Japanese translation and interpreting

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Translation and interpretation of business, technical, IT, TPM, instruction manuals, sworn translations, on-site interpretation, co-ordination of large translation and interpreting projects


Translation is processing source text into target text. From the purely technical point of view there is no difference in translating or interpreting from or into Japanese and any other language.


The most basic difference in translation techniques is the one between translation and interpreting (source text and target text may appear, respectively, in spoken or written form). From the point of view of the customer this difference may be illustrated in translation and interpreting charges by page or by hour. More important differences apply to the practical aspects of translation and interpreting.


As a rule, translator has more time to get familiar with the subject of the source text and to check vocabulary or, if needed, to consult with the author of the text, or directly with the customer, in order to explain eventual obscure passages of the text. It is possible even in case of express orders. The interpreter's situation is usually not so comfortable.

In most cases, translator works on finished and authorized texts (although there are cases when the text is being created and edited while being translated - such situations are indeed very nasty for a translator but, unfortunately, they are possible in theory and they happen in practice). Interpreters, even perfectly prepared to their work, may encounter completely unexpected situations. They may for example be asked to translate a vista a strange looking menu in a fancy restaurant. It is quite natural that drawing a clear line between the situations that constitute a core of interpreting activity and those which have nothing to do with it is not always possible.

The above does not mean, however, that the translator's situation is always better. Shortage of time and often lack of information concerning the context of translated text may in some cases make it impossible to revise the text in a proper manner or to keep necessary time distance between the preliminary and the final translation stages. As translators are pressed for speed, it is not always possible to use the argument that a quick translation does not have to, or sometimes simply cannot be a good translation.


Interpretation, sometimes referred to as conference interpreting, is divided in to simultaneous and consecutive interpretation. In simultaneous interpretation the target text is being generated almost at the same time as the source text (time delay does not exceed several seconds). In consecutive interpretation, a portion of target text is generated after a portion of source text. In the latter case interpreter has some time left in order to choose the target text version that suits best the source text.

It may seem that it would be best for the customer if the interpreter was able to work simultaneously all the time. In practice, the choice between simultaneous and consecutive interpretation depends not only on the customer's preference but also on the situation. In immediate talks among business partners the simultaneous interpretation mode is used very frequently. Negotiations and official addresses are usually interpreted consecutively, after every portion of interested parties statements or speech. This choice may be considered fairly natural and it is not possible to say that the effectiveness of interpretation depends immediately on the choice of the simultaneous over the consecutive mode.

It is also important to note that unlike consecutive interpretation, the simultaneous interpretation mode requires from interpreters more concentration effort as well as longer and more frequent brakes (sometimes it may be advisable to hire two interpreters who work by turns). At the same time, both the simultaneous and the consecutive interpretation should not be treated as a 'word for word' interpretation. The quality of interpreter's performance is reflected rather by his ability to express effectively the contents of the source text in the target text.


Conference interpreting may also be performed with the use of special technical means (cabins, headphones, microphones etc.), with no direct contact between any interpreter and customer.


The scope of interpretation covers also the activity of persons accompanying a foreign tourist or a businessman. In case of such activity, a perfect knowledge of foreign language may not be crucial. It may be considered more important for an assisting person to know their working environment thoroughly in order to enable the customer to act freely in an unknown country. Also, the individual attitudes of assisting persons may prove very helpful. The effective communication is more significant here than exact interpretation. It is quite natural that also a person working as a qualified interpreter may occasionally switch their activity to that of a liaison interpreter. In the long run, however, it is possible to hire for such purposes staff who have not necessarily undergone a comprehensive interpretation training.


Tu sum up it is essential to add that regardless of translation technique it is always crucial to brief the translator or interpreter in advance and supply them with all the information on their working conditions that is necessary for completion of the current order. If a translator of an interpreter asks detailed questions, it is not necessarily related to their snooping but rather comes from their care to perform their duties as effectively as possible. It is worth noting here that the knowledge of field specific terms must be accompanied by the context specific knowledge on a given order, its proceeding and customer's plans related to it. It is crucial for a translator or an interpreter to get acquainted with the names and structure of subjects related to the project as well as the names of the responsible individuals, both on the customer and on their partner side. The same applies to the schedule of contacts with business partners, written and printed materials, business correspondence and alike. It is not advisable to hide the name of the contractor company from the interpreter because it is only going to make his job more difficult. Sometimes revealing only a company name and its activity field may be very helpful to the interpreter because he can use Internet to browse the company's official site and get important information directly from the source. It will surely not lower the efficiency of interpretation. The amount of additional information concerning the order revealed in advance influences also the choice of the translator or interpreter who will perform the job.


If translators or interpreters are not familiar with their working environment, misunderstandings may occur. Such misunderstandings, though often hilarious, always lead to difficulties in the reception of target text, annihilating the results of the translator's or interpreter's work. To give a trivial example, hardly anyone will consider 'multiplication tables' a piece of furniture but the context of translation may not always be clear enough for a translator to be able to distinguish one from another. Surely, some translators do not have qualifications to translate highly specialized texts but if a source text consist only of a huge word list and no additional information is given, it is often impossible to make sure which meaning was originally intended by the author. Sometimes a little piece of information may be so valuable...