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Essential Tips to Get the Best Japanese Document Translation

Posted by Ariel D. on July 29, 2022.

The global business interest in Japan appears to be increasing as many companies have established their initiatives in the Japanese market. We may start to wonder how to get the greatest Japanese document translation while localizing any project in this country since this trend is expected to continue in the near future.

This blog post will cover 5 fundamental tips for Japanese document translation, which might give you some valuable insights into your business.

1. Comparing the Use of Kanji, Katakana, and English Writing

There are three different character sets used in Japanese:

  • Hiragana, which is used for vocabulary and grammar patterns that have been acquired from Chinese;
  • Kanji, which can replace or be mixed with certain hiragana;
  • Katakana (used for foreign words and names, scientific or technical terms, and occasionally for emphasis).

When handling Japanese document translation, it may be preferable to use kanji, katakana, or perhaps a mix of the two. And there are some terms that are best left in English when translating into Japanese (e.g., company or product names such as Apple or iPhone).

When writing for much younger audiences, it is also better to utilize katakana and kanji because Japanese students just start learning English in junior high school.


2. Pick the Most Appropriate Tone of Politeness

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The three primary tones of politeness in Japanese are polite (丁寧), honorific (尊敬), and normal (普通). Even in the corporate environment, the tone employed in Japanese document translation for a client (honorific) vs a coworker (polite) can differ greatly (the honorific tone involves prefixes and suffixes added to certain words and special conjugations of verbs).

In general, the more intimate your connection or time spent getting to know someone, the more casual your tone may be (hence, the most informal Japanese is generally used among family and friends). Making the greatest possible first impression with your translated material into Japanese requires choosing the tone that best suits your target audience. Using a respectful tone might be the first step in translating any document into Japanese.


3. Know About the Furigana for Children

Japanese first graders are not required to learn to write in only one year, unlike those in America or Europe. After all, learning Japanese writing completely in a year is a huge effort, even for adults.

2,136 kanji were included in the list of frequently used Japanese characters that was produced by the Japanese Ministry of Education. In primary schools, around 1,000 of the characters are taught. Some add transcriptions written in hiragana, assisting kids to grasp the kanji that they are not yet familiar with.

The term “furigana” refers to these transcriptions. Furigana is frequently utilized in children’s books and television programs. For those learning Japanese, furigana is also helpful, and many people advised me to try reading children’s publications when I was learning the language.

Furigana may need to be inserted in Japanese document translation if your target audiences are children. The majority of the time, translators do not need to bother about it, but occasionally a client or the agency they are working with may request that the translation be shortened to make room for furigana.


4. Be Aware of Text Format in Japanese Document Translation 

Japanese may be read in two distinct orientations, both from left to right and from right to left. But there are other ways to write in Japanese as well: Japanese phrases can be written horizontally or vertically.

Vertical writing is still the dominant style for books and newspapers, meanwhile horizontal writing is utilized in everyday writing and in teaching. Those written horizontally are read from left to right, whereas texts written vertically are read from right to left.

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The most puzzling aspect of this method is that, for stylistic reasons, Japanese people may employ both vertical and horizontal lettering on the same page. For instance, newspaper headlines may use a horizontal script, while the body of the story may use a vertical script. For the typical Japanese speaker, this is not a problem because it is rather simple to distinguish between the two. But with computers, it’s completely another thing.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software is typically used by translators to assist them while working on PDF files. These programs convert PDF files to other formats.

Due to the way Japanese is written, the situation is a little different for Japanese document translation. OCR software occasionally interprets sentences that are written vertically when they are actually written horizontally. This misunderstanding allows the program to combine characters that don’t truly go together.

That is when you need high-quality desktop publishing (DTP) services. In recognizing this aspect, GTE Localize has added DTP as one of our solutions. We support a wide range of file formats and handle them from text extraction in the first phase through DTP quality verification in the last step. You can talk to our experts to get more information about this service.


5. Separate Words with Centered Dots or Spaces 

Another formatting issue of Japanese document translation is how to mark the end of a sentence.

There are frequently no gaps between words in Japanese (double-byte spaces are generally used after commas and periods to indicate a break in a sentence or the end of a sentence).

It can be difficult to discern between Japanese words when translating them using a string of extended katakana terms. Because of this, each word may be separated by a single-byte (half-width) space or a centered dot (nakaguro).

A Japanese audience may be able to read the original translation without any word breaks, but they would likely find the translation to be considerably easier on the eyes if centered dots or single-byte spaces were used instead.

The style selected by your business and/or target audience will determine which one to employ in these circumstances, however, single-byte spaces are now more frequently used because they are more subtly word separators than centered dots. The best formatting solution for Japanese document translation is to utilize centered dots, particularly in katakana-heavy writing.


Final Thoughts

Overall, your greatest chance of receiving accurate translations free of the aforementioned problems is to work with a reputable translation agency that has expertise in Japanese document translation.

If you’re looking for a translation service that will provide you with all the assistance you want while dealing with Japanese translation projects, why not have a look at GTE Localize?

We only hire native Japanese speakers with at least five years of translation expertise to work on all Japanese translation assignments. Additionally, they have an extensive understanding of the subject matter they translate and expertise in working with a variety of Japanese translation materials.

To guarantee that you receive the highest caliber translation, our project managers actively conduct an XBench QA round for each and every project and/or an internal LQA round. Moreover, following our lifetime warranty, the clients can come back to us for editing the document without any extra fee.

So drop us a line immediately to get your Japanese document translation started!

japanese document translation