5 Common Challenges of Japanese Translation Services and How to Overcome Them

5 Common Challenges of Japanese Translation Services and How to Overcome Them

The Complexity of 3 Types of Writing Styles

The Japanese language has three writing styles that make it one of the most challenging languages to translate. The three writing styles are Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Out of this, the easier ones mostly taught in elementary schools are Hiragana and Katakana, they are phonetic. Easy to understand, they are basics that prepare us for the tougher character-based writing style in Japanese- Kanji. Since the previous 2 forms have only 46 characters each (with similar-looking and sounding words), they can be translated conveniently. However, Kanji has 2000+ characters, they are not only difficult to read but also remember. The same words can have different characters depending on the situation it is used. It represents an entire concept of the situation. Japanese Translation services are only reliable if the professional is fluent in all three comlex writing styles.

If you closely look at Japanese popularised media and products, there too Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji have been used simultaneously. Hence, the fluency is a must.

How to Understand Kanji Writings

  • You can begin with learning the basic strokes at first, and radicals, which form the building blocks of Kanji characters.
  • Look for context clues to help you understand the meaning of the Kanji character.
  • Use online resources, such as dictionaries or translation apps, to identify and translate unfamiliar Kanji characters.
  • Memorize common Kanji characters and their meanings, as well as the vocabulary they are often used in.
  • Practice reading and writing Kanji characters regularly to improve your proficiency in deciphering them.


  • 木 (ki) – tree
  • 日 (hi) – sun/day
  • 水 – water (mizu)
  • 人  – any individual (hito)

Read More – Why Japanese Translation: All You Need To Know About Translation From Japanese To English

Tenses in Japanese

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Japanese translation services can find tenses quite challenging due to the differences in grammatical structures compared to English. Japanese does not have verb conjugations for past or present tense, but instead uses context, particles, and auxiliary verbs to indicate the tense. 

The following are some examples:

  • Present tense: In Japanese, the present tense is often indicated by the absence of any tense markers, particles, or auxiliary verbs. For example, “I eat sushi” becomes “Watashi wa sushi o taberu” (私は寿司を食べる).
  • Past tense: The past tense in Japanese can be shown by the addition of the past tense auxiliary verb “ta” (た) to the end of the gievn verb. For example, “I ate sushi” will become “Watashi wa sushi o tabeta” (私は寿司を食べた).
  • Future tense: In Japanese, the future tense is often indicated by the addition of the future tense auxiliary verb “masu” (ます) to the end of the verb. For example, we can translate “I will eat sushi” to “Watashi wa sushi o tabemasu” (私は寿司を食べます).
  • Conditional tense: In Japanese, the conditional tense is often indicated by the addition of the conditional particle “ba” (ば) to the end of the verb. For example, “If I eat sushi, I will be happy” translated becomes “Watashi wa sushi o tabetara, ureshii desu” (私は寿司を食べたら、嬉しいです).
  • Progressive tense: In Japanese, we show the progressive tense by adding the “te iru” (ている) auxiliary verb at the end. For example in English “I am eating sushi” is “Watashi wa sushi o tabete iru” (私は寿司を食べている) in Japanese.

These differences in tense structures, how we translate them with great precautions can make Japanese translation services even more complex and challenging for the translators, they cannot do it unless they are exceptionally fluent in both reading and writing Japanese.

Read More – Why Japanese Translation Services Are Your Business’s Best Friend

Japanese Prepositions

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In Japanese, prepositions such as “in,” “on,” “at,” “with,” etc., are not used in the same way as it can be used in English. Instead, the relationship between nouns is indicated by particles that follow the noun. The meaning will always change due to the context and the relationship between the nouns of a sentence. This makes it challenging to translate Japanese prepositions accurately into English since there is no direct equivalent.

For example:

  • “Watashi wa gakkou ni ikimasu” – This sentence translates to “I go to school.” The particle here is “ni” and is used to show the destination of the action. It is not translated as “to” but changes depending on the context.
  • “Anata wa hon wo teburu no ue ni oite kudasai” – This sentence translates to “Please put the book on the table.” The particle “ni” is used to indicate the location of the book, which is on the table. However, it is not “on” but as “no ue,” which means “on top of” here.

Read More – Reap The Benefits Of Professional Japanese Localisation Services

Plural nouns in Japanese Language 

In Japanese translation services, the concept of grammatical plural nouns does not exist. Instead, plurals are shown in context, particles, or counters. This can make it challenging to translate plural nouns from Japanese to English, and vice versa. For example, think of the word “tako”, it can mean either “octopus” or “octopuses”. 

A good example of the English word in this context would be “sheep” which has no plural form, but at the same time the Japanese word “hitsuji” is used with a counter to show it’s plural amount (e.g. we say “hittsuji” for two sheep). This can create confusion and difficulty for translators trying to accurately convey the intended meaning of a sentence or phrase. As such, it is important for Japanese translators to carefully consider the context and usage of plurals in both languages to accurately translate them.

Verb & Subject in sentences

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Verb typically comes at the end of a sentence, which can make it difficult for translators to understand the context and meaning of the sentence until the very end. This can be a challenge because in English and many other languages, the subject usually comes before the verb, and understanding the subject helps establish context and meaning from the beginning of the sentence. 

Moreover, in Japanese, the subject is often implied and not explicitly stated, which can further complicate translation efforts. Translators must carefully consider the context and implied subjects to accurately translate sentences, which can be a time-consuming and challenging process.

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Read More – 3 Reasons Why Japanese Translation Services Can Expand Your Business To The Asian Market

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What are some common challenges in translating from Japanese to English? 

Structural and grammatical differences between the two languages. Japanese sentence structures are often very different from English, it has many homophones and homonyms, which can lead to confusion in translation.

What are some of the biggest challenges faced in Japanese translation services?

One of the biggest challenges faced by Japanese translation services is the vast number of homophones and homonyms in the language. Additionally, Japanese kanji characters can have multiple meanings, further complicating the translation process.

How do Japanese translators deal with cultural differences in their translations?

Japanese translators need to be familiar with the cultural context of the text they are translating. They need to be able to convey cultural nuances and subtleties in a way that stays true to the original text.

How important is knowledge of Japanese history and culture for a Japanese translator? 

Knowledge of Japanese history and culture is crucial for Japanese translation services, as it helps them to understand the context in which the text was written. This is especially important for literary translations, where cultural references and idiomatic expressions can play a significant role in the meaning of the text.

How can machine translation be used to assist with Japanese translation?

Machine translation can be useful for Japanese translation by providing a rough translation of the text, which can then be edited and refined by a human translator. However, machine translation is not always accurate, especially when it comes to the nuances of the Japanese language and culture, so it should be used with caution.

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