Earlier this month, the Japanese government donated 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan without asking for anything in return — a very generous and good deed.
However, it seems that there is a group of people in Taiwan who are incapable if distinguishing between right and wrong. They try to find fault with the AstraZeneca vaccine, talk about the donation in a sarcastic tone, and express pessimism about the relationship between Taiwan and Japan. It is very sad to see.
Surprisingly, a social media post has been widely shared, saying that when Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi was asked in the Japanese legislature why the country only donated 1.24 million vaccines, he allegedly answered that the Taiwanese government had only asked for enough doses to meet its needs for this month, as locally made vaccines would soon become available.
Having watched the video of the session, anyone with a good understanding of Japanese would know that Motegi did not make such a statement. The post was completely fabricated — a piece of vicious and despicable fake news.
Anyone who makes a foreign language the main tool of their profession would be familiar with three basic principles from their translation studies: truthfulness, expressiveness and elegance.
The main priority when translating is to faithfully convert a text from one language to another, and maintain its flavor and credibility. Even if the text does not coincide with the translator’s stance or beliefs, they should never substitute one thing for another, leave out parts of it or represent the text falsely.
Unfortunately, we live in an era of cognitive warfare, and many posts circulating on social media are fake news. Spreading news stories without fact-checking them can be very dangerous, and anyone who is not sufficiently cautions might easily end up being an accomplice of someone with a nefarious purpose.
Earlier this month, Hsinchu County Deputy Commissioner Chen Chien-hsien (陳見賢), the director of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) chapter in the county, shared the post of Motegi’s alleged vaccine statement on social media, adding some intentionally malicious comments.
Chen’s only response to having been caught red-handed was that he was sure about the truthfulness of the story because a friend who speaks Japanese had translated it for him.
I have been studying Japanese for more than 20 years. My Japanese might not be perfect, but at least I have no problem understanding what the Japanese minister said. I would like to ask Chen if his friend, who, as Chen claimed, is good at Japanese, learned the language from an incompetent teacher.
If they did not understand the statement, they should not have translated it. On the other hand, if they were making a “fake translation” and maliciously helping spread a rumor, they are bringing shame on the language industry.
Hung Yu-jui is a Japanese teacher and translator.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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