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 […]Read more
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 […]Read more
Mind the gap
Japanese sounds do not map perfectly onto English ones, which is no real surprise with two such different languages. This can lead to problems when Japanese words are rendered in English – especially personal and place names. The risk of sounds shifting is compounded when the word came from another language in the first place […]Read more
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 […]Read more
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 […]Read more
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 […]Read more
Hello and goodbye
Why is text missing from the top and bottom of my document? If you’re having a letter, cover letter or other piece of correspondence being sent from one person directly to another, you may find that some text is missing from the very top and bottom. Japanese letters follow a set formula, opening with a […]Read more
All about titles
Why do all the titles in my translation have “about” in them? If you’re taking the word “about” out of all the titles in your Japanese to English translation, they do come from somewhere. Japanese has a convention of identifying headings using a set phrase which equates to “about”, whereas in English titles are normally […]Read more