How to Japonese on NHK – Hermit Crab Survival Project

A few months ago I was contacted by a Japanese producer to put together a short video about the local response to the BP oil spill for the television show ガッチャン. They have a segment called STUDENT EYE where college students from around the world introduce aspects of their culture or some sort of unique student activities.

The producer had located a woman on Grand Isle who had organized a volunteer group called the Hermit Crab Survival Project to clean hermit crabs who were stuck in the oil that washed up on the beaches. She was a park ranger at Grand Isle State Park, but unfortunately working with birds or mammals required some sort of federal license, so instead she helped clean the crabs.

The project was already complete by the time I started working on the video, but fortunately she had video of some of the activities, and I interviewed her. I also took a trip down to Grand Isle, a barrier island about three hours south of New Orleans, to talk to the locals and get some stock footage.

It was kind of strange – I’d gone down to Grand Isle earlier in the summer and run into the hermit crab folks. Too bad I didn’t get any footage then. All the pictures above are taken from the video I submitted. I know they’ve edited it pretty heavily, so who knows what the final product will look like, but it will be airing on NHK BS1 on Friday, December 3 at 6PM. If you’re in Japan, check it out and let me know how it looks! They should post it online after it airs – I’ll definitely post a link when they do.

Cool Compound – 復習

This one is pretty easy to break down. 復 means “multiple” and can be seen in such useful compounds as 複数 (ふくすう, “multiple numbers” → plural) and 複雑 (ふくざつ, “multiple miscellaneous” → difficult, complicated).

習 you should recognize from your basic set of verbs – 習う (ならう, to learn).

Put them together and you get 復習 (ふくしゅう) which means “to learn multiple times” or “to learn again” – to review.

Yes, it’s that time of year again – finals time. I’ve got several meaty projects I have to finish up before the second week in December, so How to Japonese will be taking a little break. I finish my last presentation on December 9, and I’m flying out to Japan for two weeks on December 10. Regular posting will resume at some point over the holidays, most likely at some point during my visit to Japan.

Until then, go ahead and “review” some of the old material from the site. I recommend:

– the three original posts.
– my definition of かわいそう
– proof that laughter is the best study partner
– my guide to kanji compounds
– any of the posts about “airbag expressions”

See y’all again in December!

Cool Kanji – 微

Some guys wish they were taller. Others wish they had more money or were better looking. I wish I could drink more coffee. I have written about the reasoning previously – drinking coffee makes you cool, duh.

When I went out to coffee with a Japanese friend last Friday, I was trying to explain my caffeine deficiencies. I get a massive initial rush and then crash hard not long after, often requiring a nap. (Although I do feel like a genius during the rush.) I opt instead for tea, and I dole it out in small amounts from a thermos so that I can have lots of little doses to sustain me through the day.

I was having a hell of a time explaining this. I went round and round, dodging the potholes that have worked their way into my vocabulary over the past five months, trying to get my point across. Finally she figured it out and said, ああ、微調整. And I was like, なるほど!

I won’t go into 調整 (ちょうせい) all that much – it means to adjust/to make adjustments. The real point of the post is to take a closer look at the prefix 微 (び). You’ve probably already gathered this from my story, but 微 in this case means “small” or “slight” – I make small or slight adjustments in my caffeine level to prevent any highs and lows.

If you are a fan of Japanese canned coffee, you might have recognized this character from 微糖 (びとう), which means a small amount of sugar. This is less sugar than 低糖 (ていとう), which means low sugar. But these are two-character compounds, and 微 isn’t as clearly a prefix. A quick perusal of ALC reveals that 微気候 (びきこう, microclimate), 微欠点 (びけってん, minor defect), and 微生物 (びせいぶつ, microorganism) are other examples of 微 in action as a prefix. So a good English equivalent is “micro,” but it doesn’t always work – “microdefect” doesn’t sound quite right.

The moral of the story is know your prefixes and know their pronunciations; they’ll make it much easier to parse long kanji compounds and will make your Japanese much more efficient.

Project Management Lingo – 請求書

The massive amounts of English required for grad school are slowly wearing down my Japanese ability, but I’ve found a couple of conversation partners (one who just returned to New Orleans) and I still get translation work every now and then (and some of those times I can actually fit it in my schedule). I recently did a little work for a company, and just this past Monday a check finally came through for some work I did over the summer. Both of these events reminded me of a critical translation/project management vocab word – 請求書 (せいきゅうしょ).

To break this fool down literally, first we have to chop off the suffix – 書. You probably recognize this as the character that means “write”; it gets tacked on to the end of almost any document. 身分証明書 (ID). 説明書 (instructions). 契約書 (contract). 計画書 (plan). I could go on for a while. So we have a document of a 請求. If we look at the different types of kanji compounds, I believe this is a combination of two different synonyms. Both 請 and 求 mean, loosely, “to ask for, to request,” so the combination together means the same thing – to request. What are we requesting? Payment, of course! We’ve done all the hard work. We’ve looked up words (not too many). We’ve Googled mercilessly and left comments where we couldn’t find an answer about something in the text (not too many). We’ve revised (quite a bit to smooth out our awkward translationing). And now we’ve finally sent the work in. Time to get paid. 請求書, in more familiar English, means “invoice.”

First I’ll address this from a translator’s perspective. Most companies want invoices by the end of the month, so you can save it until then or you can submit the invoice along with the finished translation. I always take the latter course so I don’t forget. If you get a lot of work from a company, then you can save all your invoices and send them together at the end of the month. Companies may charge a transfer fee of $10 or so, and if you are a yen pincher, then you could try and combine several months’ worth of invoices into a single month. Be careful, though – some companies ask that invoices be submitted within a certain amount of time after the translation is completed.

You want to make sure you have all your bank info on the invoice along with contact info and the job number (if you were given one). As a translator, you should expect to get paid a month or two after you submit your invoice. If you finish your work early in the month, then you may end up waiting as many as three months.

As a project manager, when you receive an invoice, the first thing you should do is print it out. At least that’s how we handled it where I worked. Whether or not you print it may be up to the company policy, but you should immediately take the first step toward processing the invoice. Forgetting to file a translator’s invoice properly is one of the most embarrassing things you can do – trust me. Translators help you look good (or at least try to help you look good), and it pays to take care of them. Once I printed and filed the invoice, I always confirmed this fact with the translator so they could have peace of mind.