Háskóli Íslands

Shotaro Yamamoto

I heard the name “Iceland” for the first time through music. One day, I accidentally came to know that Björk and Sigur Rós, my favorite artists, are from Iceland. Then I started to collect information about Iceland. Firstly, I became interested in Icelandic, especially its individuality. Icelandic is a unique language in terms of its conservative policy. Icelandic keeps its style from the Middle Ages and tries not to use loan words (This attitude is almost opposite to that of Japanese). Unfortunately, there are few texts about Icelandic written in Japanese and almost no Icelandic literature translated into Japanese, except for ones which were translated from another language and medieval literatures. Meanwhile, the information said that people in Iceland love literatures and own many books in their private library. Iceland has many literature works for its population. I study translation as a student of the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the Waseda University, so Iceland looked to me as if it were a mine which has been never opened. Moreover, the more I learned about culture and life in Iceland, the more strongly I felt that it is important to study Icelandic and introduce Iceland to Japan.
For these nine months I was taking part in the Practical Diploma of Icelandic as a Second Language at the University of Iceland. It was a basic course but every class I attended was very instructive. The class “Pronunciation and Speech” was especially interesting to me because we studied Icelandic pronunciation mainly through conversation in the class so that we could learn useful, daily Icelandic words and phrases as well as rules of pronunciation. The class was also very hard to me. We had many assignments outside of school for the class. I went to bookstores, café, a shopping mall, a senior house and talk with people there in Icelandic. We prepared for the conversation in the class, but it was very difficult to understand what they were talking. Sometimes I could not understand anything and it tortured me, but at the same time, it was really interesting to talk with them because almost everyone who I talked with was very friendly and helped me to speak Icelandic and I could get many vivid information from that conversation. In the grammar class we sometimes submitted a short essay and teacher looked over and correct it very carefully. Every teacher did their best in class. I was surprised when teachers started to speak only Icelandic in class at the beginning of spring semester, but it helped me to get used to sound of Icelandic. My Icelandic friends were also very kind and helped me to study Icelandic. They taught me a shade of difference in Icelandic words and daily phrases. Sometimes I did the same thing to Icelandic students who study Japanese at the university. They were very eager students and impressed me.
I also had great local experiences outside of the university, for example, taking part in concerts as a drummer, communicating with local Japanese through volunteer work, and so on. I took part in the Japanese Festival held at University of Iceland and there I played some Japanese rock songs with my friends. I also took part in some local concerts with my friends. They became one of my best memories in Iceland. Teaching Japanese to children as a volunteer gave me good opportunity for reflecting on my mother language. As a volunteer work, I translated one picture book written in Icelandic into Japanese. People of that volunteer group gave me some useful information about life in Iceland and sometimes invited me to dinner. It was also wonderful that my friend introduced to me a writer who has written books for children which I would like to translate into Japanese.
Now I am back into Japan and I am sure that the feeling I had before going to Iceland was not wrong. Tokyo, where I live now, is everyday driving itself towards “wealth” and “development”. Is this really necessary? Tokyo is indeed advanced, convenient and rich, but people start to realize that it does not necessarily link to happiness. When I talk with my friends who work in Tokyo, I feel Japan is at the stage of reconsidering its way of life. According to the World Happiness Report 2016, Iceland took third place and Japan took 53rd. Iceland has many things we Japanese should learn in order to be happier. I believe translation plays an important role for that.
I currently have three aims: the first one is continuing to study translation and becoming a professional translator, the second one is returning to Iceland and taking part in the BA program to study Icelandic more deeply, the last one is making use of these experiences and translating Icelandic novels, plays, movies or music into Japanese to introduce Icelandic culture and its way of life to Japan. I would be very happy if I could translate Japanese into Icelandic one day. I know these are not easy aims, but I will continue my study in Japan and make money for my next study opportunity in Iceland.
Finally, I am very grateful to the Watanabe Trust Fund for giving me a chance to study in Iceland. I hope I could return the favor by being a bridge between Iceland and Japan in the future.
Shotaro Yamamoto
Þú ert að nota: brimir.rhi.hi.is