Topic versus Subject: Handle of an Idea

I have a conviction that translation is an attempt to demonstrate the reproducibility of ideas across languages. In both Japanese and English, a sentence conveys an idea about a topic. In an English sentence, the topic usually corresponds to the grammatical subject, while a Japanese sentence often starts with a topic, which is followed by a subject only when it is needed. These differences between the two languages render syntax-based translation meaningless, and make one seek other approaches. I have been translating mainly from Japanese to English, and formed a habit of starting by locating the topic of each source sentence. I describe this approach as a hunt for the “handle of the idea.” In my presentation, I will show how this tactic works.