NYTimes: “Big in Japan”

Tejal Rao in a super fun, super big feature on the New York Times magazine on the Japanization of Kit Kats, a once humble chocolate from Britain:

There are three ways for a new Japanese Kit Kat flavor to make its way into the world. The classically trained pastry chef Yasumasa Takagi, a kind of Kit Kat maestro, was brought in by Nestlé as a collaborator in 2003, after the success of the strawberry Kit Kat. He may decide he wants to make a special bar and propose the new flavor to Nestlé — his first was passion fruit in 2005. The marketing team may also build a partnership with a brand, like Tokyo Banana, the locally famous cream-filled cakes on which the Kit Kat flavor is based, then ask a product-development team to experiment so they can bring a sample bar to the pitch meeting. Or the product-development teams themselves may feel inspired on a late night in the test kitchen after one too many cups of green tea and vending-machine sweets.

Japan Times: “In Japan, the most important rule for language translation is often broken”

Amy Chavez for the Japan Times:

The first rule of translation is to always translate into your native tongue. For example, just because I speak Japanese as a second language does not mean I can translate into Japanese successfully. I should only translate Japanese into my mother language, which is English.

Thus, native Japanese speakers should translate from English (their second language) into Japanese (their first), not the other way around. The only exception is bilinguals — those who have two mother tongues, having grown up speaking both Japanese and English with native proficiency.

I was once lucky enough to tour the United Nations Office in Geneva, and my tour guide said exactly the same thing. Bilingual people are bred, not learned. Even UN interpreters are paid to only translate into their stronger language.