It is a cardinal rule of international business that a company sells their products in the customer's language, and this is just as true in Japan as in any other overseas market. Thus, Japanese language marketing and sales literature and technical documentation should be considered as an absolute requirement for selling your products in Japan.

You should consider your sales and marketing literature and technical documentation as an integral part of your company's product line, and you should exercise the same level of control over them as you do for your products themselves. This should be just as true for the Japanese versions of your literature and documentation. When you hire a translation company to translate your literature and documents into Japanese make sure that they have lots of experience in translating materials for similar products. Ask them for references of previous clients, and make sure you call these companies to confirm the quality of work that the translation company did for them. Poor or inaccurate translations of your literature and documentation can have a very negative impact on your company's image in the market and can result in the mis-positioning of your products.

Before you sign-up a translation company ask them to describe their English-to- Japanese translation process to you. A good process will involve a three-step approach of translation, editing and proofreading, with each step done by a different person. Additionally, a good translation company will typically assign a project manager to any translation project (this person will often double as the editor for the project). Ask the company to let you speak to the project manager, and then make sure that you can communicate effectively with this person and that they have a good grasp of your products and technology and the relevant terminology. You can judge this by the quality of the questions that they ask (it would be rather unusual if they did not have any questions about your materials).

As a quality check, send one page of the Japanese translation to another reputable translation company and have them do a reverse translation back into English (don't tell them that you are doing this just as a quality check). If the results of the reverse translation vary from the English in your original document (especially on key points) then bring this to the attention of the project manager.

It is not inexpensive to have material translated into Japanese; a good rule of thumb is about 30 to 35 cents per original English word. (Yes, you can get things done on the cheap but, as we all know, you inevitably get what you pay for). It would, obviously, not be advisable to have much of your material translated into Japanese until a thorough marketing study has established that there is a market for your products in Japan.

Once marketability has been established, start with translations of marketing and sales literature (include a profile of your company along with a list of major customers and clients). Once you have appointed reps or distributors in Japan, you may want to consider cost-sharing Japanese documentation with them. However, you should retain control of the Japanese versions of all your literature with copyrights clearly indicated.

JE Curry has several years of focused experience in translation and development of Japanese marketing, sales and technical literature. We provide very competitive pricing and thorough A to Z project management for both printed and electronic (including Japanese web sites) literature and documentation projects. Please contact us for a free, no-obligation evaluation and quotation for your project.

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