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.


Cool Kanji – 末

Hooray for the weekend! This semester I don’t have any class or work on Friday, so I automatically get 三連休, and this particular weekend expands to 四 thanks to Labor Day. (HOLY SHIT IT’S GOOD TO BE A STUDENT!)

The Japanese for weekend is 週末 (しゅうまつ). The kanji 末 is a handy one to recognize. It often gets used as a suffix to mean the end of something. For example, 年末, 期末, 月末, and 世紀末 among others. Once you recognize it, you’ll be able to parse it as a suffix in unknown vocab much more easily.

(Note: Never confuse 期末 [きまつ, end of school term] with 末期 [まつご, end of life, terminal]. Damn you, Japonese and your flipable compounds.)

It also gets pronounced すえ and used in the construction “X〜た末、Y.” It still means an “end” of sorts in this case, just an end of the verb that comes before it, implying the English tone of “after much ~ing, Y occurred/I managed to Y/I did Y.”


いろいろ考えた末、日本で留学することにした。 After thinking about it quite a bit/After much consideration, I decided to study abroad in Japan.

長い間がんばった末、やっと翻訳の仕事を見つけた。 After a lot of hard work, I finally found a translation job. (Weird translation – ignore it, remember the Japonese, please.)

College Japanese Notes – 2001/06/25

Since I’ve been home, I’ve spent a significant amount of time going through all my worldly possessions and – sometimes at the insistence of my mother, sometimes at my own insistence – throwing out what I don’t need or want anymore. I weeded out all the unnecessary books. Most of the stuffed animals can go. All my toy figures can go. I’ll try to sell some of the comic books. One thing I will keep is my college notes. Not all of them, but the ones that matter, and my Japanese notes definitely fall into that category.

I hadn’t studied Japanese before college, so I can pinpoint the day I began to study the language – June 25, 2001. For some reason I chose to study Italian my freshman year. Halfway through the first year, I knew that I’d made a mistake and that I really wanted to be studying Japanese. Initially I looked for study abroad programs, even going as far as asking my Italian professor to write me a letter of recommendation (!). In the end I signed up for the intensive summer course, because it was the only way I could get credit for the work.

I had class from 9AM to 1PM five days a week. Additionally, we were supposed to do six hours of study and preparation outside of class each day – 10 hours a day! I remember calculating the workload at some point, and each day amounted to a week of study during the normal school year: it was a challenge, but I really enjoyed it, and it enabled me to catch up with my classmates.

It’s been 超懐かしい to look through my old notes. The image above is the first page of my first legal pad. As you can tell, nothing got by me:

I also found the very first hiragana I ever wrote:

And my very first kanji:

I’ll be digging through my notes over the next few months to see if I can glean any nuggets of wisdom that I’ve forgotten over the past nine years.

Cool Compound – 未明

Still trying to get my feet under me back home. I’m not jetlagged anymore, but I’m still in the process of getting organized, so just a small cool compound this week.

This post, “Reading Strategies – Skimming and Kanji Compounds,” on how to break down different kanji compounds is probably one of the most important that I’ve written. Study Japanese long enough and eventually you make it to the point where kanji compounds don’t even look like two characters – they parse like a single word when you read them. But inevitably you’ll come across ones that you can’t remember or don’t recognize. In those cases knowing how the characters work together is invaluable.

One of the prefixes which I did not include in the prefix/suffix category is 未. It implies incompletion. You see compounds like 未払い (みばらい, unpaid), 未婚 (みこん, unmarried), etc. While reading 1Q84 I came across this compound 未明 (みめい), which I hadn’t seen before but figured out from context and the characters. 明 means dawn or to dawn, and when prefixed with 未  it takes on pre-dawn or early dawn connotations – I guess when it’s light out but the sun has not risen yet. Pretty cool. This Google Images image best expresses the idea.

Keep Your Eyes Open – 納品 Redux

I was out in Futako Tamagawa walking around with my parents this past week, and I noticed this as we walked up to the entrance of the Garden Island annex of Takashimaya:

Yup, those are trucks parked in a special spot for 納品車 – vehicles making deliveries. Closer inspection reveals…

…that the regular parking lot is just over to the right.

This sign was interesting to me because it was the first time I’ve seen 納品 used for actual, physical deliveries. I’d used it often in the office, as I wrote when I introduced the compound, but it was always in regards to nebulous, digital deliveries. Very cool to see it out in the real world.

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.

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