How we ensure quality of our most difficult Japanese translations
Perfect understanding of the Japanese and Italian language pairs
Although Japanese grammar is much simpler than that found in the Italian and English languages, the Japanese language poses its own unique difficulties. This is not so much a result of its logograms (kanji)—mastering the use of which is already a formidable task for those who have not studied the characters since childhood—as it is related to the intricacy and the sometimes strongly irrational traits of its written forms, as well as its countless and ubiquitous idioms
Another hurdle (perhaps even taller) is the need to correctly decipher things such as personal names and places, names of institutions and governmental bodies, abbreviations and contractions, historical terms and names that generally do not appear in common dictionaries, certain transliterations from foreign words and names done with the katakana syllabary (an all-Japanese concept that contributes to make this language unique in the world), frequent singular-plural ambiguities, and many other troublesome terms, all of which can compel the Italian translator to conduct arduous, time-consuming research, which can cause the relaxation of concentration and entice risky resolvent shortcuts with obvious impact on translation quality.
Even without considering the objective difficulty that follows the need to completely learn the Japanese language itself (several decades of study? one's entire life? certainly many years of living and work in Japan), the supervision of a native Japanese translator or an educated Japanese person who is also proficient in the Italian language can become a necessity for all the reasons mentioned above.
Similarly, because of the complex grammar, strong rhetorical traits, and convoluted written forms found in the Italian language, the correct understanding of certain types of texts for the Japanese translator may present insurmountable challenges as well—challenges which are frequently "surmounted" with simply a word-for-word translation, one of the mortal enemies of translation quality. Texts in the legal, business, historical, and political fields, for example, are often too intricate even for Italians themselves.
In such cases, the supervision of a native Italian translator who is also proficient in the Japanese language can be indispensable, just as was true in the reverse situation described above.
Example of quality control in the Japanese to Italian translation process
We are two mother tongue translators—one Italian who translates from Japanese and English and one Japanese who translates from Italian and English.
The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.
Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (Classical Greece)
In our respective language pairs we are normally independent, in the sense that we don't need the partner's help. But sometimes we receive particularly difficult/complex translation jobs as Japanese history and art text could very well be, but knowing that we can count on the partner to help us immediately recognize the reading of an uncommon ideogram, to understand a rare idiomatic expression, search for a term which otherwise could take long time or even only for an opinion, allows us to work faster and confidently accept a great variety of translation jobs while providing the translation quality that is expected from professional translators.
The following is an example of Japanese → Italian translation process of a particularly difficult or exacting text and how we ensure its translation quality. The same applies also in case of Italian → Japanese translations, though with inverted roles:
- The Italian native speaker translator briefly goes over the Japanese source text to acquire a general understanding of the subject matter and identify the parts that might require clarification from the client.
- The Italian translator researches any specialized terminology he may not be familiar with yet, if necessary with the help of the Japanese native speaker translator.
- The Italian translator starts translating, this time placing emphasis on the content rather than the writing style in order to obtain a first translation draft.
- The Italian translator sends the draft translation to the Japanese translator so that she may perform an initial content-related check, comparing the translation against the source text to discover any potential errors.
- Once the check of the draft translation is complete, the Italian translator conducts a pre-final translation check (the so-called check phase), this time concentrating on the proper usage of grammar and syntax in order to achieve what is essentially a final translation. During this stage of the translation process, he also verifies that the translation adheres to current writing style standards (as defined by The New Style Manual [Second Edition] by Roberto Lesina as well as applicable ISO standards).
- When delivery conditions allow, the Italian translator puts aside the translated text for a day or two before reviewing it again, this time with fresh eyes. This last stage of the translation quality process is very important when a particularly high level of expressive creativity is required, such as with content from art, business, or publishing fields, or for texts intended for a narrow audience (lawyers, engineers, etc.). It's also called the editing phase (or monolingual check), which serves the purpose of reviewing the target text again but now with a distinct and more critical approach, that is "freeing" oneself from the source text in order to avoid a too literal translation from Japanese and analyzing the target text in question as if it were not the product of a translation work but instead a completely new piece of writing.
- Then proofreading follows, the last phase of the translation process, with the aim of finding possible mistyping errors, wrong numbers or dates or layout problems.
This is essentially an example of our Japanese translation quality control carried out by two mother tongue translators (us) to particularly difficult translations.
Please see also the translation experience section of our general translation page.