The Japanese phrase is longer

More and more English translations have appeared in the present-day Japan . These translations make my life a lot easier.

But there is one thing bothering me. As a foreigner in Japan you can’t help notice that an English translation is sometimes longer than the Japanese phrase.

I’ll give you an example. Here is an instruction for worshiping one Japanese god in the temple.

See what I mean? The Japanese phrase is longer for some reason which makes you doubt the English translation. Why is the Japanese phrase longer? Is it like in the Lost in Translation movie: “is that all he said”?

On one hand, the Japanese has characters, but comparing with Chinese in which everything is written with characters the Japanese has kana for syntax. However, it only proves that Japanese phrase might be longer than Chinese. Writing the same context in English would require much more space.

So it is space? I wouldn’t say so. When I started reading Japanese, and believe me, this gives my European brains a great deal of mental exercises, I couldn’t help notice the overwordiness of Japanese written speech. They are just being polite, but being polite on paper is a different dimension in Japanese language.

Another thing is that the instruction is supplied with a picture. According to Kress and van Leeven, the combination of a picture and written text gives room to simplifying the written text as it is perceived united with a picture. In other words, text doesn’t play much of a role. 

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