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Welcome to TokyoFreePress Wednesday, August 24 2016 @ 04:25 AM EDT

Once again about Yahoo! Japan's automatic "Translation" service

In the June 1 TFP story, "Yahoo! Japan's translation service is telling evidence of problems facing Japan with languages, IT and beyond," I discussed the same issue. But now I'm coming back to you with another example of the chimp's translation.

This time he was told to work on my recent piece titled "Please stop bullying me, bad bear, or I'll kill myself." The chimp gave me back this parallel translation in 15 seconds.

Again I'm taking the liberty to quote the first several paragraphs below here on the assumption that Yahoo! Japan won't find it insulting, just like it took the liberty of having the translation software of Cross Language Inc. destroy my sentences, perhaps on the same assumption.

(Note) You may not have a character set on your PC that supports these Japanese characters, but if you have one, that won't make any difference in the face of the chimp's language.

Please stop bullying me, bad bear, or I'll kill myself
Thursday, June 09 2005 @ 09:28 PM
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

A long time ago, kids living in the mountainous areas were told by their parents and grandparents that the only effective way to protect themselves, when they encountered a hungry bear on a mountain path, was to pretend they were dead. In fact these kids didn't have to be told that.

When the kid reaches out for a spider, the bug will instantly go for a tactic that biologists call a "protective mimicry." The kid wasn't going to eat him. So he doesn't really care whether the spider is actually dead, or still alive. But the kid will certainly learn the lesson: there is no other way for the timid spider to go for in the face of a crisis than to act as though he is dead - workable or not.
子供がクモへ手を伸ばすとき、バグは生物学者が「保護的擬態と呼ぶ戦術を取りにすぐに行きます。」、子供は彼を食べそうではありませんでした。それで、彼はクモが実際に死んでいるか、まだ生きているかどうか、本当に気にしません。しかし、子供はレッスンを確かに学びます:まるで彼が 働かせられて 死んでいるように、行うより別の臆病なクモが危機に直面して行く方法がありません。

Japanese leaders have certainly learned the same lesson from spiders. And this is the only way to explain their total inability to take quick, resolute, sensible actions to the mounting problems facing them abroad, and at home.

The only thing that makes these self-proclaimed leaders distinguishable from spiders is the fact they make up one imaginary issue after another to distract the enemy's attention from the real and more imminent issues. The list of the false issues they have fabricated in the last couple of years includes:

- Whether Junichiro Koizumi should refrain from revisiting the Yasukuni Shrine,
- Whether Tokyo should impose economic sanctions against Pyongyang,
- Whether the junior-high history textbook that allegedly "whitewashes" and "glorifies" Japan's wartime atrocities should have been approved,
- Whether Japan deserves a permanent seat at the UNSC,
- Whether the "war-renouncing" Constitution should be rewritten,
- Whether the Japan Post should be privatized and split up into four,

The list goes on and on, but practically every "issue" listed here is nothing but an exercise to fake an alibi for their inaction.

If you have a certain amount of Japanese literacy, this must be self-explanatory, but in case you are not Japanese-literate, I tell you this is as though you gave an English-Japanese dictionary to a chimp. It's really appalling to know this is what we have achieved here after all the effort to develop language translation systems in the last 3 decades.

Since the days I first fell in love with the computer some 40 years ago, I've never gotten hooked on Information Technology, as such, because IT is nothing more than a tool. If anything else, the computer is also something to be likened to a mirror that precisely reflects what its user really is, judging from what he is using it for as a tool.

Likewise, a language, mother language or foreign, is a tool with which to communicate thoughts and feelings among each other. As I argued in the September 1 TFP article "English education in Japan," learning a foreign language cannot be a goal in itself. In a nation where the people are not used to forming their own opinions using their own brains, learning how to use the tool of communication is totally useless. That doesn't help a bit. Instead, it only mirrors what these millions of me-too English learners really are.

I've just singled out here how my TFP article was destroyed by the Yahoo! Japan's translation system. But since one and the same system is always at work on the web-pages for search results, every time you feed the ape with any English sentence, he will just take a bite and chew it up.

You may say I'm just nitpicking over an unimportant thing. But as a one who has had a lot of experience working on computer-aided language translation, I'm sure wherever you let a computer system destroy languages, both source and "target" languages at the same time, the way the Yahoo! Japan's system does, it's not only the computer system, but the entire System that is dysfunctional. Likewise it's not only the languages but also the entire society that has been destroyed.

I think it's much more symptomatic of the root problem underlying the nation's disease than it looks at first glance. That's why I've volunteered to point this out.

Many still argue that Japan will reemerge as an economic superpower sooner or later and to that end, its aspiration to become an IT superpower will play a pivotal role. They go on to say that Japan should also be able to communicate with the international community "even" more effectively. But in all likelihood, these are all pipe dreams, unless Japan comes to before long.

Talking specifically about English education in Japan, it's no wonder we are looking more and more like chimps who are given the English dictionary, thanks to those cheap, but pricey, "English" classes at the likes of AEON or NOVA.


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