While reading NHK News Easy this morning, I read an article on the Black Lives Matter protests in Tokyo. In that article, I saw that they had chosen to translate the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as
but this translation feels wrong to me.
It feels wrong because I understand the English phrase as a response to the question “Do Black Lives Matter?”. In that context, replying with「も」makes it sound like saying “yes, black lives matter, and so do all other ones”. In brief: “All Lives Matter”.
My assumption is that those of you who think that “All Lives Matter” is a reasonable response to that question think this translation is entirely acceptable. If so, then your job here is done. Nothing to see here. Thanks for dropping by!
To keep this language-related, and to have any reasonable hope of this not devolving into a screaming match, let’s assume that everyone who is still here agrees that “All Lives Matter” is not an acceptable response to the original question. In that case, the question becomes more interesting: how do you translate it?
(Incidentally, this seems to be a topic that is being discussed more widely (it even has its own section in the Japanese Wikipedia article for “Black Lives Matter”), with some resources that may be interesting).
In any case: I’ve seen a couple of translations out there that make for interesting discussion:
Of these, I think 0 (using「も」) is not acceptable, but have only a slight preference for 1 (using「は」) over 2 (using「が」).
Speaking to my wife (who is Japanese), she agreed, but said she preferred an entirely different one:
which she said feels more natural in Japanese as a thing you say about 命, and still maintains at least part of the original nuance.
The Wiki page suggests a couple of other ones:
Of these, I feel 4 has a certain appeal, while 5 feels like a too-literal translation (although I do see their appeal).
(Of course, all of these can have variations depending on the particle to use, which is what I thought made this a linguistically-interesting topic. For example, the Wiki suggests also「黒人の命こそ大切だ」).
An entirely separate thing is that this is a slogan, and as such, it’s the name of an idea that can be shared as shorthand. So to a certain extent, the details of the phrase are not as important as what the phrase stands for. So let’s for now focus on those juicy details.
What do you think? Do you share similar opinions on these (or other) translations? Or have I got it all wrong?