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5/6/2014 1:37:00 PM
Student helps with Japanese translation

DANVILLE, Ill. (AP) — With the help of a Japanese exchange student, the Vermilion County War Museum staff has a better understanding of some of its items.

Risako Doi, a junior at Schlarman Academy, has visited the museum a couple of times and has translated Japanese words on several items.

“It was very enlightening,” said Jim Kouzmanoff, museum president. “She was immensely helpful.”

Doi, from Chiba, Japan, is an exchange student with Youth for Understanding. She is staying with Kathy and Kurt Miles of Danville, and their grandson, Mathias Miles.

“It was a real pleasure for her,” Kurt Miles said. “It made her feel good she could help.”

The room displaying World War II items is in transition, and Doi’s translations will be helpful in identifying and displaying items, Kouzmanoff said.

In the past, students studying Japanese at the University of Illinois have tried to translate words. However, they were stumped by the old-style Japanese script, he said. Although Doi speaks and writes modern Japanese, she was familiar with some of the old-style characters, thanks to her schooling — enough to make a translation.

“Some old Japanese words are similar to the words we use now,” she said.

Also, the old-style script reads from right to left, while the modern goes from left to right.

Most of the words were easy to understand, she said, but a bit difficult to translate into English. Kouzmanoff understood her English better than she expected, she said.

Doi made her second visit to the museum last weekend. A classmate, Bryce Vorick, works at the museum and suggested she return to do more translations. The visit yielded several surprises — both for the translator and the museum president.

Doi was surprised at the number of Japanese items at the museum, and joked that the museum needs a spot just for those items.

Kouzmanoff explained, “We have so many things from World War II that the men brought back.”

Doi was able to translate the title of one hefty book as the Japanese Navy International Code Book, and the year it was published, 1933 (which was written out in words, not numerals).

She looked at another item, a fabric pouch, and after reading the words, said it was a medical pouch, possibly used by a medic.

The words inside a helmet turned out to be someone’s name, but the other words — perhaps indicating a rank or some type of military information — were unclear.

A big surprise to Kouzmanoff was the translation of a green-and-beige scarf or flag. Doi quickly identified the words in the middle as referring to a retail store, and a symbol in the corner was the business’ logo.

“We think everything in here is military-related,” Kouzmanoff said, but the flag showed otherwise.

Upstairs, when Doi saw a framed military-unit flag with a red sun in the middle and words going out like rays, she immediately said, “It’s upside down.”

Turning the graphic around, she identified the words as soldiers’ names, and other words as perhaps referring to the unit or division.

Some items had Chinese words on them, and Doi said the two languages were similar enough that she could do some translation.

Kouzmanoff said he hopes Doi does more translations before she returns home at the end of June.

Doi said she intends to return to the museum. Not only does she enjoy seeing the American history, but the museum staff has been nice to her, she said.

As for other languages, Kouzmanoff said there are some recent items with Middle Eastern words, which could be translated. However, languages with an alphabet similar to English are easier to translate, such as German, for example. Instead of translations, the staff could use help identifying the use of items or the meaning behind certain ribbons, for example.


Online: (Danville) Commercial-News,

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