During my 10th-grade expedition trip to Hiroshima, our group was given an opportunity for a guest speaker that had survived the nuclear blast from the “Little Boy” bomb or the first strategically deployed atom bomb by the United States, during the final days of World War 2 which had killed many thousands of citizens and soldiers. As most people know, Hiroshima being the place of the blast, one of our learning focus in this expedition was to understand the history of Japanese militarism and its effect and aftermath of the nuclear explosion. Thus our supervisors had organized a valuable opportunity to invite a guest speaker with the first-hand experience. Initially, the speaker was planned to have a translator that was fluent enough in English for non-Japanese speakers to understand. This was not the case, however, and thus we students (Specifically Japanese students) had to translate instead. Since we were informed, prior to our expedition, I began to practice beforehand with translation work, through viewing interviews of bomb survivors and summarising their information through writing in English.
During the night when the guest speaker arrived our teacher decided to have two Japanese students translate at the same time to avoid a particular student doing the majority of the translation, and rotating with another partner. The first pair included me and another, in translating. While having some practice, I immediately faced a challenge, while listening I was conflicted to whether using first or third person expression to represent the speaker’s information. If I were to adopt the first person, the speaker’s experience, I believe, could have been effective, but the potential of exaggeration. On the other hand, the third person, while easier to translate while listening in my mind, may decrease and leave out some crucial details. In the end for practicality, I chose the third person to translate for my non-Japanese speaking peers and teacher.
While our group rotated several times in translating, my teacher eventually chose me to do the rest of the translation, due to my high fluency in Japanese as well as prior knowledge in the history of world war 2 and Japanese militarism. Although the increased work was not hard or stressing for me, since Japanese is considered to be a complex language with words or phrases including several different definitions, I had to carefully choose the right English word to accurately portray the provided information and even give the audience a clear image. These experience of solving challenges had made me reflect on how an individual, bilingual like me, while fluent in two languages, may struggle to effectively translate a language to one another without missing or diminishing the original message.
This experience of translating from an individual who had lived during a difficult past, was a privilege for me, not only to gain first-hand knowledge of an important history but also reflect the difficulty and strategy of processing a message from a particular language to one another.