One's Loss, Another's Gain: The Challenges of Translating "I" in Japanese Academic Texts

Research output: Contribution to specialist publication or newspaperArticle


In translations of Japanese to English, issues of loss and gain are especially pertinent. Whether in translating honorific and humble forms or absent and inferred words, translators of Japanese are often faced with decisions on how to best fill in the large gap between the two languages, especially when translated text genres have not yet been clearly defined. This paper will discuss how cultural expectations of academic writing in both the Source Language (SL) and Target Language (TL) should affect how voice is constructed in translation. The translation of language with implicit relational or cultural cues as well as loss/gain issues will be discussed, particularly the problem of subject inference in Japanese and to what extent passive sentence construction should be used to translate such inferred subject constructions. The paper will first present model translations of problematic structures and discuss how these translation methods are or are not successful, and then discuss tactics that were used to overcome the same cultural problems in a translation done by this author. Methodology will focus mainly on the importance of genre considerations and a nuanced understanding of culture and genre when translating.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationTranslation Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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