Top five tips for Japanese translation

By Acclaro
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Get the best translation possible for your Japanese launch

Translating content into Japanese presents a variety of challenges, most notably capturing the natural flow and tone of Japanese sentences. In American business, writing tends to be more informal, yet if translated into Japanese it would seem too casual and possibly even rude. Translating English content, which is more than likely not in the appropriate tone for Japan, into Japanese is challenging, but not impossible. Read these tips to achieve high-quality, natural Japanese translations when working with a translation vendor. Also refer to our tips for preparing for any translation project, no matter what the language.

Read our top-5 tips for translating your content into Japanese.

  1. Supply approved text samples in Japanese. Before you even begin translation, give your translation partner examples of Japanese text that has a tone, style, and voice approved by your Japanese management. This will speed up the translation and review process, and should save you time and energy (and maybe even costs) in the long run.
  2. Choose a representative section of the entire project and have that translated first. While this is a best practice for translation into any language, this is especially important for Japanese. Once the section is translated, give feedback on the translation to your vendor. The glossary, style guide and translation memory can then be updated with relevant changes. The remainder of the translation can follow, using lessons from this initial translation.
  3. “Transcreate” marketing materials for Japanese markets. Marketing, due to clichés, word play, cultural references and the like are very difficult to translate into any language, and this is especially true when translating into Japanese. Transcreation goes well beyond a direct translation. A native-speaking copywriter adapts the message to the language and culture, effectively creating new content that honors the original content objectives, but may be very different due to linguistic and cultural considerations. For example, the imperative form (i.e. “Buy this!”) in English is usually too strong and would give a wrong impression, while the colloquial tone in English is too friendly if translated literally into Japanese.
  4. Get ready for extensive feedback and changes. Know that the first few translations submitted by your vendor may require extensive changes. Japanese translations are expected to be perfect (vs. simply accurate and mistake-free) and perfecting the tone and ambiguous and/or complex phrases require feedback iterations. Once you work with a vendor on several projects, the required time and edits should diminish with each translation.
  5. Budget more time and money than for most other languages. First, due to the unique language and quality needs, the Japanese translation often has additional quality steps in the overall process. Also, entering Japanese characters during translation is a two-step process that includes typing the phonetic spelling and then selecting the appropriate Japanese character from a pop-up menu. Both impact the time spent on Japanese translation projects.

With these top-5 tips and an experienced localization partner, your path to Japanese translation will be a smooth one. When you’re ready to get started, contact Acclaro — we’re proud of our Japanese language expertise and are prepared to work with you every step of the way.

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