How to communicate indecisiveness in English (and sound cautious in Japanese)

Having fun with words:

With back-translation you’re trying to guess what the original writer tried to say (in Japanese) based on the translation (in English).

Let’s put the English text (good luck trying to figure out the meaning) next to my Japanese translation:

 “It isn’t that we can’t do it this way,” one Japanese will say.

“Of course,” replies his companion, ”we couldn’t deny that it would be impossible to say that it couldn’t be done.”

“But unless we can say that it can’t be done,” his friend adds, “it would be impossible not to admit that we couldn’t avoid doing it.”

(Gibney cited in Clancy 1986: 214)

太郎: こうやってできない事はないけど

次郎: もちろん、できないと言い切るのは無理だと否定できない

太郎: 但し、できないと言い切れないなら、やらざるを得なかったと認めずにはいられない。



Clancy, Patricia. 1986. ‘The acquisition of communicative style in Japanese’. In Bambi Shieffelin & Eleanor Ochs (eds) Language Socialization Across Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 213-250.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s