Translation into Japanese
Every language presents unique challenges to a translator. Translation into Japanese is no exception. The Japanese language has a complex writing system and unique grammar rules. There are also specific Japanese cultural expectations which contribute in making it one of the most challenging languages to translate. Japanese translators need to be aware of these areas in order to create faithful renderings of source text into Japanese.
1. Japanese writing system
Japanese is written using four character systems: Kanji (Chinese characters), Hiragana (a syllabary used for native Japanese words and particles), Katakana (a syllabary used mainly for foreign words), and Romaji (the Roman alphabet, increasingly used for adopted words or for stylistic effect). Although each script has prescribed uses, innumerable ambiguities arise during translation into Japanese. In many cases there are multiple ways to correctly translate a term, leaving it up to the translator to choose from the possible character combinations. These individual choices can affect the quality and consistency of the Japanese translation.
2. Japanese grammar
Unrelated to most modern languages (except Mongolian and Turkish), Japanese features a number of grammatical rules that can result in convoluted, unnatural-sounding translations. In contrast to English, for example, Japanese is an agglutinative language (in which the words are formed by joining small units of meaning together) with SOV order (verb at the end of the sentence), limited tense conjugations, and inflected adjectives. Translation into Japanese therefore involves vigilance on the part of the Japanese translator in order to maintain the meaning and style of the original text.
3. Japanese cultural expectations
Translation into Japanese is further complicated by specific expectations of Japanese readers. Since the overwhelming majority of Japanese speakers are culturally Japanese as well, translations must fit the cultural style of the country. For example, level of formality, vocabulary choices, and organization of information are all influenced by Japanese preferences; Japanese translations tend to be more formal and linearly organized than source text.
Find more Japanese translation culture in our translation blog:
For information on The Japanese language and translation, please see our information on Japanese Translation services.