Revenge of the Process Imperialists

Ben Kelly, who works in Japan, is reviewing the Japanese translation of my book, Lessons Learned in Software Testing. He writes:

Each lesson is numbered as per the original, but rather than ‘lesson’, they use the word tessoku, which means ‘Inviolable Rule’ or ‘Ironclad Regulation’

Ben goes on to say that it was probably a marketing decision on the publisher’s part to make that change. Apparently, Japanese testers want ironclad rules.

Interesting, but that’s a little like spicing up a film about Gandhi by having him carry an M60 machine gun and chomp on a cigar. The “lessons” in Lessons Learned are heuristics worth considering, not ironclad anythings.

6 thoughts on “Revenge of the Process Imperialists

  1. And here we see the distinction between “translation” and “traduction”. I’ve always thought it ironically funny that so many of the Romance languages use the root of the second word to mean the first.

  2. Forgive the shameless self-promotion James 🙂

    FWIW, I’m not reviewing for any particular publication, I’m actually using it to help me study language, particularly from a tester’s point of view, given that I’m working as a tester in Japan.

    I have the Authors’ permission (but not the publisher’s) to post excerpts on my site. I was going to wait until I found something particularly interesting in the translation before I posted, but given that the text I’ve read so far remains faithful to the original (apart from the creative translation of the title and the word they substitute for ‘lesson’), I may just post the bits that I find interesting from a language point of view.

  3. My better half (who is Japanese) says that ???(tessoku) is used more or less interchangeably with????? (lesson), and that it’s not such a big deal, but I’m not drinking the kool aid on that one. I think choice of words is important. My Japanese vocab isn’t massive at this stage, but the three dictionaries I have consulted do not list ‘tessoku’ as an alternative to lesson at all.

    The characters taken separately mean ‘iron’ and ‘rule’ (or possibly ‘follow’, ‘based on’). Even at a subconscious level, I think the choice of word is not ideal.

    It may well be that the meaning is intended to convey that these lessons are things that really should be followed, but even that is missing the point of the book (as I understand it) – given that some of these things work in some situations and not others, or that each should be applied (or not) as is appropriate to the situation you find yourself in.

    I think in this case the choice was a poor one. One might argue that it might appeal more to testers – especially ‘factory school’ types, and those that know enough about context-driven testing would know enough about the authors to get it, but I wonder – is being misrepresented okay if it ends up getting your message across?

  4. What are the other choices? If tessoku is not a good choice, what would be a better choice?

    Could the phrase ‘Inviolable Rule’ (or ‘Ironclad Regulation’), mean something different (to an english speaking person) from what tessoku means to a Japanese person?

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