When it comes to translating from Japanese to English, it’s quite a challenging task. After all, translating is often laborious and challenging in its own right. Translators themselves have to reproduce a text comparable to the original yet pleasant to read and culturally relevant to the translation’s target audience.
Translating is not just replacing words, but it is also an art. The translator must have a good grasp of both the source and target language and a knowledge of society and culture.
While machine translation does exist and seems like the ideal solution to take some work off the Japanese translators in Singapore, the solution may not apply when translating Japanese to English, even if machines are technologically advanced. Here are some reasons why a professional Japanese translator is preferred.
Aside from Japanese and English originating from entirely different places, the alphabet used also differs. While English has only 26 letters in the alphabet, Japanese has three various sets of characters: Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Hence, it’s difficult to get a direct translation.
Hiragana and Katakana are the Japanese phonetic alphabets, with 46 symbols to represent every pronunciation. Each set of letters are also used for different purposes.
For example, Katakana are words used when derived from other languages. Hiragana is used when Kanji characters cannot be used. To form words, the Japanese combine Kanji and Hiragana.
Kanji is the most complicated, as some machine translations may mistake it for Chinese because Kanji uses Chinese characters.
These differences mean there is no English counterpart to how a Japanese writer expresses their sentences. Hence, it will be better to use a Japanese translation service because the translator will need a good grasp of both languages, spoken and written, to ensure the meaning is retained after translation.
English and Japanese do not follow the same grammatical structures. Some differences would include:
No plural nouns: Japanese do not have any difference in plural and singular nouns. Even when adjectives and pronouns are applied, the way of counting can change.
English: I/you/he/she/they received a chocolate/chocolates from Amy.
But if you translate Japanese to English with a machine, you may receive this:
Japanese: Amy from chocolate received.
If a machine is used, you will not get the message of how many chocolates were received and how many people. We may not even know who received the chocolate and only know Amy was somehow involved.
The clarification will have to come from the original context.
Because there is no difference in singular or plural nouns, the sentences “There is a cat” and “There are a few cats” will be the same in Japanese.
SOV instead of SVO: English puts subject, verb, then object. In contrast, Japanese sentences end the sentence with a verb.
Hence, when translating a sentence, the translator must understand the entire sentence and change the order for the target audience to understand.
English: The wind is so strong.
Japanese: The wind so strong is.
No subjects: In Japanese, they leave out the subject. Sometimes, they can leave out the object too.
English: I like you.
Japanese: (I) You like. Or simply: (I you) Like.
While English does have a more formal way of speaking, we usually look out for what is said rather than how we will make another person feel when speaking. In Japanese, they emphasize a lot on formality, and their language shows different respect levels.
To the Japanese, it’s crucial to use language to establish the social level difference. More importantly, they emphasize not accidentally offending or causing disrespect through language.
Hence, you may see that the language is somewhat indirect. In Japanese, you wouldn’t say, “I dislike this”. Instead, you may say, “This is not my cup of tea”. The former is perceived as blunt or even rude.
While we have machine translations, the immense complications of the Japanese language mean that we need Japanese translation services more than ever. If you are picking a Japanese translator in Singapore, it is crucial to ensure they have a firm grasp of both languages and the culture.
After all, a good translation is rarely about matching words exactly, but more about staying true to the tone and spirit of the original content.
As a translation agency in Singapore, Eureka translations only hire native speakers for the target language. Should you need something translated from Japanese, contact us, or visit us at Raffles Place today.