• By The Financial District


Frustrated by the strange English they see on public signs and official web pages in Japan, eight researchers and interpreters have come together to try and fix the problem, Tamiko Kobayashi reported for Mainichi Shimbun.

The Association for the Consideration of Japan's English, led by Tokyo Woman's Christian University Professor Chikako Tsuruta, launched a website in October and has begun putting out information on its activities. Tsuruta told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We're in a situation now (in Japan) where we can't get correct information to foreign nationals."

The association primarily comprises volunteers who graduated from New York's Columbia Business School, including interpreters, researchers, and employees at foreign firms. American researchers living in Japan are also involved. The members had been wondering for some time what they could do about what's commonly referred to as "wasei-eigo," or Japanese-style English, and unnatural English arising from machine translations. Then in June, they decided to form the association as a way to exchange opinions on how to improve the situation and publicize information.

Examples of "wasei-eigo," Japanese-style English, used in official government names and initiatives. Examples of these are: “Go To Travel: The government's scheme to encourage domestic travel following a depressed period caused by the spread of the new coronavirus; Overshoot: A term used to describe the sudden and exponential spread of an infectious disease; With Corona: The concept of co-existing with the risks presented by the new coronavirus. Hello Work: Publicly funded employment and unemployment support services. My Number system: The number ID system used for social security and other purposes.”

"Hello Work, Go To Travel, My Number Card; the English used for government programs is strange and doesn't make sense to native speakers," said Tsuruta. The association is also concerned by the numerous cases of mistaken and unnatural English created by machine translations that stay unchanged on municipal authorities' official websites. Although they don't condemn the use of automated translation, they do call for the content to be checked by native speakers or professional interpreters. "Surely the minimum level of respect is to confirm whether or not the messages are understandable for native speakers?" said Tsuruta.