Professional Japanese translation
Foreign companies looking to advertise in Japan also have to be careful of using katakana words in particular. Katakana characters are often used for foreign words that are “borrowed” in Japanese, such as ホテル (hoteru) for hotel.
But machine translation can sometimes generate a katakana word that is inappropriate from the perspective of a native Japanese speaker. To English speakers, a “cleaning service” probably means a housekeeping service, but in Japan クリーニング (kuriningu) is used almost exclusively to talk about dry cleaning services.
Complicating matters even further, Latin characters (called romaji in Japanese) are also increasingly used in Japan. Because almost all Japanese students should study some form of English at some point, there are also instances where the best marketing decision may be to use some Latin characters in order to stand out.
Go To トラベル (Toraberu, or Travel) a recent Japanese government campaign to encourage domestic tourism during COVID-19, is an excellent example of this.
It uses the トラベル to convey meaning, but the Latin script “Go To” helps it stand out in a body of Japanese text.
Beyond this there are also additional typographical features to consider when advertising in Japanese. In addition to the horizontal text layout common in European languages, Japanese can be written vertically, particularly in newspaper articles. Any advertisements placed there may want to reflect that.
Postal addresses are also written in the “reverse” from a Euro-American perspective: post/zip codes come at the beginning of the address, not the end. Getting this layout wrong may confuse potential customers.
A word to the wise
The Japanese language is continually evolving, working with a translation agency that can assess and match the ability of a Japanese translator to your specific needs is vital.
If you’re looking to bring your marketing message to Japan, we’re here to help. Take a look at a list of industries that we work with or jump right in and contact Word Connection for professional Japanese language services.