Legal Japanese Translation

Translation of Japanese into English, as one would imagine, is a painstaking procedure. This is because, unlike translation of European languages into English, the translator often comes across words or phrases where the meaning cannot be expressed fully in English. When faced with this conundrum, the translator has 2 options:

(1) compromise by using an English word or phrase which closely resembles the Japanese, but doesn’t quite transfer its full meaning, so part of the meaning becomes ‘lost in translation’; or

(2) rework the entire sentence or even paragraph to transfer the full meaning. More often than not, the professional translator will need to opt for option 2 in order to fully transfer the meaning of the Japanese over to the English. However, this takes a lot of work!

The conundrum mentioned above appears with varying frequency dependent on the type of passage being translated. The conundrum would arise time and time again when translating an emotive passage containing lots of metaphors by the famous author Yukio Mishima. On the other hand, the conundrum appears little in legal documents. This is because, in whatever language they are written in, the main purpose of legal documents is to clearly express the intention of the parties to it – they are emotionless documents. Therefore, in actual fact, legal Japanese translation is far easier to translate than, for example, translation of a Japanese novel.

This is not to say that Japanese legal translation is easy. I was lucky enough to have legal training in law school and a training contract for 2 years in a law firm where I drafted legal documents every day, giving me an intricate understanding of legal vocabulary and concepts. I also have a working understanding of the Japanese legal system, so I will come across very few words or concepts unfamiliar to me while carrying out my translations.

Legal Japanese translation is beginning to become a more in demand service. This is mainly due to the increasing acceptability of litigation in Japanese personal and business life. The Japanese have a grave sense of honour and traditionally held a very suspicious view of lawyers, but increasingly the Japanese see lawyers as indispensable protectors of their legal rights and valuable business assets, especially in the international community.

There has been a particular increase in the Japanese legal translation market via document reviews. This is where a Japanese client has employed a law firm for representation in a dispute, and the law firm initiates a process where paralegals are asked to sift through mounds of documents to find any which may prove decisive for their client’s case. All the documents they pick out must then be given to a legal Japanese translation expert to prepare them for use at court.

If you require a Japanese legal translation service, please visit my web site at and contact me via In the past I have found it far easier to have a summary chat with my clients prior to starting a legal Japanese translation. This gives me a better understanding of the client’s requirements for the style of the document but also clears the way for a good relationship throughout the procedure, and during the period of after care.

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Author: Uzumaki Naruto

Expert tips before traveling Japan, including reviews of Japanese food and restaurants to help you make your trip as enjoyable and rewarding as possible.

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