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Japanese To English Document Translation: A Complete Guide

Posted by Ethan N. on July 30, 2023.

As more businesses have established their ventures in the Japanese market, the interest in Japan from the international business community looks to be growing. Since this tendency is predicted to continue in the near future, we might start to consider how to get the best Japanese to English document translation while localizing any project in this nation.

This blog post will cover the five most specific problems of document translation services from Japanese to English and some typical practices on how to solve them.

1. Five Peculiar Differences Between Japanese And English

1.1. Way To Read The Correct Japanese Name

The pronunciation, or reading, of the characters, used for names in Japanese presents an extra challenge.

It is necessary to translate the pronunciation of Japanese names into English because it is difficult to do so only from the Japanese characters. You can read this character 光 as Aki, Akira, Hikari, Hikaru, Kou, or Teru, for instance. 


There exist name-reading dictionaries, but in the end, only the individual in question, or someone who is aware of or has access to them, can definitively say how to read the name. This holds true for first and surname names as well as occasionally geographical names while middle names do not exist in Japanese.

Here are some key points when dealing with names in Japanese to English document translation:

  • Provide background information, such as biographical biographies, before the translation.
  • Verify the spelling of the names that are mentioned in the text.
  • Verify the spelling of location names wherever you can.

1.2. Single And Plural Nouns

Nouns in English can be solitary or plural, like one book and two books. However, it is not the same in Japanese. The noun stays the same regardless of how many objects there are.

This implies that it won’t be obvious from the Japanese language alone whether there is one item or many unless a number is expressly specified or provided elsewhere (such as in an image or table).

Without any obvious evidence of a singular or plural noun, the Japanese to English document translation provider will have to rely on context to make the best judgment. Even if they want to be consistent, it is better to interpret the same word as singular or plural every time. Singular/plural nouns might translate incorrectly or inconsistently without an outside source of information.

Some steps that help you in this situation are:

  • Give as many references as you can, such as user manuals, catalogs, diagrams, figures, and tables.
  • Expect questions as the translation is being done and provide a contact who can provide the answers.

1.3. The Art Of Determining Gender From Pronouns

To refer to persons who have previously been addressed, gendered pronouns are used in English with ‘he’ or ‘she’.

Although there are some analogs in Japanese, they aren’t frequently used (it’s still common to refer to persons by their last name) and a text may not make it apparent whose gender the parties involved are.


Being confused about how to address someone might require inappropriate Japanese to English document translation (such as replicating the Japanese practice of addressing someone by name) or result in humiliation if the wrong pronoun is used.

How to avoid the mistakes:

  • Provide background information, such as biographies or pictures, before the translation.
  • Check to see if the user is asked for their gender on forms or other areas where personal data is gathered, and think about asking for a greeting in place of that.

1.4. Readability And Closeness Of Japanese To English Document Translation

When translating, there is a natural conflict between being true to the original text and making changes to make the text flow organically in the target language.

A translation can be too accurate. While accuracy is vital, trying to write too closely to Japanese, for example, by copying the sentence structure, still leads to clunky English that doesn’t interest the reader and leaves a bad impression.

Instead of trying to duplicate the sentence or word structures, Japanese to English document translation need to concentrate on communicating the original text’s meaning. Poor English content is produced when precision is overemphasized to the point that Japanese grammar is translated into English.

Some pieces of advice that you must know are:

  • Before translating, go to a style manual or examples of English writing to help determine the translation’s style.
  • Make sure the translator is knowledgeable about the subject and has access to the necessary time and tools.

1.5. High Context Vs. Low Context

The two sociological terms, ‘high context’ and ‘low context’, describe how different civilizations interact. While Japan is high-context, where the reader infers the context, the USA, UK, and other English-speaking nations tend to be low-context, where the writer or speaker offers context.


To make sense or have the same effect in English, the Japanese to English document translation might need to be amended to account for these discrepancies.  And high-context cultures rely less on explicit wording and more on common understanding.

How to solve this cultural conflict:

  • Recognize that you will need to make accommodations for cultural differences.
  • Make it plain to the translator before translation that you anticipate them to bring up potential problems.
  • Check to see if the translator is knowledgeable about the subject and has access to the necessary tools and time.
  • When translating: As the translator works, anticipate questions and provide a contact person who can provide the answers.

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2. How To Get The Best Japanese to English Document Translation Services

It is not surprising that Japanese is frequently ranked as one of the hardest languages to translate for many speakers and translators, leading to the fact that Japanese to English document translation might face various barriers. 

Working with a professional translator who can provide you with translations of the highest caliber is advised for such a challenging undertaking, and GTE Localize is one of the top options that you must consider.

For all Japanese translation projects, we exclusively use native Japanese speakers with at least five years of experience. They are skilled at dealing with a range of Japanese translation resources and have a thorough grasp of the subject matter they translate. Moreover, we actively undertake a careful internal LQA round and/or an XBench QA step to ensure that every customer will receive the best product with a lifetime warranty.


So contact us right now to begin your Japanese to English document translation project!