Japanese words that can often be omitted

A fundamental rule of translation is “never omit anything.” Technically speaking, translators strive for a one-to-one correspondence between basic abstract units of meaning (called lexemes) in the source and target languages, a principle patent translator Martin Cross calls “conservation of lexemes.” For example, if the word for elephant appears in the source sentence, the corresponding word for elephant had better appear the target sentence as well, otherwise the translation is incorrect.

On the other hand, different languages use different conventions for expressing the same idea, and sometimes a translation is improved by omitting lexemes that are present in the source language but would be redundant or even confusing if added in the target language.

The following are examples of Japanese lexemes that, depending on the context, can often be omitted when translating into English.

  • ~名 (name): This is sometimes redundant in English. For example, in a software manual, you would translate フォルダ名を指定して as specify the folder, not specify the name of the folder.
  • 情報 (information): This can sometimes be omitted if the context is clear. Example: 統計情報 = statistics (not statistical information)
  • 一覧 (list): This can often be omitted in section or table headers. Example: 変更できるファイル一覧 = Files that can be modified
  • 吉日 (auspicious day): This Chinese expression is often found in Japanese press releases, but is typically omitted in translation. Example:2019年11月吉日 = November 2019
  • 以上 (the end): Often appears at the end of Japanese documents, but usually English documents do not require this “end of document” marker.
  • 単位 (unit): Often redundant. Example: 時間を1時間単位で出力 = display the time in hours
  • 内容 (contents): Often redundant. Example: メールの内容 = the email(s), not the contents of the email(s).

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