[JITF2020] Living in the Age of Fan Translation – The World of Original-juxtaposed Lyrics Translation from MJ to K-Pop

Nami Sasaki

Lecturer, Global Education Department, Tsuru University.  President, Meme Communications Ltd.  She started her career as a translator and interpreter in the field of popular music, gaining much experience with J-Wave, MTV, Blue Note Tokyo, Rolling Stone Magazine and various other companies in the international music industry.  When she was studying in the United States while raising her two children, who were in elementary school, she simultaneously wrote two totally different columns: “California Hatsu Surangu Sukurappu Bukku (The SLANG Scrapbook from California)” for “Tsuyaku Honyaku Journal” (Ikaros Publication Ltd.), and “Mama, Nande Eigo Yaruno? (Mama, why are you studying English?)” for “Kids.com” (ALC). Her publications include “America Gengo Ryohoshi ga Oshieru Eigo Hatsuon Jotatsu Ho (Methods to improve English pronunciation as taught by American speech therapists)” (Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.)  She has expanded her field of research from second language acquisition to international education, serving as Japanese Translation Lead for International Baccalaureate (IBO) and as a short-term research specialist of OECD/TALIS, before assuming her current position.

Living in the Age of Fan Translation – The World of Original-juxtaposed Lyrics Translation from MJ to K-Pop

What is it that made you fall in love with language?  In my case, it was the Western popular music of the seventies and eighties, such as Michael Jackson and Billy Joel. But I never imagined I would be able to approach their world through my work.  When I was in my twenties working as an English clerk at a financial institution, I felt like I was struck by a lightning bolt when I saw Ms. Mako Tanaka interpret for Bon Jovi on the TV show “Night Hit Studio.”  It dawned on me that “this is the job I want to do!”  Thirty years later, with the advent of the Internet, the environment surrounding Western music and listeners has become completely different.  The internet is teeming with translations of lyrics and artist information by fans.  At the same time, social networking services have helped reduce the distance to the artists and have given translators the opportunity to directly ask the lyricist about the meaning of the lyrics.  In an era when the sense of value is affected by so many complexities and ramifications, why are clients still seeking professional translation?  What is the future of pop culture translation?  Let’s think about it together.