An in-house email today requesting that we update a certain software program read:
I can live with the double “roughly”, even though it wouldn’t be natural in English to say “It will roughly take approximately …”, as this is apparently quite normal in Japanese, to either emphasize the approximate nature of what you’re saying, or just because it sounds more “natural” – English has many similar somewhat illogical, yet accepted usages.
What I can’t understand is why a precise number is given!? The interesting thing is that many Japanese don’t even think there is anything mildly strange with this kind of phrasing. To be fair, many would in fact wonder why, in this case, the writer didn’t simply write “20秒”, but it still doesn’t seem to leap out at them the same way it does to a native English speaker.
I see this kind of thing all the time, from all sorts of different sources – last week it was:
「約32名が出席した。」 Why the writer didn’t simply put 「約30名」 or 「30名以上」 is beyond me.
What’s even more confounding is when you get the combination 「約 … 以上」, which seems to defy all logic. I can’t recall an exact example, suffice to say that I have seen sentences like: 「約28以上の回答をいただきました。」
Geek note: I don’t seem to come across the combinations 「約 … 以下」 or 「約 … 未満」 nearly so often …