Cool Compound – 相乗

Japanese companies love the concept of 相乗 (そうじょう) – different groups working together to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Toy divisions within a company making figurines of characters from the video games produced by a different division of the same company. Characters from one title making cameo appearances in another title. Collectible trading cards that appear in video games and anime television series.

This, my friends, is synergy, and basically it’s a way to draw consumers into loops of consumption that boost the company’s bottom line. In Japanese, synergy is 相乗 (そうじょう). I don’t have a feel for how often U.S. businesses use “synergy” in their consumer propaganda (advertising), but it is used quite frequently here. I first encountered 相乗 after I started working at my former company when I was checking the translation of some sort of annual report – year-end figures down, yada yada, still we have our best-selling series that always sell reliably, yada yada, if only we can get some synergy going, yada yada, repackage old content for a new platform or give it a couple new bells and whistles, ta da!

“Synergy” in English feels a little catch-phrasey to me, but I think 相乗 in translation should be kept simple; just find a way to translate it as “synergy” no matter how the Japanese is used and keep the English from sounding too weird. Never use weird forms like “synergistic” or “synergism.” This is probably one of those words you’ll only ever have to recognize: don’t plan on using 相乗 anytime soon.

While corporate synergy is nothing more than a catch phrase strategy to suck cash from bozos like us, Internet synergy is what makes the world go round. If you think about it, the Internet is nothing more that an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine. There are big flashy patches of content out there, and things like Twitter, Facebook, and blogrolls are the little springs that whirl and tumble about helping make connections. Sometimes the links just sputter out like a decent one-liner tweet, but other times connections produce nice collaborations. It’s the Internet, stupid. And synergy is the way you play the game.

In addition to Collabo-Ramen, I’ve got a couple other mini-synergies in the works. The latest is Kotaku – they just syndicated my post on project management. Others coming soon.

Project Manager Lingo – 納期

The second most important project manager word is 納期 (のうき). This shares the first character with 納品, but is in the order ADJECTIVE + NOUN, I think. I believe that you could draw out the compound to something like 納める期 or 納める期間, in which case the verb acts as an adjective. So literally “delivery period.”

The phrase I hear most often is 納期教えてください!

In my office, there are Japanese coordinators that receive translation requests directly from the client and then prepare estimates for the projects. In order to complete the estimate, they have to provide a 納期.

That’s where I come in. I take a look at the volume of the project and give the Japanese coordinator the 納期 – the number of business days it will take to complete a project. This includes the time it will take the translator to translate the material and the time it will take me to check and revise the translated text. I use the numbers discussed previously to come up with an estimated number of business days. The beautiful thing about 営業日 (えいぎょうび) is that they don’t include the weekend. Holy is the project that spans the weekend, for it giveth the translator extra days to work and therefore extra days to revise the document which in turn ensureth a more accurate and pleasant-reading translation.

When I get asked, 納期は? I usually answer with something like, 4、5営業日 depending on the volume. The client will take a look at the estimate the Japanese coordinator submits and then give the official go if everything is in order, at which point we determine the specific delivery date based on the 納期 we provided.

号外 – The Latest on Farting

Interesting discussion about farts happening on my Google Buzz import of this post. When I wrote my rules for kanji compounds, I knew that the VERB + DIRECT OBJECT was in the Chinese order, but I didn’t know much more than that. Roy from Mutantfrog pointed out that some Japanese words are in this order but were actually created by Japanese people – sort of like 和製英語 for Chinese. The actual term for this is 和製漢語.

Chen then pointed out that 放屁 is actually Chinese in origin:

Very interesting. I have heard of 和製漢語 before but never ever thought so many modern Chinese words actually came from Japan. From the Chinese article linked in that wikipeida page: Yan Fu, the most famous Chinese scholar and translator in 1800s, lost his battle to Japanese translators when trying to translate modern western science and social words to Chinese. According to the author, “Yan Fu understood Chinese too well and was pursuing perfect combination of sound, rhythm, meaning and elegance. Yan’s translation used quaintly old-fashioned Chinese which was very hard for regular people. He himself even said he only considered highly educated people as his readers. While Japanese scholars/translators did not pay too much attention on those constraints but rather focused on ease of understanding, their translation were simple and straightforward. With competitor like this, it’s no wonder that Yan’s translation was abandoned”.

The word 放屁 (Fang Pi) appeared in several Chinese books/articles long before Qing Dynasty, when the “counter-import” of Chinese from Japan mostly occurred, not that I’m proud of but I think it has to be a Chinese word originated in China. It also has the meaning of “talking nonsense”, like BS in English.

And Isaac also added an important comment regarding usage:

Oh no, you gotta watch out when using this word, cos you don’t want to get it confused with the “other” ほうひ(包皮)- foreskin

放屁 is a word that is fun to recognize and understand, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say you should never try using it yourself. There are much more natural ways to pass gas.

You can find me on Buzz here. My Buzz feed incorporates this page as well as my Twitter feed.

Project Manager Lingo – 納品 & How to Engrish

When I joined my company in 2008, I started work on a Thursday. I figured that would give me a nice two day period to get used to things before I had to tackle a full week. After very little in terms of orientation or introduction, they had me busy with an intense check of some business reports for a steel company. On Friday at the end of the day, one of the three other project managers said, “Oh yeah, Daniel. You need to fill out your shoehole.”

Shoehole? I thought. OK, sure. What’s a shoehole? “Here I’ll forward you mine.” Oh, it’s a weekly report or something. Cool. I managed to use my coworker’s template to fill out the work I’d done and then send it to the right people.

For the next few weeks, I updated my “shoehole” file diligently, still kind of wondering what the hell “shoehole” meant. I thought maybe it was some kind of compartment where employees used to deposit written reports in the 19th century, a term lovingly carried up to the present day, that I had been unaware of for 27 years.

At some point I finally realized what “shoehole” actually meant – 週報 (しゅうほう), weekly report. I place some of the blame for this on my own idiocy and the other guy’s pronunciation, but a lot of it is due to the office attitude, which was (and still is) one of doing for others rather than helping others learn how to do a better job. I’d been saying “shoehole” to everyone for a few weeks…and not a single correction? Maybe expecting an explanation of 週報 is a little much, but 90% of what I’ve learned on the job has been trial and error. The other 10% has been from questions I asked others. No one, not even other project managers, has gone out of their way to make anything easier, and I’d even say that the way information is kept from employees makes things more difficult and provides no incentive to be creative or efficient.

So in response to the apparent interest in project management and freelance translation last week, I’ve decided to start introducing some project management vocabulary, hopefully to arm you all with information I wish people had taught me. These will be useful to translators as well, especially if you are trying to communicate with a Japanese project manager or client.

The first word is the most important – 納品 (のうひん). This is a complex way to say “deliver.”

翻訳をクライアントに納品しましたので、やっと帰れます!
I delivered the translation to the client, so I can finally go home!

今日納品が三つあって忙しい。
I’m busy today – I’ve got three deliveries to make.

Pretty simple once you get it down. The compound is in the pattern VERB + DIRECT OBJECT (品を納める) and combines the character for product (品, しな) with the multifaceted 納, which can mean send, pay, store, and settle, amongst others. It might help if you think of it as “take care of.” That covers a wide range of actions. As you can see from the above examples, it can be used as a noun or a verb.

(NOTE THAT IT DOES NOT MEAN DELIVERY OF TASTY THINGS LIKE PIZZA. That would be 配達.)

A similar and also very useful word is 納税 (のうぜい) which means, using my little hint, “take care of taxes” – pay taxes.

Today is also the debut of my new Japanese site – How to Engrish. Essentially it’s the exact opposite of this site. My goal is to practice writing Japanese and hopefully to make English easier for Japanese people to learn.

I’ve got the Japanese-English language pair covered. Now just to employ an army of linguists to cover every other possible combination. There’s no reason why learning a language should be so difficult – millions of people speak them without any difficulty whatsoever, and a little insight provided by a teacher in the student’s native language can have a great effect. Language study is not a competition, and we should all make an effort to be more understanding with learners: any language mistake diminishes me, because I am involved in language. (It’s still OK to laugh at mistakes though.)

I’ll be going through some major changes in the next few months, so I’ll only post once a week at How to Engrish, and I plan to cut my posts here at How to Japonese down to two a week for now (starting next week) and possibly one a week with the occasional 号外 post. 2010 is certainly turning into an exciting, aggressive year: keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle and secure all children and personal belongings.

Cool Compound – 気分転換

Another quick vacation-related word before more serious content begins.

気分転換 is a great Japanese phrase that has a lot of possible English translations. Break it down and you get change (転換, てんかん) in mood/humor/spirits (気分, きぶん), which is essentially what it means – when you’re in a rut or bored, you do something to pep yourself up. More natural translations include “change of pace,” “diversion,” and “distraction.”

An easy way to use this word is 気分転換として〜する – “Do something for/as a change of pace.” For example, 気分転換として、まだ降りていない山手線の駅で降りて、ちょっと散歩してきた。

This is another word where Google Images is useful. It reveals a number of possible 気分転換 activities – travel, going out to look at flowers, getting your nails done, buying a different style of dress from what you normally wear, or just checking out some pornography!

Cool Kanji – 通路

When I checked in at Narita on my way to New York, I realized that I’d been assigned a middle seat. Great. I guess that’s what you get when you book a ticket yourself rather than through a travel agent, I thought. I pressed the button to try and change it, but all the seats were full. Twenty minutes before my flight, I decided to try and ask one of the ladies at the gate – 空いている通路席(つうろせき)はありませんか。Are there any aisle seats available? Miraculously one was free. She tore up my old boarding pass and handed me a new one. Don’t ask me how it happened, I’m just glad I had the leg space and easy access to the bathroom. Maybe she was so surprised someone wasn’t asking for an upgrade to business class that she was happy to oblige me.

If you’re looking for a window seat, the word you want is 窓席(まどせき). I’m not sure why you would request a middle seat, but I believe the word is 中央席(ちゅうおうせき).

Game Lingo – 構える

kamaeru

Second game lingo for this week.

構える (かまえる) appears frequently in action games in the pattern <武器>を構える. The basic meaning is “ready a weapon,” but it’s important to check the context because it can sometimes take on a meaning similar to 狙う – “aim a weapon.” In either case it is the action that must be taken before firing.

It also gets used in these cool compound verbs:
待ち構える (まちかまえる) – wait ready for, lie in wait for, be on the watch for
身構える (みがまえる) – be on guard, stand ready, square off

Game Lingo – 同梱

doukon

Two quick pieces of game lingo this week.

The first is 同梱 (どうこん). 同 is easy – it means “the same.” 梱 was unfamiliar to me, but apparently means “pack,” “tie,” and possible “package.” Combine them and you have “packaged the same” or “packaged together,” which is the adverb + verb kanji category. (Or possibly the adjective + noun category? “same package”?)

同梱 refers to things that come “bundled” or “included” with something else. In the case of games, it’s often used on the sides of packaging to list something like a controller or a manual that gets included with the game. It’s more or less the opposite of 別売り (べつうり), which is another adverb + verb combination and means “sold separately.”