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Improved Japanese Translation Ability by Utilizing the Three Levels of the Mind

It is commonly understood in psychology that your mind is made up of three levels – the conscious, subconscious and unconscious.

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Your conscious mind makes up only 10% of your brain capacity, and your subconscious and unconscious minds making up 50-60% and 30-40% respectively. Knowing how these different levels work together has the potential to improve your English Japanese translation ability.

First, let us consider how these areas of the mind work together. Your conscious mind communicates to the outside world through speech and writing etc., and inner self through thought. Your subconscious mind is in charge of recent memories and is in continuous contact with the resources of the unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind is the storehouse of all memories and past experiences including those that have been repressed through trauma etc.

We can use the analogy of a PC, with your conscious mind the keyboard, your subconscious mind the memory (RAM), and your unconscious mind the hard disk.

So how does this relate to professional Japanese translation?

I first looked into this topic due to a phenomenon I have experienced on numerous occasions during the course of my translation career. Sometimes I read a difficult piece of Japanese text and cannot work out the meaning, so I put that section to one side, planning to ask a native Japanese translator at a later date. Then, when several hours or a day or so later I come back to the text, I realize that I actually understand it without needing to ask.

What is happening here, to return to the computer analogy, is that after your conscious mind first gives up on working out the meaning, a background process is started in your brain and the interaction of your subconscious and your unconscious mind works to unravel the meaning. Then when you return to it again, your conscious mind is able to access this understanding.

This suggests that the best approach to translation is to read through the piece to be translated and then start working on it the next day. Realistically, many deadlines occur within the same day, so this is not possible. However, you should give yourself as much time as possible, particularly where the subject matter is complex and cannot be fully grasped the first time within your conscious mind. Harnessing the three levels of the mind for translation in this way should improve the overall quality of your translation work.

About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, owner of Professional English Japanese Translation Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Services

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