Friday, October 22, 2010

Translation Studies

This is a long overdue post--my apologies! This past summer I attended the "Summer School" of the British Centre for Literary Translation in Norwich, U.K. It was a week of working with about ten other translators, Japanese to English, AND the author of the work we were translating. The last part was perhaps the most exciting, because there's nothing like having the author sitting next to you so that you can ask for clarification. There's also nothing like sitting next to an award-winning, nationally acclaimed author--in this case, Yoko Tawada. The other translators were for the most part professional translators (unlike myself...sure, I translate and publish, but it's not my "day job" as it were) and I was familiar with much of their work. The group was also very international, with members from the U.S., the U.K., India, New Zealand, Canada, and Japan.

I could write a too-long post about the experience, but what I thought was appropriate for this blog was this: translation is VERY HARD to make work as a career. The folks in my group, even though they managed to put food on the table by translating boring manuals for Toyota and the like, universally did their literary translation as a not-really-lucrative activity. They did it because they loved doing it, not because it pays well. I know many of my students have said in passing that they want to be translators someday (and yes, I know that they're largely thinking of manga) but I want to send out a word of caution that this is probably pie in the sky. That isn't to say that language learning is useless--goodness no!--but rather that one needs to be realistic about how many jobs there are doing literary translation (few) and how many there are doing technical translation (not a lot, but more). So, if you're thinking of a translating career, get used to "Toyota speak" and learn to live it. Then maybe you can afford a few spare hours to subtitle that anime you love...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


We're in the season again, in more ways than one. Some of you who took the JLPT (Japanese Langauge Proficiency Exam) a few months ago are just getting your scores now. Others who have signed up for the JLPT this December are anxiously waiting. It's a new test this year, with an added level. This test is a big deal for many, because it means credentials on your resume (or not). I'd like to know, from those who have taken the "new" tests, what your impressions are.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Graduate Study in East Asia

More and more I'm being asked by current and former students about the feasibility of doing a graduate degree in Japan. When I was a graduate student in the late 80s and early 90s, it was not advisable--U.S. schools didn't want to give foreign institutions' degrees much respect, and I knew that eventually I wanted to do a PhD in the States. But now I think things are much different; Japanese graduate schools are courting foreign applicants, and even offering them fellowships. And, I know of at least a couple people who did a master's in Japan and later got into very reputable PhD programs in the States.

This is all probably for the better--more opportunities, more depth in one's education, etc. But I'm left without having much in the way of "advice" for my students who ask about it. I'd like to know about other experiences--comments, anyone?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spring 2010

Yup, Advance Registration is just around the corner--October 20th, to be exact. What's new this time around? Well, you can see our department schedule off the homepage-- There are many of the usual suspects, and a few new courses. Of note are that Professor Byon will be offering EAK301 in the spring (usually he teaches it in the fall) because he's returning from leave. I'll be offering an introduction to Classical Japanese, with a prerequisite of EAJ301 or permission of the instructor. I haven't made up the syllabus yet, but if you're interested and have questions please do send me an e-mail or come to office hours. Professor Blum will be offering "The Language of Buddhist Texts" for the first time, too. And Professor Hartman will be offering his course on Tibet for the first time in a number of semesters--if you're interested, take it now because we're not sure when it will next be offered.

As always, departmental majors should make appointments with their advisors now to plan for the spring semester (unless you're graduating, in which case, congratulations!)

The Waiting Game

A couple months ago I sent a manuscript off to a journal for consideration. The usually process is that the editor takes a look and decides if it's worth sending to outside readers. In the past I've sent manuscripts to this journal only to have them summarily rejected for some inconsequential reason ("not the length we expect" or some such thing). The rejection comes fast, within a couple weeks, and straight from the editor.

This time is different. I haven't been rejected (yet), which means that they actually deigned to send it off to outside readers. This could take months. The next step depends on those peer reviewers, who will either accept or reject it. If the former happens, there will probably be suggested revisions, etc. If the latter happens there will be withering comments about why the article doesn't deserve to be published. (If you think the comments I write on student papers are critical, you should see what peer reviewers write.)

All this is to say that we professors have our parallel experience to the students' experience of submitting a paper. But, in our world, the process is drawn out with exquisite anticipation of a sound mental pommeling. Sometimes I miss the day of turning in a term paper and getting it back a couple weeks later with a final grade. End of story.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It's Not The Same Lounge It Was Before

Humanities 254, that is. After an often times hectic summer during which many members of the department found themselves involved in switching around offices, packing and unpacking countless boxes, and moving, cleaning, and even assembling furniture, perhaps in no place are the major changes made over the past few months more evident than in Room #254.

Many of you have no doubt made use of this space during prior semesters, or at the very least passed through it on your way to visit the offices of Professors Blum, Hargett, or yours truly. But in contrast to the previous layout, when you enter the room now it should appear much more open. The bookshelf has been relocated slightly to make way for a sofa. And gone is the moveable dividing wall that previously made the room appear so much more narrow and confined.

The most noteworthy alteration, however, is the replacement of our three old computers with five brand new machines and the addition of a printer. Yes - and let me reiterate this in bold, eye-catching font - a printer! Just as the computers are intended for student use, so too is the printer available for students in the department provided that they bring their own supply of paper. It's not a hard thing to do and this, we hope, will encourage even more students to make use of this and the many other resources available to you in Humanities 254.

After all, it is supposed to be your space, and whether that means typing up and printing out homework on the computers or gathering around the main table for language practice, you are always welcome to stop by. So long as one of us with an office adjoining Room 254 are around we will do our best to keep the door open and the place accessible. This semester, keep your eyes out for an open door on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Listserv subscriptions

The university recently started closing e-mail accounts of alumni, and as a consequence I've been seeing a number of bounced messages from the EAS listserv. If you used to get listserv messages but now don't, this is probably the problem. If you'd like to be back on the listserv, though, it is easy to do that. Just go to (if that link doesn't work, try and sign up with whatever e-mail account you're currently using.