Lesson 8 Mariko Nagai, Super Interpreter

(Part 1)
In September, 2013, wonderful news delighted a great number of people in Japan. The news was, “Tokyo wins race to host 2020 Summer Olympics.” Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964, and it will be the first city in Asia to host them twice. Many people worked hard for the campaign to host the Olympics, and Mariko Nagai was among them. She is one of the top interpreters in Japan. Through her job, she communicated Japan’s desire to the world and contributed a lot to the campaign’s success.
Do you know what interpreters do? They change spoken words from one language into another. At international conferences, they take turns interpreting every 20 or 30 minutes. This is because the job requires deep concentration. “The job of an interpreter is just like martial arts,” says Nagai. She explains further, “I mean, we interpreters respond instantly to what we receive. This is similar to a sword match in martial arts.”

(Part 2)
Nagai is over 70 years old. She still works as an interpreter, carrying out more than 200 jobs a year. She has interpreted for prime ministers, top athletes, Hollywood actors, and famous people in many fields. An interpreter is required to interpret the words correctly. However, Nagai conveys more than words. She conveys the speakers’ attitudes and feelings.
Here is one example. When she interpreted for an important politician, he became really angry and banged on the table. Interpreting his words, Nagai also banged on the table. Other interpreters usually do not go so far. However, when a speaker gets angry, Nagai also gets angry when she is interpreting the words. She follows the speaker’s attitudes and feelings exactly. That is one of the reasons why a lot of important people choose her as their interpreter. Nagai says, “A word is not a code, but a message. It is important to change the way of speaking according to the speaker and the atmosphere of the place.”

(Part 3)
Nagai was born in Sendai, Miyagi in 1943. When she was in the third year of high school, she studied in the US for a year. As she had been fascinated with English, she went on to university in Japan and studied English very hard. While she was at university, she worked as an interpreter for the first time at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Later on, she pursued her career as an interpreter and became one of the top interpreters in Japan. Interpreters have to deal with a wide range of vocabulary at conferences. They are usually given manuscripts before the conference to prepare well. Nagai consults a dictionary to look up not only technical words but easy words just in case. Then, she makes a handwritten notebook for the words. Such hard work has made her what she is today.
Why does she do such careful preparation each time? That is because of a bad experience she had in the past. Just one time she did not do enough preparation. When the conference was over, she was told not to come any more. After that, she made a point of researching all words carefully. Nagai’s belief is “Hard work and careful preparation never fail.”

(Part 4)
In March, 2011, a great earthquake hit Japan, especially in the Tohoku area. Nagai, born in Tohoku, wanted to do something to help people there. She interpreted for the mayor of Namie Town when the United Nations study team visited Fukushima. In preparation, she read the manuscript of his speech carefully. She found a phrase “utsukushii furusato Namie-machi” several times in his speech. However, she could not think of any suitable English translation for it. An English word for furusato is, of course, ‘hometown,’ but she felt something was wrong with it. She thought very hard to find the best words for the phrase and her choice was “beautiful Namie Town as our home.” She wanted to express the deep affection the people of Namie have for their hometown.
You may be surprised to know that she has been studying Japanese as well as English. Every month she goes to Kyoto to learn waka so that she can use the best words in interpreting. She believes that yamato kotoba is easier for us to understand. With her knowledge and skill, Nagai removes the language barrier between Japanese and English. Moreover, she connects people beyond languages. These facts make her a super interpreter.




Lesson 8 すばらしい通訳者,長井鞠子

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

(Part 4)
2011年3月,大地震が日本を,特に東北地方を襲いました。東北出身の長井さんは,当地の人々を助けるために何かしたいと思いました。国連の調査団が福島県を訪れたとき,彼女は浪江町長の通訳をしました。準備の際,彼女は彼のスピーチ原稿を注意深く読みました。彼女は彼のスピーチに「美しいふるさと浪江町」という言い回しを何度か見つけました。しかし,彼女はそれにふさわしい英訳を1つも思いつくことができませんでした。ふるさとを表す英単語はもちろん‘hometown’ですが,彼女はそれがどこかおかしいと感じました。その言い回しに最適な言葉を見つけようと一生懸命に考え,彼女が選んだのは“beautiful Namie Town as our home”でした。彼女は浪江町の人々のふるさとへの深い愛情を表現したかったのです。