Basic information about translation and the Japanese language

NU-AGE final conference, Brussels 5 April 2016

Despite the disruption caused by March’s terrorist attacks on Brussels Airport and metro, the NU-AGE final conference went ahead on Tuesday 5 April 2016. My flights were cancelled at the last minute, but I was able to travel up by train and attend. What is NU-AGE? NU-AGE is a large-scale one year EU dietary intervention […]

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What’s in a name?

Don’t be alarmed if a translator working from Japanese to English asks you how to pronounce (or read) a personal or place name. This isn’t a sign that they lack basic knowledge of the language, but rather a comment on how complex Japanese names can be. The Japanese themselves do the same thing – even […]

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How is Japanese written?

Japanese uses three alphabets: kanji, derived from Chinese pictograms, and hiragana and katakana (collectively referred to as kana) two phonetic alphabets made up of simpler glyphs. Katakana is most often used for foreign words, but can also be used for emphasis. Hiragana is used for native words, particularly for certain parts of speech. Kanji are […]

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How are Japanese words written in English?

Japanese can be written in English letters using a system called romanisation, which maps Japanese sounds onto the Latin alphabet. There are several varieties of romanisation which produce slightly different versions of the same Japanese word due to differences in how they map to the sounds available in Japanese. The most common system (particularly among […]

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What sounds are used in the Japanese language?

Japanese uses single vowels, consonant + vowel sounds with modified versions, and one lone consonant. The main set of sounds can be represented on a five by ten grid, often called the 五十音 (gojūon) – literally, “fifty sounds”, along with modified sounds. Vowel K (G) S (Z) T (D) N H (B) (P) M Y […]

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How are English words written in Japanese?

When Japanese doesn’t have its own word for something it can use one of its two phonetic alphabets to represent a word from another language. But as Japanese has a limited range of sounds, some loanwords (such as those with a “v” or “w” sound) don’t bear much resemblance to the original. Other loanwords are […]

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What is the difference between translation and localisation?

Although the words are often used interchangeably, localisation covers a wider scope than translation. Translation turns content from one language into another (e.g. Japanese into English). Localisation identifies and resolves cultural issues present in the content (religion, politics, etc.) adapts content to reflect differences in numbering systems, address formatting conventions and the like concentrates on […]

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Are there any basic guides to buying translation services?

A number of professional organisations have put together a handy guide to commissioning translation, available in a range of languages. Have a look and see if they have some useful hints for you!

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What are source and target languages?

The source language is the language being translated from. The target language is the language being translated into. For example, I work from Japanese to English, so my source language is Japanese and my target language is English. I work from source documents in Japanese and turn them into target documents in English.

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What is transcreation?

Transcreation involves transforming material from one language for use in another language and culture. It most often applies to creative areas such as marketing, copywriting, fiction and computer games, where material created for one culture needs to be interpreted to be more suitable for another. For example, cultural references or wordplay can rarely be translated […]

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What is sight translation?

Sight translation involves reading a written text in one language silently, and simultaneously speaking the content aloud in another language. For example, a legal firm may ask a Japanese to English translator to sight translate parts of Japanese documents, speaking the content aloud in English so they can identify what the documents are and whether […]

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What is the difference between translation and interpreting?

Both translation and interpreting involve working between two languages, but there are important differences. Translation is for the written word (documents, web sites, etc.) is asynchronous (text is written, then translated) is normally done independently of the document author, often from a separate location uses online and printed reference materials. Interpreting is for the spoken […]

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