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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

A Closer Look At Japanese Translation—how And Why It Is More Complicated Than It Seems
By:Charlene Lacandazo

Because Japan is not an English-speaking country, businesses will have to rely on having their native language translated into another language in order to reach a wider audience. But Japanese translation is probably one of the most difficult and complicated types of translation. Unlike other Indo-European languages, the Japanese language is written in scripts: the kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Because of this, difficulty in translation is possibly doubled, especially in translating literature.

Literature mirrors a nation’s culture, and in Japanese literature, there are a lot of characters that have meanings which cannot be conveyed precisely in English or any other target language. Thus, a translator must have extensive knowledge of the Japanese culture as well as the language.

In translating literature, some of the most difficult to translate are the idioms and metaphors. These are always present in literature, and often the ones used are exclusive to the Japanese culture. It is therefore the task of a translator to find the closest correspondence of the idiom in the target language, and if there is none, intelligently create a matching idiom which will convey the same meaning.

But unlike literature, legal documents may not be as difficult to translate. While it is still significantly complicated to deal with, the key messages of legal documents are more straight to the point, unlike with literature in which the language is usually more colorful. Although written in complicated characters, a lot of legal documents are the same worldwide, giving the translator an easier time in translating it from Japanese.

Translating legal or technical documents, medical texts, and literature have different criteria, but the unifying expertise in the Japanese culture and language should always be present. A translator has to possess the necessary linguistic skills, and the in-depth knowledge of the subject matter as well to provide satisfactory results in Japanese translation.

When it comes to English to Japanese translation, the same painstaking procedure is present. A translator must have mastery and fluency of both the source language and target language to be able to convey the same message, or at least its closest translation in very different languages. While there are computer-generated programs that provide Japanese translation for some words, we see a lot of evidence that these programs are not exactly accurate all the time. One of the most disturbing results for mistranslation in Japanese is people getting tattoos with Japanese characters as designs. A lot of these people get the designs based solely on the aesthetic appeal of a particular character, regardless of how ridiculous the meaning of the character may be.

While cases such as these can be considered minor, it still happens. Many people do not realize how complicated Japanese translation is, even if they are just using it for personal reasons. That is why it is important to talk to the right people for translation needs, someone who has native fluency in Japanese for English to Japanese translation or vice versa, and not just rely on translation programs.

Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta Translation, one of the best-known translation agencies in London http://www.rosettatranslation.com/. Rosetta specialises in Japanese translation http://www.rosettatranslation.com/language/japanese_translation/ and Japanese interpreting services:

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