Friday, 13 September 2013

Interpreter's pride comes through in her translation

Interpreter's pride comes through in her translation

TOKYO:  When an International Olympic Committee member asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe why he thought the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture has no effect on Tokyo, the atmosphere became tense at a venue of the IOC general assembly in Buenos Aires.

Tokyo made the final presentation there on Saturday, but media from many nations had reported that radioactive water leakage from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was a mounting concern for IOC members.

When Abe began explaining in Japanese, interpreter Mariko Nagai, 70, who was sitting in a booth at the back of the seats, told herself: "Interpret in a tone just as the prime minister puts it."

Abe said in a clear, strong voice that he is taking responsibility by implementing programs for a fundamental solution. His strong words were delivered to IOC members in English through Nagai's interpretation.

Nagai is an interpreter for the Tokyo bid committee. When Tokyo competed for the 2016 Olympic Games, Nagai worked with then Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara. She has visited more than 50 places in Japan and abroad for bidding activities since around 2007. Having also been involved in the 1998 Nagano Olympics from before its start, she has a lot of experience with Olympic-related activities.

Many people put strong faith in her, saying Nagai interprets remarks by understanding context.

Nagai said she pays attention to every word she chooses, aiming to give a positive impression at such occasions as a press conference. For example, she prefers to use "a challenge" or "a point to be improved" instead of "weak points."

"I love the Olympics. I never change the words of a speaker when I interpret, but I guess my wish that Tokyo be chosen as the host city naturally comes out in my interpretation," she said.

Her strong feelings for the Olympics date back to a vivid memory half a century ago.

It was the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. When planes flying in formation drew the five-ring emblem in the blue sky at the opening ceremony, Nagai was at the National Stadium in Tokyo, wearing a white jacket with an emblem of a rising sun. VIPs from around the world passed by in front of her eyes.

Nagai, then a student at International Christian University, applied for a part-time job as an interpreter to utilize her experience of studying at high school in the United States, as an army of interpreters were needed.

She was in charge of women's swimming. She translated results into English, as the announcements were made in Japanese at the National Yoyogi Stadium. She was excited to see athletes from all over the world. "I was so proud that I took part in it as a Japanese," she recalled.

It has been over 50 years since then. As a member of an interpretation company, she receives about 200 requests a year, including requests from such big names as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and actor Kevin Costner.

At the time of the Nagano Olympics, she was an interpreter for the Empress when the Imperial family hosted a tea party for IOC members.

Sheets of paper on which she wrote down relevant vocabulary for the Olympics have become her treasure. They contain about 500 words she learned, including official translation of slogans for the Games and special terms used in the Olympics.

What she remembered in Buenos Aires, the location of the final presentation, is a remark by a member of the Tokyo bid committee for the 2016 Games. "You are a bid committee member before you are an interpreter," she was told.

Nagai did her job, just trying to make Tokyo look the best candidate before the IOC.

When the announcement was made, she cried, as a member of the Japan team.

In 2020, a huge number of people from other countries will visit Tokyo.

Nagai hopes that they will enjoy unique Japanese expressions that are hard to translate into English, such as "omotenashi" which recently became popular as a description for top-quality hospitality.

Source: Astro Awani 

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