modified by relative clauses (single underline) that usually require words like “who, that, which, whose” when translated into English.
However, there are some modified nouns in Japanese that will sound unnatural when translated literally into English using the same structure as shown in the following example.
(2a) is taken from the same newspaper article as (1a). This kind of sentence structure is unique to Japanese and cannot be translated directly into English because noun phrases cannot stand alone as sentences in English. It is necessary to supply a subject for the English translation. This can be done by using the main noun as the subject. Compare (2b) and (2c) below.
(2b) Convenience stores that are recovering from a slump in sales that has persisted for the last 10 years.
(2c) Convenience stores are recovering from a slump in sales that has persisted for the last 10 years.
(2b) is a complex noun phrase that is similar in structure to (2a). It may not be ungrammatical as a noun phrase but it sounds unnatural when placed in its original context. As shown in (2c), this problem can be solved by removing the relative pronoun “that” right after the subject in (2b).
In the next example, (3b) is a direct translation that follows the original structure in (3a) fairly closely. To change the complex noun phrase in (3b) to a full sentence, we need to remove “that” and add “is to” as shown in (3c).
(3b) The strategy that maximizes revenue by acquiring equity profits and dividend income from capital investments in midstream and downstream companies, and middlemen profits from product supply.
(3c) The strategy is to maximize revenue by acquiring equity profits and dividend income from capital investments in midstream and downstream companies, and middlemen profits from product supply.
However, not all examples work so neatly. Depending on the context, it may be necessary to substitute other nouns to serve as the subject as shown in the next example.
The next set of examples is taken from a newspaper report on Mitsubishi becoming the top shareholder in Aeon and the future business plans of Aeon after the partnership is formed. (5a) and (6a) form a paragraph by themselves. (4a) is the last sentence in the previous paragraph. 同社 in (4a) refers to Mitsubishi while Aeon is the one that is trying to rebuild its business.
(4b) Aeon has to act fast to get Mitsubishi’s cooperation to rebuild its business structure that is mired in a low profit state.
(5b) Aeon is planning to expand its supermarket business in growing markets overseas such as China from the current 20 stores to 100 stores as early as possible.
(6b) It is thinking of using Mitsubishi’s network to search for new suppliers and information on potential sites for new stores.
If (5a) and (6a) are translated using the main noun as the subject as in “The policy/plan is to…” or “The concept/idea is to…,” it will sound unnatural and stilted. In this case it is better to use Aeon as the subject as shown in (5b). Alternatively, it is possible to begin (5b) with “Aeon’s policy/plan is to…” but (6b) should not be changed to “The concept/idea is to…” so as not to repeat the same structure.
I would like to leave you with the following example for practice. How would you translate the underlined sentence in (7a)? In (7b) I have done the first sentence in (7a). Please continue with the second sentence.