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Why doing business in Japan is about more than just Japanese translation

The third-largest economy in the world by Gross Domestic Product and a member of the G7, Japan is an important trading partner for countries around the planet.

For businesses looking to trade with Japanese companies, opportunities abound. Yet there are significant cultural differences to account for when it comes to working with Japanese companies and translation services alone aren’t enough to guarantee success.

You’ll need an international business marketing strategy that incorporates everything from detailed financials to business etiquette considerations.

Why do we need translation services?

To succeed in doing business in Japan, a translation company is, of course, an essential starting point. We need translation services in order to communicate effectively, so you’ll need a trusted Japanese translator alongside you every step of the way.

For face-to-face meetings, you’ll also need a Japanese interpreter to provide a Japanese to English translation of the conversation as it unfolds (as well as to provide a Japanese translation of your side of the discussions).

Japanese is a fascinating language. Considered a language isolate until its relationship to Ryukyuan languages was established, it has a writing system consisting of three basic scripts, keeping learners on their toes.

With a participation rate of English-learning that stands at 11.9%, Japan isn’t a country in which English-speaking businesspeople can automatically expect to negotiate in their own language. As such, document translation services covering a range of disciplines (from legal translation to marketing translation and website translation), are essential.

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What is the role of translation?

Translation provides the conversion of one language to another. It facilitates the doing of business by ensuring that all parties can understand each other. However, establishing successful business relationships in Japan is about more than finding the right language translator. Translation need is also matched by the need for cultural awareness and an understanding of appropriate business etiquette.

Japan’s largest trading partner in terms of exports is the US, which accounts for 19.4% of Japanese exports. Yet the two cultures are very different. For English-speakers in Japan, it’s important to respect these differences. For example, a quiet, formal approach conveys wisdom, so it’s best to drop the informal banter and take a more introverted approach.

Equally important is respecting both the group approach, rather than focusing too strongly on any one individual. The relationship between seniority and age must also be factored in when dealing with Japanese companies.

Business etiquette in Japan covers everything from dress code to dining, so if it’s your first foray into the Japanese corporate world, having access to an advisor who can ease your passage into local customers can make a significant difference to the efficacy of your approach.

What are the advantages of translation?

Translation has the advantage of enabling businesses to develop new partnerships, engage with new customers and, ultimately, increase both their profits and long-term viability. Universal translation services can allow companies to connect in the way they never have before.

All the same, there remains something very respectful about learning a few key phrases of the local language when you’re trying to do business somewhere.

You don’t have to learn a language (though there are plenty of helpful apps out there if you want to try). Simply showing willingness by learning certain words and phrases can help to demonstrate your commitment to the relationship. Don’t worry – you won’t suddenly be expected to translate Japanese to English as a result of your efforts, but the gesture will likely be appreciated.

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What is a certified translator?

In addition to finding a decent human translation service (avoid machine translation for professional purposes), and factoring in cultural differences, successfully trading with Japan also means thinking carefully about the kinds of translation that you require.

One type that you may need is a certified translation. This is a service that certifies translation authenticity, whether for legal documents, financial papers or any other kind of translation. It is often required when dealing with government departments.

Legal translation is also likely to be fairly high on your agenda if you’re forming new business relationships. If (for example) you’re signing up to a contract in Japanese, translate using an experienced legal translator before you sign on the dotted line.

What is the best online translation service?

When it comes to doing business in Japan, the best translation service is one that can provide localization services as well. These will help your documents to overcome not just language barriers, but also any cultural faux pas that they may have contained. The translation industry is home to a wide range of language professionals who can help to localize your content and work with you on building up a small selection of phrases. With the right agency on board, businesses can take on Japan’s business sector with confidence, looking forward to long-term, mutually beneficial working relationships.

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