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ikigai and 42 other Japanese words for a mindful life

The title of Mari Fujimoto’s book, ikigai & and other Japanese words to live by (Modern Books), includes an interesting addition to the English language. Ikigai simply means “purpose in life”. Yet, once imported into English it become quasi-mystical: “a way of finding profound meaning in one’s life or work” – a less alienated, more […]

Translation or transcreation?

Do you need translation or transcreation services? If you’re not sure, here’s a short guide to the difference between these two services. Centuries old craft Translation is the centuries-old craft of rendering the meaning of words or text in another language, as accurately and literally as possible. Letters, contracts, transcripts, subtitles, official documents etc. are […]

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 […]

“Reading the mackerel”

Idioms and proverbs are windows into a country’s culture, illustrating its history and mores. Context and imagery can be culturally-specific, and require careful translation. Otherwise, an idiom-heavy Japanese conversation might end up like this in English: A: I’m thinking of buying my husband an expensive painting.

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 […]

So 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 […]

WeDoJapan’s guide to English ↔ Japanese translation (for UKTI Export to Japan)

Our guide to Japanese ↔ English translation can now be downloaded from the Export to Japan website. One recent study of English language proficiency among nations ranked Japan at number 26, between India and Italy, and behind countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. While it is true that many Japanese people can understand […]