Today’s headlines bring more news about how the May banzuke will shake out. According to the Mainichi newspaper (Mainichi literally means “Every Day” re: “Daily”), two college yokozunas have had their professional debuts approved. They will debut in makushita division at makushita 15. I didn’t see shikona in the article and haven’t found anything on the Sumo Kyokai website but will bring that to you as soon as I can. Their real names are Turbold Baasansuren, the first foreigner to achieve Yokozuna rank in amateur sumo, and Takanori Yago, both from Chuo University. Several other headlines discuss Turbold because, as a foreigner from Mongolia who chose college over immediately going pro, he’s a bit of a trailblazer. Anyway, getting to the actual headline:
With a hat tip and thanks to reader Asashosakari, I decided to test out the other translation engines he suggested. In the comments of an earlier post, he pointed out that Yahoo! Japan and Excite Japan have their own Japanese to English translation engines. Today, I thought I’d toss this headline in each engine and see which word sausage tastes best. Google, by any account, tastes like stale McDonalds breakfast sausage. The other two were much better but not perfect, definitely some good pub bangers, though. Much more satisfying. Japanese is really hard to translate, especially for machines, and especially given the context of sumo which is not exactly a day-to-day usage.
According to Google: “Approved two curtain gifts.”
Yahoo! Japan: “I begin to acquire a junior division and approve two people.”
Excite Japan: “2 makushita bills are approved.”
All three engines picked up the important verb at the end, “approve” (承認). The rest of Google’s attempt clearly just gets a WTF response from me. Context! C’mon guys, context! Well, Yahoo knew that makushita was the junior division but leaving it as makushita, as Excite did, is fine too. At least Yahoo! recognized and used the counter for people (人), so I’d probably give their translation the edge this time.
But getting to our translation, we’re sumo fans and know that Makushita(幕下) is the junior division. You should also recognize the next character as the last part of “banzuke,” that wonderful list we’re all eagerly anticipating. But together with -dashi, when we’re talking about sumo, we’re talking about a debut as they’re out on the list for the first time. As for -dashi (出し), you will see this character (出) all over the place, meaning “out,” especially for “exit,“ or deguchi (出口).
Putting it all together, we’ve got “Makushita Debut of Two Approved.” This was a bit too simple of a headline so this is the first one where I decided to challenge us to read the first paragraph. Luckily, this whole article was one, very short paragraph and very simple. It mentions their names, the school they came from and the heyas they are joining. The only term I want to highlight for now is 日本相撲協会. This is the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, or Japanese Sumo Association, thus a very important term to know and a great resource for us fans.
We see that these translation engines do have difficulty with contextual Japanese but the Yahoo! and Excite ones are much more helpful that Google, so far. We’ll keep going and testing all three and trying to find others. But I cannot stress enough the need for basic Japanese for sumo fans so I hope you will find these articles helpful.