where the writers are
Light as a Sword

I recently mentioned that a Japanese man had supplied me with chicken-related information. He has since sent me a two-page essay that he wrote in Japanese and self-published for fun. In a moment, I'll share part of the essay with you, particularly the segment that changed me for the rest of the day. But first some background.

The man who fed me the chicken nuggets (so to speak) is Ryoichi Chida. Though he has a full-time job in Tokyo and a four-hour round-trip commute (!), he somehow finds time to do interpreting and translating on the side. He even advises a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on English-related matters.

I felt eager to read Ryoichi-san's essay. It was about "simultaneous interpretation" (同時通訳, どうじつうやく), and I knew so little about the topic that I hadn't even heard of that English term. Plus, I needed some way of preparing for my Skype chat with my language partner, Kensuke-san, and the essay provided a perfect immersion activity.

When I plunged in, I was astounded to see how much I understood, thanks to Ryoichi-san's clear writing. The initial text told the amazing story of the late Sen Nishiyama, a Japanese-American who moved to Japan with only archaic conversational Japanese. Once in Japan, he became a fluent speaker and eventually pioneered the field of simultaneous interpretation.

After that came a funny, true story that Nishiyama told Ryoichi-san. Actually, Nishiyama heard it from an American named Smith, who also rose to unbelievable heights with simultaneous interpretation. Though I rarely get Japanese jokes, this time I understood the story and laughed.

The text described Smith's profound commitment to translation. And something about his energy and wholeheartedness filled me with energy and confidence, making me blaze on past my usual inhibitions.

When I finished the essay, I wrote Ryoichi-san an effusive letter in Japanese. His English is so good that I almost have no right to address him in error-ridden Japanese, but I simply didn't think of that. Thanks to the essay, I trusted in something deeper in myself.

The Skype session began with Kensuke-san (who is an interpreter, as it happens!), and I read him the whole essay, often without a list of vocabulary and yomi at my side, though I definitely could have benefited from them. Why did I make things harder for myself? I can't explain, but it was all in the spirit of the essay.

I hope the excerpt below has a beneficial effect on you, as well. I've supplied translations (which Ryoichi-san has checked) and vocabulary lists, but you may want to cover them up and see what you can do!

[To read the rest, go to Joy o' Kanji!]