Tuesday, April 28, 2015

反省: When "remorse" is not remorse. Translation games during PM Abe visit to the US.


When "remorse" is not remorse.

One key to deciphering PM Abe's expected verbal gymnastics while in the US may be his use of the word 反省 (hansei), officially translated as "remorse" in English, but which does not suggest apologetic feelings or admission of wrong-doing in Japanese.  An alternative translation would be "thoughtful reflection."

Using this word, as scholar Tessa Morris-Suzuki has pointed out in "Japanese war apologies lost in translation," published at East Asia Forum, allows Abe to deliver two different messages. In the West, people receive the misleading impression that he is being penitent and admitting Japanese wartime aggression, whereas in Japan and elsewhere in East Asia, people understand such a response as vague evasion of responsibility.

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