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Japanese Translation Services

Updated on October 30, 2013

Translating the Japanese language

Unlike the translation of European languages to English and vice verse, translating Japanese is not such a simple process. Japanese culture has a heavy influence on the language and there are many phrases that simply cannot be represented in English. Such as greetings, telephone phrases etc. Often many of these cultural phrarses are omitted rather than translated. Translating such phrases will result in meaning-less or unnecessary English. For example, an Email or letter will typical begin with the phrase "Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu" which can translate to "It's a pleaseure for us always doing business with you" however this is not a literal translation, it more of a cultural phrase and will normally be omitted in English. In phone a conversation, both parties will use the above phrase before moving on the main subject. As a foreigner living in Japan this can become 2nd nature but also rather tedious and repetitive especially if you are in a rush.

Another implication is the characters used. Japanese has three character sets. Kanji is similar to Chinese characters, Hiragana is a phonetic script used for grammar and Katakana is used to represent foreign words. Japanese has a lot of English sounding words but do not always have the same meaning of the actual English loan word. For example "Hotel Front (Furonto)" is actually the reception desk, not the physical front on the hotel.

Translation Services to avoid

For European languages, online translation services may work to some extent however for English to Japanese this is not an option. Online translation services should be avoided at all costs. As I mentioned before Japanese is very difficult to translate literally. A whole sentence needs to be examined fully to understand the writers feeling and intention before writing the English version.

In many cases the resulting English can be completely different in terms of grammar. for example the phrase "The suu desu ga" literally means "A number of hands but", however an accurate translation could be a number of things "Sorry to bother you but", "I know your busy but", "I know you have a lot on your plate however". Basically we need to try to understand the mood of the writer before creating an English translation.

Translation Services to use

 Of course they would be services where humans are doing the translation. It is important for the translators to have in-depth knowledge of the subject which you need translating. Without knowledge of the subject, the resulting translation may come across as emotionless even though it will be grammatically correct. The translator needs to really put themselves into the writers shoes in terms of Japanese in order to achieve a high quality translation.


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