In the News From Maharastra Times on Marathi Day 27 Feb 2017
इंग्रजी किंवा इतर परदेशी भाषांतील साहित्य किंवा माहिती ही अनेकवेळा सहज आपल्या पचनी पडत नाही. आपल्या मातृभाषेत त्याचं भाषांतर केल्यास आपल्याला ते समजण्या-उमाजण्यास अधिक मदत होते. वरवर हे भाषांतराचं क्षेत्र छोटंसं वाटलं तरी प्रत्यक्षात ते किती मोठं आहे हे दाखवून दिलंय सुप्रिया देशपांडे यांनी. कायदा, अभियांत्रिकी, वैद्यकीय तसंच व्यवसाय या क्षेत्रातील भाषांतर करण्यात त्या निपुण आहेत. महाराष्ट्र शासनाच्या भाषांतर समितीमध्ये देखील 'प्रायव्हेट ट्रान्सलेटर' म्हणून त्या कार्यरत आहेत. मराठी बरोबरच हिंदी, इंग्रजी, स्पॅनिश, रशियन, गुजराथी, तामिळ, तेलगू भाषांतील भाषांतरदेखील त्या करतात. याबद्दल बोलताना त्या म्हणतात की, ‘कोणत्याही उत्पादनाचं मार्केटिंग करायचं असल्यास ते अनेक भाषांमध्ये करावं लागतं. त्यामुळे भाषांतरकारांची गरज ही दिवसागणिक वाढत आहे. विविध भाषांमध्ये उपलब्ध झालेल्या माहितीमुळे प्रगतीची कवाडं देखील खुली होतात’.
Japanese has a reputation as a fiendishly difficult language to learn. With its three writing systems, multiple levels of formality, and subtle, syllable-timed pronunciation, this unique Asian tongue seems to have put off a significant portion of prospective students for decades with the scale of the task facing them as newcomers.
A Difficult Language?
Even during the economic bubble years from 1986 to 1991 and the “ Eikaiwa boom” that peaked in the early 2000s, bringing hundreds of thousands of native English speakers to the country to teach at conversational English schools, many foreign residents put the onus on their Japanese hosts to accommodate them using English, perhaps feeling that the prospect of putting in hours of Japanese study for little presumed progress simply wasn’t an attractive trade-off.
But how justified is this image? The number of nonnative learners of Japanese is clearly on the rise , as students all over the world challenge the notion that attempting to tackle Nihongo is a fool’s errand. Japanese acquaintances and long-term expat residents alike agree that the number of foreigners with a fluent command of Japanese is increasing by leaps and bounds. When I first arrived in 2003, such individuals seemed to be few and far between, but a decade later, one encounters capable foreign speakers on a daily basis. And with every passing year, each cohort of fresh-faced new arrivals seems to pick up the language faster.
The most widely accepted benchmark of the Japanese skills of non-native speakers is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test , introduced in 1984 to assess learners of a variety of levels (five at present, increased from four in 2010, level 1 being the highest) in the areas of reading, listening, and knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. It is by no means a perfect gauge of functional fluency—there is no spoken component, and older versions of the test’s higher levels focused excessively on seldom-seen grammatical patterns and arcane lexis—but the number of students sitting the JLPT is a handy barometer of overall interest in Japanese as a foreign language (there are official test sites in almost 60 countries) as well as the commitment of Japan’s expat community to pursuit of communicative competence. The figures in the chart below, compiled from a number of sources, seem to hint at some interesting trends.
|Year ||Registered |
|JLPT examinees |
|In Japan |
(% of foreign pop.)
|Overseas ||Total |
|1985 ||726,000 ||3,912 |
|9,157 ||13,069 |
|2003 ||1,800,000 ||54,024 |
|215,593 ||269,617 |
|2012 ||2,030,000 ||147,245 |
|449,065 ||596,310 |
It is clear that there has been a huge increase in the number of registered non-Japanese residents of this country in the three decades since the JLPT was introduced. But the popularity of the test has increased at an even greater rate, and the proportion of Japan-based foreigners attempting one of the various levels has also increased (although from 2009 the number of test dates doubled from once to twice a year, allowing retakes that may be boosting the recent figures). The apparent drop in the percentage of students sitting the most advanced test may be in part due to the extra test level added in 2010, which served to balance out what had been a daunting leap in difficulty between the basic and advanced levels of the test’s earlier incarnations.