Rescribe: Japanese Translation Notes

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The Japanese Language is spoken by the approximately 120 million inhabitants of Japan as well as by large communities in Hawaii and in North and South America.


Written poetry and prose in Old Japanese first appeared circa 1,500 BC. The transition from the Old to the Modern system took place around the twelfth century AD. The Japanese alphabet, "kana," which is phonetic and can be directly transliterated into English, was introduced in the nineteenth century when the Japanese language went through a radical reform to simplify the intricate characters.

How do Japanese and Chinese incorporate foreign words?

Japanese and Chinese employ two approaches when incorporating a foreign word:

  • Phonetic treatment—spelling out the pronunciation of the word, e.g. the word "computer" is written "con-pu-ta" in Japanese characters. ·
  • Conceptual treatment—localizing the concept of the word, e.g., the word "computer" is translated as "electric brain" in Chinese.

Writing systems

The Japanese language is composed of traditional intricate characters called "Kanji," and of simplified characters called "Kana." “Kana” is the Japanese system of syllabic writing, which is made up of two sets of characters:

  1. Hiragana—cursive script, used for native Japanese words and for word inflections.
  2. Katakana—used primarily for foreign loan words, or for scientific terms and official documents.


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