- International Perspectives on Translation, Education and Innovation in Japanese and Korean Societies ed. by David G. Hebert
This book attempts to provide a new perspective on East Asian societies in a globalized world. In line with works like Okano and Sugimoto (2018), chapters in this book confront the problem of applying social theory derived in the “West.” The authors also attempt to move beyond national society perspectives to provide a contextualized view of East Asian society by including chapters on Korea and Japan. The authors examine a wide range of topics centered on language and culture, with a focus on issues of translation, language research, and language education. The inclusion of such diverse topics is thought-provoking, but the various sections of the book are not well integrated.
The volume consists of twenty-one chapters divided into six sections. The first section on cultural change and the final chapter attempt to integrate this diverse collection but otherwise there is little that holds the book together. For example, chapter 2 provides a “deep dive” into how the word “shizen” has come to be the standard translation for both “environment” and “wilderness,” but no connections are made with chapter 4, which analyzes how a popular novel on pollution translated obscure scientific discourse into “ . . . a language that was accessible to the general reader . . . ” in Japan. The issues of “cultural translation” in Part I, would ideally inform the major issues of translation in literature which is the focus of Part II. Instead, chapter 5 moves on to describe the characteristics of Western languages in Japanese novels, and the last chapter of this section explains the emotional discourse analysis methods by analyzing Japanese literature.
Part III focuses on key linguistic features of Korean and Japanese. These chapters identify the varying levels of definiteness in the use of articles and plural forms in Korean and Japanese, as well the influence of local dialectics on contemporary language use. Part IV presents a couple of [End Page 157] cases of language education in Japan. Chapter 11 examines the theory and practice of Japanese language education, focusing on the use of the modal verb, while chapter 12 analyzes the common mistakes of Swedish learners attempting to master Japanese. All interesting studies, to be sure, but the reader is left craving a synthesis that would unpack the potential insights that such a diverse assemblage of scholarship must hold. Part Vexplores the use of language in the professions using specific examples from contemporary Japanese law, Japanese trials, and urban planning in Korea. Finally, Part VI concludes with chapters as diverse as essays on learning the shakuhachi, and the aesthetics of the image of “spring rain” in haiku.
The range of scholarship in this book is impressive. Each chapter presents a narrow scope of study and attempts to substantiate its conclusions based on empirical evidence. Some of the chapters are under-researched (e.g., the chapter on changing images of masculinity fails to cite major works on gender identity like a study by Borovoy (2005), but there is plenty of creative scholarship on display). For example, Barbara Hartley illustrates the issues and challenges to translation raised by Ariyoshi Sawako’s novel, Fukugô osen (Compound Pollution). While the translated book had a significant impact on environmental problems in Japan, the book suffered harsh criticism from some environmental scientists. Such harsh reception as seen in this case shows a specific dilemma of language transition in the field of science and encourages us to understand its challenges better.
Such chapters echo the broader theme that language and translation are a font of innovation in East Asian society. This is a provocative idea, and the book does identify some tantalizing evidence. David G. Herbert, the editor, attempts to integrate these ideas into a new perspective on East Asian countries (although the synthesis does not include China, Taiwan, Singapore, and North Korea). This work goes beyond traditional, geographical, and demographic characteristics, to examine the effects of global interchange...