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(C)2012 Seaman Medical, Inc.
Helping Your Clients Write Translation-Ready Japanese
The internationalization of Japanese business means that more Japanese companies than ever
before need to present their products to the world. Usually this means using English. Writing
clearly in English for an international audience can be difficult for native English speakers; if
English is not your native language, it can be even more challenging.
In particular, English documents for submission to regulatory authorities must follow strict
guidelines. In addition, some of these documents are very large, and are related to other
documents, so they must be consistent with each other. They do not have to be beautifully
written, but they must be clear, concise, and consistent. This is particularly important because in
the West the writer has the responsibility to write understandably. If the English is difficult to
understand, the reader may think that (1) the Japanese company doesn’t take their translation
responsibilities seriously or (2) the Japanese company doesn’t understand how to do its research
Many Japanese businesses turn to translators or translation companies for help with such
documentation. However, it can be very expensive to simply say “Please just take care of
everything for us.” The translators may have insufficient experience, and the quality of the
resulting translation may be inadequate resulting in delays. Since some projects cannot move
forward until government approval is obtained, delayed approval may mean that the project is
also delayed for weeks or even months, which can be extremely expensive.
There are two ways to obtain a high-quality English translation of Japanese materials. The first
is to find translators who can translate unrevised Japanese. These translators should be highly
experienced in the field, so that they understand the context of the Japanese document even if it
is not clearly explained. They should be skilled researchers, so that they can find the meaning of
unexplained or ambiguous terms in the Japanese text. They should be excellent writers of
English, so that they can create clear, concise English documents. And they should be almost
always available, because the consistency of your documents will depend on their experience
with your translations, and that experience will be inside their heads and not easily transferred
to another translator.
The other way is to write “easy-to-translate” Japanese. That means consistently using a
standardized vocabulary and standardized abbreviations. It means using standardized formatting,
verb tense, and sentence structures as much as possible. It also means writing Japanese as
clearly as possible, with relatively short simple sentences and plenty of related and
understandable information. Ambiguity should be minimized. Unfamiliar terms should be
defined, processes should be clearly explained, and references should be listed.
If you write clear, concise, consistent Japanese, it will almost always be “easy-to-translate.”
This kind of writing is hard work. However, because the Japanese is clear, a good translator will
be able to create clear, concise, consistent English. There are some hints (
) that you can use
to write “easy-to-translate Japanese. Those hints are the topic of this presentation.
(C)2012 Seaman Medical, Inc.
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