Sunday, 17 April 2011

Department names

A new Japanese year begins every April and one third of civil servants move to a new department - workers tend to change section every 3 years or so. With this comes the formation of new departments and sections, which all need English names. The only place these English names end up is the English side of business cards - business cards here tend to have Japanese on one side and English on the reverse - but business cards are a big deal here.

Some names sound fine in Japanese, but stupid in English, and looking through the list of departments already with English translations there are a few gems. For example, 'Bicycle Race Office Management Section' (競輪場管理課), and my own department is called 'City Government and Citizen Cooperation Promotion Section' (市民協働推進課). Trips off the tongue, doesn't it.

I was recently faced with the task of translating such names as 生活安心課 (literally 'Peace of Mind With Life Section') and 子どもしあわせ課 (literally 'Children's Happiness Section'). Of course I gave them respectable names in English and didn't use the literal translations, but the problems that arise from literal translations are interesting. Languages are funny lolz.

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Blogger Hummy said...

What names did you come up with for those departments?

17/04/2011, 15:39  
Blogger Jephso said...

I believe I went with 'Children's Welfare Section' - I found out the kind of work this section does and you could call it welfare, even though it isn't a translation of the Japanese section name - and 'Peaceful Life Section', which still sounds kinda funny.

20/04/2011, 14:35  

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