Bathrobe's Le Petit Prince
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The Fox's Secret:
Voici mon secret. Il est très simple
.
Translating into Japanese (1)

(Japanese translations) ▼ Here is my secret. It is very simple ▶ One sees clearly only with the heart ▶ What is essential is invisible to the eyes

Voici mon secret. Il est très simple -- 'And now here is my secret, a very simple secret'. This is how the fox starts telling his secret.

A. STRUCTURE

As noted at the analysis of the French original, the two sentences convey two messages:

1. The fox announces that he is about to reveal his promised secret. (Voici mon secret.)
2. The fox comments on the simple nature of the secret. (Il est très simple.)

little prince 1. FIRST SENTENCE: ANNOUNCING THE SECRET

Voici mon secret

Japanese lacks an exact equivalent to French voici (English 'here is'). Translators give the fox three ways to announce the secret.

1) 'Let me tell you my secret'

The majority use a construction along the lines of 'I'll tell you my secret' or 'Let me tell you my secret'. (Note that while I use おれの秘密 ore no himitsu for mon secret in the examples below, this is purely for convenience. There is actually considerable variation in how mon secret is translated. See Expression.)

The commonest verb in this pattern is 教える oshieru 'to tell', often in the form 教えよう oshieyō, meaning 'let me tell' or 'I'll tell'.

'LET ME TELL YOU MY SECRET'
 
おれの秘密を
ore no himitsu o
'my secret'
教えよう
oshieyō
'let (me) tell'

In accordance with normal Japanese practice, the verb comes last in the sentence, after its object 秘密 himitsu, which is marked as object by the particle o. There is some variation in verbs and forms used...


When the fox says that he is about to 'tell his secret' or 'give his secret', verbs used by translators include verbs meaning 'tell' or 'say' (教える oshieru 'tell' and 言う 'say'), as well as one case of プレゼントする purezento suru 'to present, give as a present'.

ANNOUNCING THE INTENTION TO TELL THE SECRET
 
I'll tell you the secret
10
を教えるよ o oshieru yo
1
を教えてあげるよ o oshiete ageru yo
2
を教えようか o oshieyō ka
1
を教えよう o oshieyō
2
を教えてあげよう o oshiete ageyō
2
を言うよ o yū yo
1
をいおうかね o iō ka ne
1
I'll give you the secret
1
をプレゼントするよ o purezento suru yo
1

For more on the verb and sentence endings see 'Here is my secret' (declarative).

One translator also adds an extra sentence after the fox has told the secret. This sentence reinforces the notion that this is the fox's gift:

これがきみに贈るぼくの秘密だよ
Kore ga kimi ni okuru boku no himitsu da yo
'This is the secret that I give to you (as a present)'

In addition, there is one sentence that hides an expression of 'telling the secret' inside the structure 'The secret I want to give to you as a present':

きみにプレゼントしたい秘密
kimi ni prezento shitai himitsu
'the secret I want to give you as a present'


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2) 'My secret is (like) this'

Three translators use expressions meaning 'my secret is (like) this':

'MY SECRET IS LIKE THIS'
 
'that which is my secret'
'is a thing like this'
おれの秘密
Ore no himitsu
'my secret'
というのは
to yū no wa
'that which is'
こういうこと
kō yū koto
'a thing like this'
なんだ
nan'da
'is'

What stands out is the use of というのは to yū no wa after 秘密 himitsu 'secret'. This literally means 'that which is (my secret)'.

The use of というのは to yū no wa indicates that something is about to be said about the nature of something. It is commonly used in explanations, with a meaning something akin to 'It's like this'. In a formal/academic context this is often found in the form とは to wa.

As in this example, というのは to yū no wa is often found in tandem with ということ to yū koto 'thing', resulting in the structure 'That which is X is a thing which is Y'. The three translations that use this structure are as follows...


THE SECRET IS LIKE THIS
 
'that which is (the secret)' like this / this 'is' (declaration)
ってのは
tte no wa
こういうこと
kō yū koto

sa
1
というのは
to yū no wa
こういうこと
kō yū koto
なんだよ
nan'da yo
1
っていうのは
tte yū no wa
これ
kore
なんだ
nan'da
1
Total
3

There are minor variations:

というのは to yū no wa is the standard form. っていうのは ~tte yū no wa and ってのは ~tte no wa are both colloquial forms.

One uses これ kore 'this' instead of こういうこと kō yū koto 'a thing which is'.


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3) 'This is my secret'

This is closest to a literal translation of 'this is my secret', but is used by only one translator.

これが
Kore ga
'this' + subject particle
おれの秘密
ore no himitsu
'my secret'
なんだ
nan'da
'is'

Note the use of the subject particle ga, which in this context foregrounds (emphasises) the word これ kore 'this', as opposed to the use of wa, which would background it as the topic of discussion.

Note also the use of なんだ nan'da, the shortened form of なのだ na no da, which is also used in making assertions.


little prince 2. SECOND SENTENCE: NOTING THE SIMPLICITY OF THE SECRET

Il est très simple

There are only two sentence patterns calling attention to the simplicity of the secret.

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1) 'It is a very simple thing'

Thirteen translators use a pattern meaning 'It is a very simple thing'. This adds the word こと koto, meaning 'thing' in the abstract.

'IT IS A VERY SIMPLE THING'
 
très
very
simple
'simple'
chose
'thing'
est
'is'
とても
totemo
'very'
簡単な
kantan na
'simple (attributive)'
こと
koto
'thing'

da
'is'

The features of the dominant pattern are:

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2) 'It is very simple'

Only two translators use a predicative adjective like the French: 'It is very simple'. Note that there is no word corresponding to il ('it').

'IT IS VERY SIMPLE'
 
très
very
simple
'simple'
est
'is'
とても
totemo
'very'
簡単
kantan
'simple'

da
'is'

little prince 3. HOW THE TWO PATTERNS ARE COMBINED

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The above sentence patterns are found combined together in a few different ways, of which the first is overwhelmingly dominant.

HOW TRANSLATIONS COMBINE THE TWO SENTENCES
 
Sentence 1
Sentence 2
Occurrences
おれの秘密を教えよう。
Ore no himitsu o oshieyō.
'Let me tell you my secret.'
とても簡単なことなんだ。
Totemo kantan na koto nan'da.
'[It] is a very simple thing.'
10
おれの秘密というのはこういうことなんだ。
Ore no himitsu to yū no wa kō yū koto nan'da.
'My secret is like this.'
とても簡単なことなんだ。
Totemo kantan na koto nan'da.
'[It] is a very simple thing.'
3
おれの秘密を教えよう。
Ore no himitsu o oshieyō.
'Let me tell you my secret.'
とても簡単なんだ。
Totemo kantan nan'da.
'[It] is very simple.'
1
これがおれの秘密なんだ。
Kore ga ore no himitsu nan'da.
'This is my secret.'
とても簡単なんだ。
Totemo kantan nan'da.
'[It] is very simple.'
1
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