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[Formerly Lise & Partners, Inc.]

Don't Question Questions

Although many translators are able to work in a variety of fields, it is sometimes very difficult for even a highly experienced translator to execute a Japanese-to-English translation without running into obstacles. When you receive questions from a translator, it could just mean that the translator has one of the most valuable skills that can be called upon in translating—that of knowing what you don't know and knowing enough to ask for advice. Questions can arise in a number of areas.


This is an area about which the translator's questions could be obviated by your providing sufficient context about a document. There are a number of items that are helpful.

  • The purpose of the translation (e.g., in the case of patent translation, filing, litigation, or prosecution)

  • The originator of the document (this is sometimes not obvious from the document alone)

  • In the case of litigation, the subject matter and identities of the parties, the latter to enable a conflict check—yes, translators should be concerned about conflicts, but some seem not to be. The case number would be enough for us, for example, to research these items on our own, but some translators do not have that ability or interest to do so.

Proper Nouns

In the case of the translation of discovery documents, items such as organizational charts might be loaded with names of departments of which you are already aware via discovery but which are unknowable to the translator. The translator might ask about these, and should be given what information is available. The same is true of corporate entity names included in such documents.

Personal Names

People even slightly familiar with Japanese names will recognize that it is very often impossible to nail down the reading of a Japanese personal name. One and the same kanji character can have multiple readings, some of which are used only in names. Even at the early stages of triaging discovery documents, you might be collecting names of personnel of a Japanese party. This information should be given to the translator. There is nothing to be gained from making the translator play a guessing game and guess incorrectly.

The reading of the name of an inventor is often findable in the USPTO or other overseas patent office database if the inventor has other patents granted outside Japan. If that is not the case, however, the best solution (and one we employ) is that of surrounding the name in question marks (e.g., ?Hideaki?) and/or including an appropriate comment at the end of the translation.

Addresses in Japan

The same is generally true of place names Based in Japan, we on occasion can call upon Japanese sources (including calling local government offices) to verify readings of place names. However, place names change, and sometime we need to use the device of surrounding the doubtful name with question marks.

Never Receive Questions? Everything Might Be Alright

Naturally, many assignments will not require the client to answer questions. But you should start worrying if you normally provided no context as noted above and still never receive questions about context or other matters. As general rule, the questioning translator is doing his or her job and takes the task of providing the best translation seriously.