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This translation &DISCUSS is the place where you get to follow and discuss all things translation, not just Japanese English translations! SAECULII is a Translation Service Company (Japan Tokyo).

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    If you’ve read articles 1-3 of this series, Translation: Are You Costing Your Company Money?, you may have identified an underlying theme from the real world examples in each article.

    Quality Japanese Translations: The right translators for the right translation job

    A quick re-cap:

    • In article 1, a ridiculous 3 day turn around on a translation job so large a whole department of translation professionals could not have managed. Somebody requested this project, who clearly had no strategy beyond “I need this project completed like ASAP”.
    • In article 2, a two week English Japanese translation project turned into a 6 month nightmare. Somebody was at the helm of this project, who had no experience in project management.
    • In article 3, self defeating behavior that scuttles projects before they even get off the ground. Somebody sourcing a project, who over emphasized cost reduction leading to counter productive results.

    The underlying theme is personnel -- A SOMEBODY.

    Elaborating on the example in article 1, the person may have been the “go to person” in the company to get things done. However, launching such a large project without a proper strategy will ensure not quality translation, but countless translation errors that cost the company money. Definitely not the right person for the right task!

    Yet, this happens more often than one would think. Here’s an example I ran across on a blog doing SEO research the other day.

    Translation and localization personnel

    A wealth of information is to be had from this seemingly simple blog post.

    Traffic is the lifeblood of a website -- No traffic no sales! SEO (search engine optimization) is the positioning of a website on the internet to boost traffic and by extension sales. SEO is such an important function it is a multi-billion dollar industry. And for good reason. A good SEO strategy can mean tremendous profits for a company; a poor strategy may well sink a company!

    Getting back to that blog post, we know whatever product or service this company is selling, it's valuable enough to offer a free trip to Sin City. And, they put a clueless person in charge of SEO…!? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure this person is a quick study; but, this is beside the point. In SEO, even seasoned professionals have their work cut out for them. This is simply not the situation to cut one’s teeth on SEO!

    So, we’ve come a full circle, to the first question of this article series. How is it possible that 80% of global firms, generally being staffed with exceptionally bright, skilled and experienced people, lose revenue due to translation errors?

    The answer is pretty straightforward: Unless you employ the right personnel for the right task, even exceptional personnel with the right tools at their disposal will drop the ball.

    There's really no need for companies to lose revenue due to something that can be as easily eliminated as translation errors. As a consumer of translation, using the right people for the right task will ensure you don’t lose money for your company. If you intend to handle the translation yourself, ensure this happens. If you use a professional translation service, ensure this happens.

    Of course, ensuring the right personnel for the right task is precluded by an understanding of the fact that in a global environment, translation is an extremely important function and NOT a mere after thought of some other larger process.



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Tokyo, Japan based Certified Translation Japanese Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-certified-translations.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Part 2 of the article series Translation: Are You Costing Your Company Money? looks at project management in translation and localization.

    Japanese Translator Interpreter

    Sound project management is crucial to taking possession of a quality, error free project.

    If you've undertaken a translation or localization project, even a small project, without the aid of a project management system, you may be guilty of contributing to translation errors that have cost your company in lost revenue.

    Read the real world example that follows, and see how failure to implement a project management system leads to translation errors.

    Real World Example

    My company, a Japanese translation service company based in Tokyo (Japan), was approached to handle the Japanese translation and localization of a global marketing brochure for a world renowned marketing firm some years back. We were approached because of our expertise in Japanese marketing translations, copywriting, graphic and web design, and print media. We viewed this project as a great opportunity to show case our Integrated Japanese Translation Solution approach to marketing translation projects, and naturally grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

    Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those projects you wish you'd never heard about. Here's what happened.

    Pretty soon after the project was initialized, we discovered that the material provided us was a draft copy, despite notifying the client upfront that we only work with finalized materials (because it saves everyone, not least of all the client, money). From there, the situation snowballed:

    • Already translated text needed to be retranslated as new revisions constantly kept rolling in.
    • The English materials contained text from other language versions of the brochure.
    • The text contained historically inaccurate facts which the client was not even aware of.
    • Regional branch managers from around the world were phoning us asking for specific revisions, which were then being over ridden by other regional managers, and then again by the head office.
    • Our role morphed from that of a translation/localization service provider to consulting as the person steering the project had no clue how to implement and manage a global translation project.


    Eventually, the situation deteriorated such that we were forced to create a purpose built change track application to refute accusations of unauthorized changes to materials. Of course, once confronted with the evidence (who requested what changes which were then overridden by which regional office), the client was put in the awkward position of not only having to apologize, but also compensate us for the additional work we were doing.

    The project had a 14 day deliver requirement; it was finally completed 5 months 27 days later! Right from the go get it became apparent this project was sorely lacking project management.

    Read on and find out how project management cuts down on translation errors.

    Effective Project Management

    Translation errors can, and do, creep into translated and localized materials at every step of the process. And, yes, translators are not the only source of errors -- Anyone involved in the project is a potential source of errors.

    However, one of the major causes of translation errors is invariably lack of, or poor, translation project management. Going back to that Real World Example, this project could well have been delivered within the 2 week delivery requirement, since it was not a particularly large project -- Instead, the project became bogged down with endless, and in my opinion, completely unnecessary, revisions.

    Implementation of a translation project management system would have:

    1. Ensured adequate planning
      In an undertaking as complex as translation and localization (especially on a global level), adequate planning is essential for achieving successful project completion. (Surprised? That’s right -- Without trying to aggrandize my profession, translation and localization is NOT a trivial matter, or an after thought to more “important” processes if you will.)
    2. Ensured appropriate resources
      While “resources” can apply to just about anything required for successful project completion, here I specifically refer to personnel. Qualified personnel are the linchpin in any project because they can keep, or even bring back, a project on track. A project management system is essential to assign the right personnel to the right task.
    3. Ensured accurate communication
      Tracking communications with a project management system would have eliminated miscommunications and the resulting problems of mistrust between the various project stakeholders that ensued.
    4. Ensured quality control
      This was essentially the root cause of all problems in this project. Applying in-house quality controls via a project management system would have ensured that service providers received the finalized copy of materials for translation, thus completely eliminating the need for endless revisions that eventually lead to project melt down.
    5. Minimized project costs
      No matter how you rationalize it, a 2 week project that runs for nearly 6 months is going to cost a whole lot more than budgeted for. More importantly, and what is often not recognized, are the hidden costs of a project that runs off track. For example, since your staff is tied up with the current project, they are unable to continue with other pressing projects -- A contagion effect of slipped deadlines develops leading to costs piling up.


    Not enough can be said about the importance of project management in reducing and eliminating translation errors.

    Reduce and eliminate translation errors -- Project management doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg

    If you've been operating without a project management system apply the lessons you take away from this article, and ensure your company never again loses revenue through avoidable translation errors.

    What project management system do you use? Depending on the project requirements, it can be as simply as a spreadsheet application (for small projects) or it can be a top-of-the-line project management application for larger and more complicated projects.

    You are probably thinking that’s fine for someone with deep pockets, right? However, consider this: The cost as measured by lost revenue due to translation errors of NOT implementing a project management solution is far, far greater than implementing even a basic solution…



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, experts in Certified Translation Japanese to English based in Japan, Tokyo. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-certified-translations.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Before we jump in, let’s separate fact from fiction.

    Japanese Translation Quality

    Myth has it Coca-Cola entered the Chinese market with “ko-ka-ko-la” which, amongst a number of things, also means “bite the wax tadpole”. The truth is somewhat less clear cut. Before Coca-Cola registered “Ke-kou-ke-le” (meaning “to allow the mouth to be able to rejoice”) in 1928 in China, independent shopkeepers put up signs advertising “bite the wax tadpole”. However, The Coca-Cola Company never ever used “bite the wax tadpole”.

    Even archrival PepsiCo is not immune! Myth has it that "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave" with their famous "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" copy translated for the Chinese market. The Chinese market, again? There are a number of variations involving a number of countries; however, there is no solid evidence this blooper ever occurred. (PepsiCo has never confirmed or denied the incident, which could be an attempt to get maximum marketing mileage out of the myth).

    These are urban legends endlessly perpetuated having made their way into academia and even text books. So, where are the real brand bloopers, then?

    • Mitsubishi Pajero: “pajero” means wanker in Spanish, so now we have the Montero
    • Kentucky Fried Chicken: “Finger lickin' good!” somehow became “Eat your fingers off” in Chinese. (Then again, my toddler daughter often nips her own fingers chomping down on the Colonel’s delights…)
    • McDonald's: “Double cheeseburger? I'd Hit It” -- American slang for sexual desire provides ample proof that slang in translation is a veritable minefield!
    • Honda Fitta: “fitta” is a crude term for female sex organs in Swedish and Norwegian, so the vehicle that started in Asia as the Honda Fit became the Honda Jazz in Europe.

    Can you imagine the cost of these translation errors? For example, I wonder how many folks decided owning a Honda Fitta was just too risque? Of course, we know this was a costly translation blooper otherwise the company wouldn't have rebranded the car...

    If you believe you have the best translation blooper ever, then share it! Let our readers put it to the vote to find out if you really have the best translation error of all time! Simply contact us with the details, and we’ll post your blooper on our translation &DISCUSS blog.



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, Certified Japanese Translator based in Tokyo, Japan Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-certified-translations.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Researchers in New Zealand have employed phylogenetic analysis (the study of evolutionary relation among groups of organisms commonly used to trace virus epidemics) to create family trees of ancient and modern Indo-European languages to identify the origins of this language family.

    Indo-European Language Family - English

    Modern Indo-European languages include English.

    Results of this fascinating research indicate the English language originated in the Anatolian region of Turkey 9,000 years ago. This is roughly 4,000 earlier than previously estimated, and away from the Pontic steppe in Russia proposed by current theory.

    Read the full article here on the BBC



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, experts in Official Translation Japanese to English Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Service

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-certified-translations.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    You need certified document translation in Japanese, so why would you want to use a professional translation company?

    Certified Document Translation Japanese English

    After all, everyone knows that freelance Japanese translators are cheaper.

    My intuitive response is that it depends on your project requirements. For example, freelance translators may be ideal for small translation projects. On the other hand, though, a professional translation service would be more appropriate for large and/or complex ongoing projects.

    In general, from the perspective of nearly 2 decades of English Japanese translation industry experience, I believe in most cases a company is the better option. The reason I say this isn’t just because we want your business (which we certainly do!), but because companies provide a “drop-off, pickup” professional translation service. By this I mean you don't need to hassle with everything in between, such as recruiting & evaluating translators, sourcing additional vendors for specific requirements, project management, payment for services, and the myriad of energy and time consuming issues common on any project.

    More importantly, professional service providers guarantee translation product & service quality, or should do. Can't really beat that, can you?



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, experts in Certified Document Translation Japanese in Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese translation service

    Copyright (c) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-certified-translations.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    This part of the article series Polishing Your Translation Style focuses on the machinations of grammar.

    Translation - Technical stuff, Nuts 'n Bolts

    Sounds like a grand, all encompassing ambition. But, rest assured, the goal is to simply highlight a few common errors that persist in translation products -- Nothing but a few tips 'n techniques to give shine to your style!

    Run-on sentences do not translate well
    Japanese to English translation
    can often be challenging. This is because as a language, Japanese emphasizes subtleness that produces multiple phrases in run-on sentences. The object of these marathon sentences is dropped in at the end. Obviously, this doesn't translate well.

    Run on-sentences should be reconstructed with a single idea or thought per sentence. Not only will the translation be easier, but it will read better. Don't be shy about taking the knife to unwieldy sentences!

    Omitted words are not translated
    In the English language, much is implied and therefore omitted. It is common to do away with constructions such as "that." An example of this point would be "I know that I can do it!" which often becomes "I know I can do it!" in the translated text. Some languages require these constructions, and the translation would be incorrect without them.

    There are numerous other words, such as particles ("the") that are often omitted in English. Indeed, all languages have these grammatical "quirks" that are ill-defined. A simple rule to follow is that if you are not sure, do not omit it.

    Acronyms can be misleading
    And that, translators, can lead to the "lost in translation” malaise. Take "ASAP", for example. Now, everyone knows that ASAP stands for "as soon as possible," right? Think again! According to acronymfinder.com, "ASAP" has roughly 90 definitions including "as soon as possible."

    The definitions of acronyms vary from language to language, and are very much dependent on the reader’s professional training and background. Avoid using acronyms in your translations. And, where you absolutely have to use an acronym, provide the definition. Use an easy to understand format such as "Applied Securities Analysis Program (ASAP)."

    Avoid abbreviations
    If I've convinced you that acronyms can be misleading, and therefore should be qualified with a definition in an easy to understand format, you'll have no problem in adopting the same format for abbreviations. If you still need convincing, then lookup "ATM."

    Do a double check on a double check!
    Numbers, dates, times, and names -- Check, double check, and then check again.

    Japanese is on of those languages that has a particularly un-wieldy number system. One billion, for example, translates as 10 one hundred million(s). In doing a English Japanese translations on super computers, I achieved a level of notoriety by turning one of the fastest computers on the planet into a "that is so last year" has been -- I inadvertently dropped a single digit of the machine’s teraflop speeds. Fortunately, it was caught at proof reading.

    Here's what you do. Create a spreadsheet, and list the numerals of your native language, for example English, on the left and the corresponding numerals of the target language in the adjacent cell on the right. It should look like this: 1,000,000,000 (1 billion, English) -> 10, 0000, 0000 (1 billion, Japanese).

    When deadlines are looming large and you're balls to the wall, it is easy to confuse numbers, dates, and times especially when different formats are required. Develop handy cheat sheets - nothing fancy or complicated - to reference at a glance.

    Consistency rules
    Your writing style should be creative and varied (refer to Polishing Your Translation Style - Part 1). The technical aspect of your style, however, must be consistent. For example, acronyms and abbreviations should be defined in a consistent format throughout your translation work. If you've adopted a particular word or phrase for a term, ensure that you consistently use the same term throughout. For example, an "aircraft" is an "aircraft," and not alternatively a "plane," an "airplane," or a "flying object."

    Conclusion
    Adopting a translation style that puts you on a level by yourself is easy -- Follow the 6 simple steps above and apply these steps to your translation projects. Clients' will be asking for you by name!



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, experts in of Official Translation Japanese in Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-certified-translations.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    If you’ve read part 1 & 2 of this article series, you may be asking "what else is there to say about improving one’s translation style?"

    Official Japanese Translators

    The answer to that, my friends, is the most important part of the message. Polishing Your Translation Style - Part 3:

    1. The client and you
    2. Let your reputation precede you
    3. Operate like a professional to be a professional
    4. Don’t make clients look for you
    5. Who do you do business with?

    Read on and profit!



    The client and you
    Let’s for a moment consider our profession from the perspective of the client.

    You have a need for professional translators. You pull out all the stops: hit the search engines; post on translation directories; and, even call in a few favours. In short, you get the word out. Pretty soon you have around a hundred (probably more) potential candidates. Then, based on your translation project requirements, and other priorities and considerations, you cull the list down to 10 candidates. The surviving candidates bring the exact same qualifications and benefits to the table. At this point you do an in-depth analysis on each potential candidate. So, here’s the question: Who do you commission to take on your translation project?

    Part 3 of this translation article series answers that question.

    (Click here to view the complete series - Polishing Your Translation Style)

    Applying the lessons of part 1 & 2 of this article series will put you in the final line up. However, although you may be the most accomplished professional Japanese translator in the business, it does not necessarily ensure that clients will contract your services. It is as simple as that -- Brutal to be sure, but the truth none the less! Here‘s where you get to ensure that you’re not one of the "other nine."



    Let your reputation precede you
    We’re all somebody’s client; no pearl of wisdom there, I am afraid. However, think about the time - and we’ve all experienced this at one time or another - when you made a major purchase decision for a particular product or service without the usual angst. It just seemed the most obvious thing to drop the "green", or money, on the table. You were totally comfortable with your decision. Why was that? Dell (computers) was my experience, and not because Dell produces the best computers, either. For me, it was because their reputation for quality of product AND quality of service preceded them.

    What is the lesson here that can be applied to translation style?

    Deliver on the promise

    Always deliver client projects on time. Better yet, don’t just beat the deadline -- Deliver the project with time to spare. If for some reason, an act of God hopefully, you won’t be able to deliver as promised, give the client a heads up the moment you realize. The response may not be pretty, but it definitely will be appreciated. And, whatever you do, don’t come up with a lame excuse! (You’re not in university anymore!)

    Of course, nobody sets about a project intending to miss the deadline, and yet many do. You can avoid the "unavoidable" by:

    • Not accepting projects with unrealistic or impossible deadlines. Negotiate a more reasonable deliver date, or simply refuse the job altogether -- Your reputation will not suffer.
    • Working within your abilities. Don’t accept material you have little or no expertise knowledge about because then you will definitely end up making lame excuses.
    • Making sure you’ll be working within your abilities. Evaluating the source text BEFORE you accept a translation project. Check it out yourself -- Don’t take somebody's word that it’s a "business text." (It may be a business contract requiring legal expertise!)

    Take a page from Dell’s operations manual -- Make your clients feel comfortable by developing a reputation for delivering more than you promise. You’re already standing tall in that line up.



    Operate like a professional to be a professional

    Start by knowing your client

    That is, do some preliminary research on the client before submitting your proposal. This is important for a couple of reason. First, your research will manifest itself in the proposal submitted, and the client will definitely pick up on it. The message is powerful: this candidate is interested enough in the job to "go the extra mile!"Second, you’re playing at a psychological level -- You are appealing to a universal sense of vanity. Everybody likes to feel important enough to be "researched."

    (I recently received an email from a freelance Japanese translator. This person had skillfully worked an original phrase from an article I had written into the resume. Now, you just have to know that I took a closer, longer look at that resume -- What can I say, I'm only human!)

    Too much sweat? Apart from the obvious benefits, you may discover some interesting information. For example, your research may turn up a pierce of information that will land you at the head of the line up. Alternatively, you may discover the client has a history of bouncing checks in which case you probably want to remove yourself from the list. A word of caution is in order, though. When working research into your proposal, do be subtle and forego the flattery.

    Professionals know how to listen to understand what’s required.

    Have you ever thought about the difference between listen and hear?

    And the buzz that comes with a reputation as a good listener --- Pure gold! One hears it all the time: these guys knew exactly what I wanted, and they got it right! Apply your listening skills and let your reputation precede you as a professional that gets the job done right, first time round. You’ll be rewarded many times over with repeated requests for your services.

    The job does not start until the paper work is complete!

    You need a contract that is detailed, and you need an agreement on that contract before anything happens. At a bare minimum, your contract should have clauses cover pricing, terms of payment, limitation of liability, delivery of product (service), dispute resolution, termination of arrangement and confidentiality. Now, some may think that a contract at this point will scare a potential client away. Quite the contrary -- It speaks loud and clear of professionalism!

    In addition to protecting yourself, you’re dealing up front and honestly with an issue that is of obvious importance to the client. And, at the same time you’re providing transparency. For example, the clause on translation pricing will tell the client upfront how much your services will cost and how those figures are arrived at. There’s no greater turn-off than a "black box" pricing structure -- Lurking sticker price shock at its worst!

    Records

    There are a number of very affordable translation project management software packages targeted at professional translators that do a good job of organizing and storing business records. E-mails, faxes, invoices, contracts, purchase orders, receipts, source files and translated files should all be stored. Some would say that this is a good business practice, which it is. I would argue this is essential to being a professional. Organizing and storing records will ensure clients get a prompt response to inquiries. In addition to lending an aura of professionalism to your operation, stored records are a great source of information when your business grows to the point where data mining becomes feasible.

    Plan for the future now!

    I’m a repeat customer of Dell. All our hardware (laptops, desktops, and servers) are Dell boxes. As our translation business growths, there’s a continual need to upgrade. How do I know what components to purchase? I simply log into my Dell account and enter the product number of the box I need to upgrade. Every single information record about that box is readily accessible -- Now that’s what I call business record keeping! Of course, not everyone has deep pockets for a state-of-the-art system, but you get the point.

    (How long should you keep records for? In some countries, you’re required by law to keep business records for a certain period of time. If you employ a project management software tool you essential have the option to store records forever (recommended). At a minimum, store records for at least one year.)

    Communicate like a professional

    This is a vast topic that I could never do justice to, and in an article of this length, I also run the risk of losing the original message. Allow me, instead, to focus on written communication since this is probably the most common form of communication that you’ll have with clients, and in most cases, it’ll be the first communication you have with a client.

    Your writing abilities either are one of your greatest assets, or one of your greatest liabilities. That’s it.

    A colleague found herself in the un-enviable position of having to e-mail the entire company alerting them to an error she’d made on a project she was the lead project manager for. This was a critical error on a major project on which everyone had been slaving away for months. Tempers were very short. I immediately realized she was so stressed, and in such a hurry to fire off that e-mail, that she hadn’t done the best job she could’ve done on format, grammar or style. I explained to her normally people would overlook such issues as trivial; however, in the current situation she’d probably be put to the stake! We re-worked the e-mail several times, took a lazy dinner, and then re-worked it some. How did her colleagues respond? In her words "Oh... the good response was good!"

    Written communication is incredibly powerful. Take writing courses if you have to. Definitely re-work everything that clients get to read until it is perfect. And remember this, once it is out there, it becomes a permanent record that you have no control over (i.e. can never edit).

    You can dominate the line up by projecting an image of a professional Japanese translator. Researching the client, listening carefully to identify what the client wants, tying up (legal) issues that are of concern to the client, employing project management tools, and communicating in a clear and concise manner all serve to focus that image and polish your translation style.



    Don’t make clients look for you
    Getting referrals, putting out resumes, working the phones, and pressing the flesh are marketing approaches I’m sure you’re employing to stay on the client’s radar. What more can you do?

    If you maintain visibility by employing any of these approaches, then like the rest of us, occasionally you drop of the client’s radar. How does this happen? Well, physical addresses change, as do phone numbers, when you move. Maybe your e-mail address changed with your new ISP that you got a great deal on. Or, simply, you changed your e-mail provider because you were unhappy with the service. Do you even remember all the places where you’ve posted your contact details? The point is this: your hard work at staying visible is all for naught because the client won’t be able to contact you about a proposal during this transitional phase, if at all.

    A web site offers a permanent solution. Translation professionals often shy away from a web presence for a number of reasons. They assume that the cost is too prohibitive, they don’t have the technical skill requirements, or the commitment is too great. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, these misconceptions may be preventing you from harnessing the full potential of the web to grow your translation business.

    A web presence really is within anybody’s reach! What are the possibilities?

    • Your internet address, or domain name, will never change which means you’ll have a permanent shingle pointing to your office door.
    • You’ll always have the latest version of your material in front of the client that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. In effect, you will be open for business 24/7.

    A web presence will not only stabilize your income, it will provide the opportunity for growth -- Planning for the future. Stay accessible to clients, stay in the line up.



    Who do you do business with?
    Let’s revisit that major purchase decision that we happily made a while back.

    Sure, the product (service) came with a good reputation, the operation was professional, and we didn’t have to look too hard for it. In other words, even before we made the purchasing decision, we were already quite comfortable with the idea of making a purchasing decision. In effect, we were already "pre-sold." However, pre-sold is not quite the same as being sold. That fleeting interval between pre-sold and actually carrying through on the purchasing decision - laying out the money - is where it all happens. Sales people refer to this as "closing the sale." And sales people know that in order to seal the deal, the client must not only feel comfortable with the deal, but must also like the person making the sale.

    Surprised? Don’t be, you do it all the time, and so do your clients!

    All things being equal, we buy from those we like

    That bears repeating: 10 candidates offering the exact same qualifications and benefits, and clients will always go with the professional they feel most comfortable with and like.

    I’m afraid there’s not much that can be done about character -- We are who we are. But, there definitely are some things you can do to improve your "likeability" score:

    • A good, positive attitude attracts clients
      Clients don’t want to work with professionals; they want to work with professionals that project a positive attitude. Just as we avoid colleagues that are unpleasant to be around, so do clients avoid contracting professionals that don’t project the right attitude.
    • Show appreciation for having the opportunity to work with a client
      Send a card, nothing fancy or expensive, with a personal and original thank you message. You should try it -- It works wonders!
    • Have a genuine interest in your client’s best interest
      Share you insider knowledge of the industry with your client. When you can’t take on a job (maybe you have enough work, or are not qualified for that particular subject matter), reach out to your network and forward the job to a colleague. You can also point clients to translation websites that can handle their project. Clients appreciate these small acts of kindness, and they certainly do not forget about them!

    What would an article be without a true story, or two, for emphasis?

    After completing under graduate school in Japan, I returned to my home country briefly to help in the family business. We made it a policy to recommend customers to establishments - even if they were competitors - that most likely carried the products we could not provide. Did customers ever appreciate it! They ended up coming around more regularly and making more purchases. Not only that, but even our competitors started referring their customers to us during stock outs. Of course, we made sure not to run out of stock too often -- Clients also have businesses to run…

    (The customary caution is not to introduce the client to a nightmare. A good rule of thumb to follow is to never introduce the client to a product or service you yourself would not layout money for.)

    When clients like you, you are the line up.

    Ultimately, the success of your translation style can only be measured by the number of your clients, and the number of projects that those client entrust you with. That’s very much a function of how successful you are in making your clients feel comfortable with your deal -- Defined by reputation, professionalism and visibility, and by climbing in the "likeability" rankings.



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, Official Japanese Translator Japan, Tokyo. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-certified-translations.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    A Japanese English translator I’ve worked with for years recently contacted me for a recommendation.

    Professional English Japanese Translators

    Now, I’m not in the habit of trotting out recommendations just because someone I know requested one; however, my intuitive response was “I have no problem recommending a professional translator.”

    That got me thinking about why without much thought I readily agreed to provide a recommendation.

    This person is an excellent English to Japanese translator, highly qualified (solid education, skill and experience) and capable of producing quality. Then again, I work with a lot of excellent translators capable of producing perfect translation (bearing in mind that, being a work in progress, a translation can never be prefect; and the fact that the concept of “perfect” itself can never be realized since we do not know what perfect is to start with!). So, no, this wasn’t it.

    Did I like this person? Absolutely! But, here, again, there are many people I like but would never choose to work with, let alone provide a recommendation for.

    Of course, professionalism is very much a subjective word, much like beauty -- It is in the eye of the beholder. However, just as beauty is defined by a common standard in symmetry (search for the “symmetry of beauty”), so is professionalism defined by common standards.

    Here is the definition of professionalism from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    Professionalism defined as the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.

    This begs the question, what is professional? Again, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    1. Characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession
    2. Exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

    Your clients DON’T need likeable and/or capable translators. They need professional Japanese translators. And, here’s why:

    • Un-professional translators can cost a company greatly, and in certain cases, even threaten the very existence of a company.

    An exaggeration?

    Consider a translator that turned in a project 3 days late nary a heads up (or explanation!). In a global product launch delayed 3 days we’re taking major loses. Or, how about a disgruntled translator trashing a company all over the internet with less forethought than the time it takes to click the submit button. Clients of the company don’t care if there isn’t a grain of truth in any of this -- They’ll simply avoid the company all together!

    Clients are keenly aware of these risks. Yes, you read correctly -- Risks. And this is the reason why companies are more careful, insisting on tests and trials, references, recommendations, and implementing “sandbox” periods, etc.

    This article series (parts 1-3) has focused on winning clients -- Injecting professionalism into your translation will ensure you get to keep clients you’ve worked hard to win over.

    How do you project the image of a translation professional? Join the conversation!



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Japanese Translation Services in Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Service

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Have you ever wondered what might have been but for translation bloopers?

    Translation that changed the world

    The lack of translation accuracy has been lamented for as long as, well, there has been translation. For example, an influential industry study reports translation errors cause lost revenue in 80% of global firms. I’m sure most anyone with experience using translation can regale us with a horror story or two from the kaleidoscope of their own experience.

    But, what are the historic -- history changing -- implications of translation screw-ups?

    Here's a list of translation snafus that, for better or worse (in most cases worse!) have produced a profound impact on history:

    1. We will bury you
    2. Israel must be wiped off the map
    3. The world's most tragic translation
    4. That’s not the way we see it!
    5. The Vietnam and Iraq wars, Deja vu?

    The list above will be added to as our research turns up more mistranslations of historic proportions. Of course, if you know of and would like to share a history making blooper, simply contact us.

    And, why not join us? Vote for the translation blooper you think has had the most dramatic impact on history!

    Here's how it works. Simply leave a comment, or click your favourite social media widget below, to register your vote. The translation blooper with the combined highest response will be declared to have the most dramatic impact on history.



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Service

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Part 3 of the article series Translation: Are You Costing Your Company Money? looks at what happens when companies over emphasize translation and localization costs.

    Japan: The unintended consequences of translation cost cutting
    Lessons from Fukushima

    Dealing directly with clients everyday, I often get to witness the adage penny wise pound foolish. Let’s jump right in with a real world example to illustrate how relentless pursuit of cost can sink your project.

    Real world example

    I was positively thrilled when the project manager of the financing arm of a luxury motorcar brand confirmed a quote for a challenging Japanese English translation and localization project. However, he client called a couple of days later to cancel our services, apologizing profusely. What happened? Another vendor submitted a belated quote several hundred US dollars below our offer. What can I say, competition is tough!

    If that was the end of the story, there wouldn’t be much of an example here. This project manager contacted me again 10 days later despairing at the quality of service provided by the vendor. His team of professionals flown in from Germany would be back in Tokyo in 2 weeks, and could we provide our services then? Ok, no problem. However, having been left out hanging to dry once before, I informed the client we would require a binding contract with full payment upfront no later than one week before the team flew back into Tokyo. Naturally he agreed. Now, one would think lesson learnt; however, this project manager insisted on haggling over the quote, right down to the wire. Finally, 4 days before the project was due to start, realizing that it was not possible to assemble a custom team for this particularly tough project by the deadline, I had little choice but to cancel.

    Let’s do a quick ‘n dirty costing of this self defeating behavior:

    • Weeks of haggling - certainly cost more than a couple of hundred bucks.
    • One unnecessary round trip for a team of four - USD12,355 (Berlin Tokyo Economy Class).
    • Team’s lost productivity - USD8,624 (average finance and IT professional hourly rate on payscale.com calculated based on 7, eight hour days for a team of 4 professionals).
    • Impact on sales of repeatedly delayed project...(This project was for the Japanese translation and localization of a web based motorcar financing and leasing system.)


    Sure, this is one of those extreme examples that could possible fall into the category of “Did you hear the one about…” However, this kind of self defeating behavior manifests itself often in companies where there is an over emphasis on cost reduction.

    Why chasing the deal can be costly

    The result of excessive emphasis on reducing costs will, if not doom your project outright as in the example above, ensure a translation project riddle with errors negatively impacting your bottom line. The reason is quite simple; there comes a point in the cost reduction process where more is less - the law of diminishing returns.

    This is the point where incremental cost reductions (absence technological improvements) start producing diminishing returns in terms of quality (i.e. increase in the number of errors). This happens in the translation industry when vendors are forced to:

    • Cut corners during the translator evaluation process resulting in unqualified translators on the project.
    • Bring low cost non-native translators onto the team producing unnatural, or stilted, translation.
    • Employ automated machine translation (MT) that more often than not produces gibberish.
    • Cut back, or skip altogether, the proof-checking process allowing errors to go to print undetected.


    My company is very conscious of the cut-throat competition we face in the global translation and localization industry. So, when a vendor located in a well known Southeast Asia cost center offered irresistible rates, the possibility of outsourcing piqued our interest. I commissioned a trial translation -- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…

    The math behind the diminishing returns of offshore costs centers

    The vendor was offering rates 50% below what we pay our native Japanese translators. So, it was not surprising when the trial translation came back several notches below our quality standard. Being unnatural and stilted it was immediately evident that this vendor was using non-native translators on client projects.

    When a service provider offers clients a complete satisfaction or 100% money back guarantee as my company does, there is absolutely no compromising on quality. Let’s just say the idea of outsourcing to cost centers has been shelved, indefinitely.

    However, this experience did get me thinking about the business model of cost centers. Professional Japanese translators with the right skills and experience can command upwards of 10 yen per word. So, you have to wonder what kind of translator would take a 5 yen hair cut (50% reduced rate offered by this vendor). There can only be two possibilities:

    1. Unqualified native Japanese translators that can’t find work in Japan, or
    2. Non-native translators


    Neither could complete a translation (localization) project according to your quality expectations. Both would produce errors that seriously impact your bottom line.

    Applying the lessons of Fukushima to translation

    In conclusion I draw on the Fukushima disaster to drive home the point that over emphasizing cost may be the root cause of errors costing your company in lost revenue.

    Facility operator TEPCO ignored a 2007 study by its own senior safety engineer concluding there was a 10% possibility of the March 11 scenario unfolding within a 50 year period. Ultimately, the Fukushima incident spiraled out of control because the emergency diesel generators were flooded when the historic tsunami overwhelmed the plant’s inadequate seawall defenses. According to Toshio Kimura, a retired 12 year veteran of the Fukushima No.1 plant, “If they’d moved the emergency diesel generators to a position above the expected tsunami level it would have cost the company a lot. So nobody proposed it.” Cost now: hundreds of billions of dollars.

    And, that is the lesson I hope you take way from this article. Over emphasis on cost reduction can lead to counter productive results that will end up costing your company considerably more than the cost of a quality solution for your projects.



    About the Author
    Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services in Japan, Tokyo Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Uppercase or lowercase - that is the question! The two main factors to consider when deciding whether to go large or small are rules and style. 

    by Japanese Translation Services

    Some of the first things we learn at school are that names and other proper nouns should be in uppercase and a sentence also starts with a capital letter. So far, so simple. But even these two very basic rules hide more complex issues. Read on, find out how to take the quality of the Japanese translation services you provide to your clients up several notches!

    Taking the first rule, what constitutes a proper noun? Names of people and pets, geographical locations, nationalities and languages, time periods and events, companies, religions, and political parties are all capitalized, as are days, months, and holidays. Seasons, animals, plants, minerals, and food however, are not proper nouns and should be in lowercase, except when prefixed by a proper noun (e.g. “Italian dressing”). For cases such as academic qualifications, when used as a title they should be capitalized (e.g. Master of Science), but not when used descriptively (e.g. “She is studying for her master’s degree.”)

    Looking at the second rule, if it starts a block of text or follows a period, then it is clearly a sentence, but what about if it follows a colon? This depends on how the colon is used. If the colon is used for the purposes of making a list (e.g. “Okonomiyaki is simple: eggs, flour, and cabbage”, Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients.), or only there for the purpose of adding explanation to what precedes the colon, and does not stand on its own (e.g. “Drinking alcohol affects speech: it makes you slur.”), you would not use an uppercase letter. However, if what follows is a complete sentence in its own right, the general thinking is that the first letter should be capitalized. According to the “Chicago style”, however, there have to be two complete sentences after the colon for the first letter to be capitalized.

    For headings, the basic rule is to capitalize everything except minor words (articles, conjunctives, and prepositions) of three letters or fewer, but here as well there is not universal agreement.

    This mention of “Chicago style” before brings up an important point. Whereas rules on proper nouns are fairly rigid, rules on colon use and headings might more accurately be referred to as guidelines. Remember that the purpose of capitalization is not to fetter the writer, but rather to provide clarity (in the case of proper nouns) and aid readability (in case of division of sentences). Follow the rules, and also develop a consistent style in your capitalization. Nothing screams of shoddy Japanese English translation work like inconsistent usage.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Japanese Translation Services Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    “A picture”, as the saying goes, “is worth a thousand words”, and the question of how many words corresponds to one picture is a subject close to the heart of professional translators translating to and from alphabetical word-based languages, like English, and hieroglyphic-based languages such as Japanese, when it comes to being remunerated for their work.

    Translation Service Japan

    Using the example of Japanese to English translation, the translator will set different rates depending on if they are billing based on source character or target word, indicating that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the two. This tends to be set somewhere in between 1.5-2 chars for every word. If, for example, you are charging $0.04 per source character, you might charge between $0.06-$0.08 per target word. 

    Of course, the Japanese translator often is not given a choice on whether to charge based on source or target as this may be determined based on the convenience of the end user. For the end user, there are benefits to both. Calculating based on source character allows them to have a precise cost before starting the work whereas calculating on target words generally makes counting simpler (particularly in case of source formats for which software-based character counts are not readily available, such as PDF or image files). (There is also the dreaded flat rate, which as most translators know is often an excuse for extortion).

    There is a feature of Japanese that makes finding a fair equivalence between source and target rates more difficult than other hieroglyphic-based languages such as Chinese. This is the phenomenon of “kana”. If we take the translation of a kanji character pair, such as “keizai” (2 kanji characters), this will normally be translated as “economy”, so the 1 word:2 char ratio mentioned above is satisfied. Now consider the katakana word “jibuchiruhidorokishitoruen” (13 kana characters), which translates as the chemical compound “dibutylhydroxytoluene”. Instead of a 1:2 ratio, you are looking at a 1:13 ratio. (I could probably find more extreme examples). If you were translating this word, would you rather be charging based on source or target?

    For this reason, I know of end users in fields such as medicine, where there are a lot of borrowed words (main source of katakana), who refuse to accept billing based on source character. The moral of this story? If you are billing based on source characters, katakana is your friend.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    What makes a good, or successful, freelance translator? 

    Professional Japanese Translators Tokyo, Japan

    Obviously good translation skills are a given, but, in this article, rather than focus on the skills required by all translators, such as strong linguistic skills in both target and source language and attention to detail, I would like to focus on the qualities that are particularly needed to work in the freelance format.

    The first of these is time management. This is, of course, required in many lines of work, but in the case of a salaried worker this affects quality of work rather than whether you earn enough to pay the bills. Working on a freelance basis gives a great deal of freedom to the translator but, as they say, with great freedom comes great responsibility. When time spent working, relaxing, doing chores, handling family commitments etc. is all merged together, a different kind of discipline is required. Contrast this, for example, with interpreters who are normally paid (deservedly well) by the hour. There is no temptation to pick up a magazine and start browsing through it while you are working as there may be when you are translating at home. The actual skills of time management are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say, developing time management techniques is essential for a freelance translator.

    Need professional Japanese translation services? Then, contact Professional Japanese Translator

    Another quality required is being able to switch between work and relax modes. Translation work often comes in waves. As the saying goes, “It never rains but it pours”, and for a translator to achieve a good average income throughout the year, it is necessary to be able to maximize your potential earnings when there is a high volume of work, and be able to switch off and relax when things are quieter. A natural inclination is to relax when you have a sufficient stream of work, spread it over several days and decline work to stay in your comfort zone. This can lead to you being short for the month, however, if things slow down at a later date. Similarly, many translators find that even when they have time to relax when the work eases off, they are unable to do so due to worry that no work will ever come again. 

    In conclusion, in addition to good translation skills, a freelance translator needs to be able to manage their time efficiently and learn how to flip the switch so they can both “really work” and “really relax.” Neither of these come naturally to us, but are essential skills for success in this trade.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Professional Japanese Translators

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-quality.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    The hyphen is one of the trickier punctuation marks to use correctly. In this article, I shall attempt to clarify the main usages and clear up some common mistakes that affect the clarity and readability of translation.

    Professional Japanese English Translation

    So, what is a hyphen and what role does it play? Firstly, we should perhaps look at what it is not. A fairly common misconception is that a hyphen is just another word for a “dash”. A dash, however, is longer and plays completely different roles, that of marking off non-essential information in the sentence or allowing a break in a sentence, in lieu of a colon or semi-colon.

    Get the sense that there is more to translation than, well, translation? Don’t simply translate, get guaranteed Professional English Japanese Translation

    The main time you should use a hyphen is when it is necessary to show that two consecutive words in the sentence are inextricably linked and particularly when this removes ambiguity from a sentence. For example, “baby chewing toy” might be a description of a Facebook photo, while “baby-chewing toy” could be the title of a horror movie. Similarly, “I have a great uncle” expresses your fondness for your relative whereas “I have a great-uncle” simply states your relationship (he may be great as well but that is not indicated here).

    The above is the primary usage, but hyphens are also used to attach prefixes to nouns (“pre-war”, “post-war”) or show word breaks, such as where physical space forces you to break up a word at the end of a line and carry the word on to the next line.

    Now, let us look at some common errors. Remember that the primary purpose of hyphens is to remove ambiguity when connecting words, so there is no point in using it with words ending in “-ly” that are clearly modifying the verb. “This sentence is poorly-formed” is wrong usage. Another common error is breaking up words that do not need hyphenating. For example, the word is “nevertheless” and not “never-the-less”. Be frugal with your hyphens.  One tricky case is that of age. Generally, you would not use a hyphen when using “years” but use one for “year”. So, you might say “He is fifty years old but he acts like a twelve-year-old.” 

     Many words that were once hyphenated are no longer hyphenated such as “air-crew” becoming “aircrew”. The important thing is to pick a style and stick to it. Be stingy with hyphens but use them when you need to clarify your meaning, and make sure you thank the “twenty-odd people” rather than the “twenty odd people” that came to your party!



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Professional English Japanese Translation. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-guarantee.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    If you ask a non-translator what makes a good translator, the first thing they would point to is language skills. 

    Professional Japanese Translators Japan Tokyo

    Whereas a strong understanding of the source language and ability to write well in the target language are undeniably important, I have increasingly come to the realization that psychological factors are equally as vital. In the first of this two-part series, I will look at how technology has caused a shift in the balance in importance of linguistic abilities vs psychology as part of the translator’s skill set. The next part will more closely examine these psychological aspects.

    In the pre-Internet days (I can just about remember that far back), a translator would have to rely on looking up any words they were unfamiliar with in a dictionary, or, in fact, multiple dictionaries, depending on the field. Given that situation, for a translator to be able to work at an acceptable pace, they would need to have instant recall to a high percentage of the meanings of the terms in the source document. The upshot of this was that unless a translator had specialized knowledge in a field, it was virtually impossible for them to produce a high-quality translation involving that subject matter. 

    Contact Japanese Human Translation Services Tokyo, Japan for professional English Japanese translation by native Japanese translators

    The introduction of the Web has transformed the translation industry, as it has many other industries. The reliance on Google etc. when researching terms is now so great that most translators (myself included) find it hard to work on anything other than the most familiar subject matter unless connected to the Internet. Not only is it possible to look up terms with a single click, but when faced with unfamiliar topics, the translator has instant access to an abundance of resources that can furnish him/her with the required knowledge. This (gratifyingly) has opened opportunities for translators to work in a much wider range of fields than was previously possible.

    Of course, nothing beats having true specialized knowledge and experience in the field in question. However useful Google is, highly complex subject matter will still be inaccessible to a translator without the necessary understanding of the subject matter. My point, however, is that to a large extent technology has leveled the playing field in terms of the required linguistic skills (particularly in regard to source language), and that psychological factors now have a greater influence when it comes to differentiating translators. Stay tuned for Part-2 for a discussion of those psychological factors.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Japanese Human Translation Service Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-human-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Punctuation was not commonly used in Japan until the 19th Century, but is now an integral part of written Japanese. 

    Professional Translaiton for Japanese English Japan Tokyo

    In some instances, the usage is virtually the same, there are other “false friends” that are close but have significant differences in usage, and there is other punctuation for which there is no one clear equivalent.

     Full stops or periods “.”, parentheses “()”, and braces”{}” look very similar to, and can be replaced by their English equivalents in most cases. In other cases, such as the comma, the Japanese equivalent “?” faces the opposite way to its English counterpart, and its meaning is limited to one common usage with English – that of separating sentences.  As I mentioned there are also some false friends. A very common “rookie error”  for new translators of Japanese is to interpret “??” in Japanese as being square brackets. They are NOT. They are the equivalent of single quotes in US English (that is outside quotes). The Japanese equivalent of double quotes (quotes within quotes) is ?? .  There is also the wave dash “?“, which is like a lengthened tilde, and you may be tempted to convert this directly as a dash or hyphen. However, its usage is often closer to the English word “from” (indicating origin when placed after a country) or “from….to”.  It is also used to separate a subtitle from a title on the same line, where a colon would normally be used in English.

    Concerned about the quality of the translation services you’re getting? Contact Professional Translation for Japanese English services

     One particularly tricky customer is the so-called interpunct, or to give it its more descriptive name, the middle dot “?”. This looks like nothing found in English. It can be used to separate foreign words written in katakana (equivalent of space in English), listing items instead of a comma, or when separating titles, names and positions (where a forward leaning slash “/” might be used in English”.

     Rather than attempting a one-to-one conversion of Japanese with English punctuation, it is important to look at the context and judge the most appropriate English punctuation or word to use. Another thing that should be stressed here is that even when the punctuation looks similar and has the same usage as in English, don’t be tempted to just “translate around” the punctuation and leave it as is. Submitting translation with double-byte periods and commas gives the impression of carelessness. Following these two guidelines will greatly improve the professionalism of your Japanese translation.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, providers of Professional Translation for Japanese English Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-guarantee.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    There is often confusion regarding how to express numbers when translating into languages such as English in which numbers can be depicted both in numerals and words. 

    Tokyo Translation Services Japan

    This is not only true for Japanese translators but also for any writers of formal English. However, there is perhaps more of a tendency to err when translating due to what I have referred to in previous articles as source language dependence, that is the inclination to express something in the target language the same way that it is described in the source language. 

    There are generally no rules for number expression, which is why we refer to them as conventions. An understanding, and consistent application, of these will help you improve the quality of your work. We should first perhaps start by saying that what follows refers exclusively to formal written sentences. Numbers in tables, and the like, will always use numeric digits.

    Contact professional & experienced translators for quality Japanese translation services

     The first convention is closer to a rule than any of the others. That is, numbers from 1 to 9 should be written out in words, and from 10 on, digits should be used.

      There are two main exceptions to the above. Firstly, even for numbers 10 and above, words should be used at the beginning of a sentence. In case of long numbers, it is thus better to rearrange the sentence to avoid the number appearing at the start. (i.e. “206 bones make up the human body” ? “The human body has 206 bones”). Secondly, when numbers from one to nine are in a list with other numbers, they should all be written as numerals for consistency. (i.e. “groups of 3,6,17,19”, not “groups of three, six, 17, 19”).

    Another convention is that when writing out words with multiple words, they should by hyphenated (i.e. “thirty-six”, and not “thirty six”). The same goes for all written fractions (i.e. “two-thirds”) other than when preceded by the definite article (i.e. “a third”, not “a-third”).

    Finally, the rule about numbers from 1-9 does not cover ordinal numbers, which are spelled out (i.e. “He was first in his class”, not “He was 1st in his class”).

    In conclusion, following the above guidelines rather than just following the expression of the source text will make your Japanese English translation look more professional. Even more important than following every convention to the letter, however, is that you make sure that you are consistent in your style.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Service

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    In the first part of this article, we looked at the limits of machine translation and examined why, despite possessing far greater computational ability than the conscious human brain, it struggles to translate to a standard even approaching that of a good translator. 

    Japanese Human Translation Services

    We noted that the problems basically stem from issues of sense and context. Accurately expressing the meaning of the source text in the best way requires sensitivity. Similarly, the same sentence can mean completely different things in different contexts and the translator sometimes needs to draw on a huge range of experiences and understanding of difficult topics to identify this accurately.

    Creators of machine translation software have, until recently, predominantly used a brute force approach. This is based on the philosophy that the previously-mentioned issues simply require further programming. If we can program all the possible ways of expressing a sentence and identify each situation where that would be most appropriate, we can surely simulate sensitivity. In terms of context, as well, if we could somehow program in those experiences and knowledge areas, we could create context. The problem is that not only would processing the multitude of variables required still be beyond current computational capabilities, but even defining what they are would be near impossible. As we concluded in Part 1, it would be necessary to teach a computer to feel and think.

    Machine translation quality doesn’t cut it? Contact professional & experienced Japanese human translators - Translation Services Japan

    Deep Learning is a technology developed by Google that is based on the concept of artificial neural networks. Although it has applications in a wide variety of fields, in terms of machine translation it is based around the concept that, rather than trying to output the best equivalent of source text in the target language through brute force calculation, a more promising approach is for the algorithms to simulate the working of a human brain and by creating a base neural system, and then feeding it more and more data, to be able to recreate the process involved when a human Japanese translator translates.

    Early indications are that neural network-based approaches, such as Deep Learning, promise more accurate translation than the previous brute force approach. However, only time will tell whether they are ever able to produce the quality of work of which a human translator is capable. It really comes down to whether the computer will ever be capable of possessing the sensitivity of humans when creating sentences in the target language. This may be more of a philosophical than a technical question.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-services.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    The turn of the year is the time when one traditionally looks back on one’s failings over the previous year and makes resolutions for how to do better in the year ahead. 

    Professional Japanese Translators Tokyo, Japan

    Typically, this will cover personal goals such as losing weight or giving up smoking. In this first article of 2018, however, I will cover the resolutions of a Japanese English translator, looking to cast aside the negative practices that have held them back in the previous year, and look to do better in the year to come.

    In 2018, I resolve that I will not…

    1) Take on more work that is humanly possible without chronic sleep-deprivation or neglecting other important areas of my life.

    Whereas everybody appreciates effort, and the customer (or agency) can be very persuasive, overdoing it will lead to stress as you lose control of other areas of your life, and the decrease in Japanese translation quality caused by such stress, as well as fatigue, will damage your reputation as a professional translator and negatively outweigh any benefits to your bank balance.

    2) Accept assignments that I know I cannot deliver to a sufficient standard

    In the Google age, the ease of researching vocabulary sometimes gives translators a deluded sense of invulnerability concerning subject matter considered within their range. At the end of the day, your reputation stands or falls based on the quality of your work, and producing poor work helps none of the stakeholders in a project. However busy you are, always check the source text before accepting a task, and be prepared to “just say no”.

    In 2018, I resolve that I will…

    3) Check my work thoroughly before submission

    Translation work often comes in waves, and when things get seriously crazy, checking is often the first thing that gets neglected. Do this, however, and you may find yourself spending the next six months trying to rebuild your relationship with that important client after you have submitted shoddy work. Factor in checking time to the total time required on a project. And this does not just mean running the spell check. You need to read it through line-by-line.

    4) Organize my time better to make myself more productive

    If you stop wasting time and organize yourself, it is really possible to take on a lot of work, sleep properly and do everything else you need to do. More on this in articles to come.

    I recommend all professional Japanese translators stick to these resolutions for a happier 2018.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Professional Japanese Translators

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/services/japanese-translation-quality.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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    Many people shy away from the use of semicolons completely.

    Japanese Translation Company Japan Tokyo

    Unlike other punctuation, such as periods, commas, and exclamation marks, they can be completely replaced by other punctuation mark marks; the lowly semicolon is often ignored because the writer does not want to chance misusing punctuation in a situation where use of the punctuation in question is not mandatory at all. Proper use, however, will add conciseness, clarity and style to your writing – a skill highly valued by Japanese translation companies!

    Use of semicolons can be broadly summarized as separation of related clauses and separation of items in a complex list. Note my use of the semicolon in the opening paragraph. I could have divided these clauses with a period, but I wanted to indicate the relatedness between them. That is, it is BECAUSE we can get by without using them that professional Japanese translators (or writers in general) tend to want to avoid taking the risk with their use. In addition to emphasizing the relatedness between the clauses, if your work has a lot of small sentences in it, using semicolons instead of periods in some places will give your work variety and thus improve its readability.

    Whereas the first usage may come under style, the second use is sometimes necessary to avoid confusion. When separating items in a list, it is possible to do so using commas alone. However, the comma is also used in other ways and substituting this with a semicolon often adds clarity. Take a situation where a child is marking places on a map:

    Billy took out a crayon and put a star next to Austin, Texas, Seattle, Chicago, and Maine.

    At first glance it may seem that Billy has marked five places, but Austin is in Texas and the comma there is just used to separate the words. This can be written with greater clarity as follows:

    Billy took out a crayon and put a star next to Austin, Texas; Seattle; Chicago; and Maine.

    This indicates more clearly that four locations are being discussed.

    Both these uses are very pertinent to Japanese-to-English translators. As noted in previous articles, Japanese writers love their long, rambling, never-ending sentences. Knowing how to break up sentences, including lists, is paramount when aiming to produce work with high clarity and readability. The semicolon is thus an important weapon in your armory.



    About the Author
    Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Japanese Translation Company Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Services

    Copyright (C) SAECULII YK. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article is permitted with inclusion of the "About the Author" reference as is (including text links, japan-translators.saeculii.com/english/info/contact.cfm), and this copyright information. Articles may not be altered without written permission from SAECULII YK.


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