Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Seiji Maehara's Speech on Japan's Security Policy and the U.S. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific: "Closer Japan-US Ties Possible Despite Military Budget Cuts in Both Nations"

The September 12, 2012 event was hosted by the Congressional Study Group on Japan of FMC (Former Members of Congress) (www.usafmc.org) and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (www.spfusa.org).

Mr. Maehara starts out with offering condolences to the families of the US ambassador and others who was killed in the recent terrorist attack in Libya, and ends with reference to the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US 11 years ago, tying it with the 3/11 disaster that struck Japan last year. He delivered his speech in English.

I found the video in one of the retweets on Twitter, ridiculing his poor pronunciation of English, saying "See this pathetic video of Maehara, broadcasting his poor English to the whole wide world!" Well, I couldn't care less about the pronunciation. The speech has the substance, whether you agree with that substance or not.

He uses a capable American interpreter with excellent Japanese pronunciation in the question and answer session. I was reluctantly (as I'm not particularly fond of Mr. Maehara at all) impressed with the way he carried himself. Whether he understood English or not (I think he does), he listened attentively, nodding, and looking genuinely pleased to talk to these people.

His answers in Japanese is delivered in a slow, relaxed manner, without many cliches that other politicians like Prime Minister Noda craft their speeches with. He carries himself well.

I do see why this person is liked much within the US government circle. He looks like a normal human being that they think they can relate to. (I don't necessarily mean in a good way.) Despite the atrocious English pronunciation, I think his speech was attentively listened to. (I ended up listening to the entire video.)

The full text of his speech is available at this link, from FMC.


Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure that the US was listening attentively to this speech. I think they wrote it. It reads like a laundry list of US requests.

Anonymous said...

I thought his english was pretty good

Anonymous said...

Misery loves company.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post / speech.
I agree with you some politicians are at pain speaking foreign languages, it is sad, but should be compulsory to diplomacy people only.
I have seen here professional translaters or perfect- japanese speakers who were like sponges, able to translate anything, but... seemed like they had nothing in their brains, no thought of their own.
I am not so sure about the Sasagawa - or is it Sasegawa foundation, of not so good reputation.
Anyway the ability to pronounce a foreign language properly is like the ability to sing "in tune" - you have it or not. It should not be taken as an important matter - except for diplomats, as I said before.
One of our major political figure speaks english with an awfull pronociation, although he reads it very well, and maried an english woman.

Anonymous said...

Sumimasen !


arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Anon at the top, the content is perfectly in line with what he's been saying all his political career, it seems. It doesn't invalidate your point that may be all his speeches have been written by the US.

Anon at 7:23AM and others, Japanese seem to have quite a fixation on "pronunciation" of English. To most, ability to speak English equals ability to pronounce English like a "native" speaker - which usually means American English speaker. It hardly occurs to them that if they have "native" fluency but hardly anything of substance to say to others, it's little use if they can say "How are you? My name is xxxx" in a perfect American English accent.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like reverse weeaboo. Excruciating. Same goes for American English accents. I just can't stand them.

I'm rather pleased that I don't sound like I belong to any specific country. As far as I'm concerned, they all suck. I have no pride in any of them, and I wouldn't want them claiming my achievements as their own.

Anonymous said...

arevamirpal::laprimavera from the anon at the top

I agree. He is a big hit on the US think tank circuit. And for that reason alone, Japanese should all be wary of his rise in politics, though since Hatoyama and Ozawa have been removed from power, it would be difficult to find anyone on a national level from either major party who is not a proponent of greater US influence in Japan.

As for language, pronunciation is not a sign of fluency as you point out. In the end, communication is all that matters except for the egos of some and the hubris of others.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, people are always seeking ways to be "superior" over others.

"Oh, I can pronounce better than you. IT IS CLEAR I AM THE CHOSEN ONE!!"

Anonymous said...

I thought his English was fine. It's perfectly comprehensible. He'd be better to adopt a UK pronunciation rather than trying for an American one, but he did well enough, better than most Japanese politicians. It is likely that only a small handful of Americans in that audience can so much as order a meal in a foreign language.

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