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Machine Translation vs. Japanese

Tokyo’s Toshima-ku district, like most metropolitan municipalities, provides an automated Japanese to English machine translation service on its website. Click on the English option, and you are warned ‘content may not be 100% accurate’. If you then click on ‘Procedures and Notifications’ (so far so good), the eye is immediately drawn to this link: ‘Information […]

The Proverbial Difficulty of Translation

Proverbs are windows into a country’s culture, illustrating its history and its mores. But although the sentiments expressed in proverbs are often universal, context and imagery can be culturally-specific, and require careful translating. Otherwise, a proverb-heavy Japanese conversation might end up like this in English: A: I’m thinking of buying my husband an expensive painting.

KitKat’s Big Japan Break

The opening of the first new KitKat factory in Japan for 26 years made global news earlier this summer. The snack is now Japan’s biggest selling chocolate brand and a cultural phenomenon. But how did this British-born treat get its big break in Japan – a country not short of its own confectionery? Well, it […]

50 Shades of Grue

In translation, sometimes even the simplest looking words can be a more than a shade tricky. For example, if you look up the word blue in Japanese, you might be confused to find it means not only blue and green, but also white, grey and black depending on the context. The grass is always bluer […]

Just how difficult is Japanese?

People assume Japanese is a difficult language, but just how difficult is Japanese? Well it is hard to learn and translate, but not just in the way people typically think. They usually have in mind the task of learning thousands of kanji characters (not to mention the two phonetic writing systems, hiragana and katakana). In […]