Nov 12

Translators Challenge – Fall 2008 “Politics” Issue (JETAA NY Newsletter)

Welcome to the second-ever JETAA NY Quarterly Translators Challenge, from the Fall 2008 “Politics” issue.

We once again invited JET alums and Friends of JET (i.e., anyone who wants) to take their best shot at translating a selected text. Why? Well, mostly to entertain, but also to give the greater JET alum community a chance to show their stuff as well as give the rest of us a fun way to study up on our nihongo.

The selected text for this edition of the Translators Challenge is an excerpt from “Political Science,” the satirical 1972 song by Randy Newman.

Prize:  $25 gift certificate to BOOK OFF, the discount Japanese boookstore on 41st St. between Madison & 5th Aves.

Asia’s crowded and Europe’s too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada’s too cold
And South America stole our name
Let’s drop the big one
There’ll be no one left to blame us
We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an all-American
amusement park there
They got surfin’, too

Click here to see/hear “Political Science” on YouTube.


Mia Simring
(CIR Aichi-ken, 2004-06)

Omedetou gozaimashita on
her second straight win!


カナダ - 寒すぎ
南アメリカ - 我が名を盗んだ



Ajia komisugi,
Yoroppa dasasugi
Afurika nante atsukute
Kanada – samusugi
Minami Amerika – wa ga na wo nusunda

Sekai wo buttsubusou
Hantai suru ningen wo keshichimaou

Kangaru – kawaii kara
Osutoraria dake tasukeyou
Amerikan yuenchi
Soko de tsukuru zo!



Special thanks to professional translator Jamie Graves (Shizuoka-ken, 2002-03) for providing some commentary and insight.

Mia clearly put a lot of thought into changing the distinctly American rhythms and humor of a folk song into Japanese.

I was impressed at how Mia managed to avoid direct translation, instead finding uniquely Japanese ways of expressing the value judgements in the song. Instead of directly saying “old” in the line “Europe’s too old” she used ダサイ(dasai, “not with it, uncool”), which conveys the contempt a lot better.

She was also very good on keeping the translated text rhythmic and simple, replacing a potentially messy translation of “Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo” with “カンガルー可愛いから” (kangaroo kawaii kara), which manages to keep the humor and simplicity of the original. She even managed to rhyme the last verse!

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