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I'm a relative beginner to Japanese. I was trying to translate some song lyrics, and I got stuck badly on "shows fear as he turns to hide". If you don't know the song, we are told of one man on a lonely platform with a case by his side. He reveals his fear as he turns to hide from two eyes staring cold and silent at him. As he's turning, a momentary expression of fear crosses his face.

How would I best express this fleeting moment during a larger action in Japanese? I looked up a few things and none of them seem to fit exactly.

  • Maybe I want -ながら except every example I've found has talked about actions simultaneous with persisting states (watching TV) instead of events (turning to hide).
  • Maybe I want "turn to hide" in a とき clause, except every example seems to be events from the past. The song relates events in the present.
  • Or maybe I want the man on the lonely platform to "怖がって", changing it to before he turns to hide. This makes two simultaneous actions into sequential ones but for me it alters the nuance of the original lyric.

What do you think?

  • Are you focusing on translating English pattern "X as Y", finding expressions for "fleeting moment during a larger action" regardless of English, or requesting for the best translation of this very phrase? – broccoli forest Dec 18 '18 at 6:38
  • @broccoliforest ultimately I'm just after a translation of "shows fear as he turns to hide" as an example, and as a consequence chasing a Japanese grammatical structure which expresses "action X occurs within/alongside the larger action Y".. somewhat the same thing we can express with the conjunction "as" in English. – quollism Dec 18 '18 at 13:00
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For this particular example, I would suggest against using「ながら」,「しつつ」,「するのと同時に」or anything like that. I also would not worry too much about conveying the "turn to hide"; fun expressions like this may sound good in English, but more often than not, they have no satisfactory equivalents in Japanese, and vice versa.

In other words, you do not want to be too fixated on translating everything, word for word, when dealing with song lyrics, poems and the like. What you do want to focus on, especially if you are producing a translation that may be added to a music video, is taking care not to make it too long and unwieldy, as otherwise it will be glaringly obvious that it does not match the tempo. Optimally you would also try to make it sound "good" in isolation as well, although you will almost certainly have to sacrifice faithfulness to the original in order to achieve the best result. I might go with something like

恐{おそ}れを抱{いだ}き、身{み}を隠{かく}そうとする

Feeling fear, (he) attempts to hide

or maybe something to the effect of

恐れをなした男{おとこ}は、隠{かく}れる場所{ばしょ}を探{さが}す

Feeling fear, the man searches for a place to hide

or potentially something like

恐怖{きょうふ}を露{あらわ}にした男は、身を隠そうとする

Showing his fear, the man tries to hide

These are all good options for translating the line, but based on my limited sense of artistic value, they are far from perfect. Someone with a better sense for these things could potentially be able to come up with superior options... or not, since this isn't a forum for artists. You might want to give the above suggestions to a Japanese songwriter and ask for their opinion as well.

  • Thanks for giving it your best shot! And I agree it's better to maintain the feel of the lyric than sacrifice it for absolute fidelity to the original meaning. Ta! – quollism May 17 at 11:45
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https://japanesetest4you.com/flashcard/learn-jlpt-n3-grammar-%E3%81%86%E3%81%A1%E3%81%AB-uchi-ni/

This link might be helpful, an example about a third of the way down is:

わたしはその男{おとこ}の姿{すがた}を[見守]{みまも}っているうちに、自分{じぶん}がどれほど恵{めぐ}まれているかを悟{さと}った。

which they translate to "As I stood looking at him, I realized how rich I was" , although it looks like it is in the metaphorical sense of rich with blessings.

There seem to be a good amount of examples where A~うちにB is used when B is an event that occurs during the longer span of time of A.

  • 1
    Also, in this case you would use "blessed" in the translation. Using 'rich' makes it sound like the speaker is a millionaire watching a poor person and going "I never really realized it before, but damn... I'm loaded!" – VVayfarer May 16 at 7:28
  • You can merge your accounts: japanese.stackexchange.com/help/merging-accounts – Chocolate May 16 at 7:40
  • Thanks for the tip on うちに! – quollism May 17 at 11:47

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