Note: This blog post was originally written in Japanese for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate it and post-edit the content in English. The original Japanese post can be found here.

What comes into your mind when you hear skills necessary for translators? If we were talking about professional translation from English to Japanese, many people would probably say English and Japanese skills. Of course, you won't understand the original text without English proficiency. You will also need a high level of Japanese proficiency to translate it into natural Japanese that is suitable for the content and target audience.

That said, English and Japanese skills are definitely essential for translators in this case. However, as much as these language skills, there are other skills that are indispensable for translators. That is research skills. In this post, we highlight how research skills are important for professional translation.

Translation and research go hand in hand

Translation work is a series of research. Even if it's a field that you specialize in, technology advances day by day. There will always be new information that you do not know when translating.

When translators come across something that they don't know, they can't just use a translation that is in a dictionary. That will not create a translation that accurately conveys the meaning of the original text. No matter how small, you have to properly research what you don't know and make sure you have the correct idea. You can create a translation that captures the meaning of the original text only by incorporating it as your own knowledge.

It goes without saying that the quality of translation will change depending on whether or not it was translated after the translator properly understood the original text. Therefore, research is an indispensable task in translation work.

What do you research?

Some of the research include checking technical terms and names. Translators also research the background information of the content. For example, let's look at the following sentence.

Original Text: John lost his tooth, so he put it under his pillow at bedtime.
Japanese Translation: ジョンは、歯が抜けたので、寝るときにそれを枕の下に入れた。

Some Japanese people may not be able to figure out why John put his tooth under the pillow because this is an action based on Western culture. (The Tooth Fairy does not exist in Japan!) As we all know, when you lose one of your baby teeth, you put it under your pillow. The Tooth Fairy will come and exchange it for money while you're asleep. (Japanese people would envy this tradition.)

In the case of this example, there will be no huge difference in the final translation whether it is translated by someone who knows about the Tooth Fairy or not. However, professional translators can't turn in their work saying, "I don't know why he put his tooth under his pillow, but I translated it exactly as it was written in the original text."

Professional translators must be responsible for their work. If they don't completely understand what the original text means, they need to research and find out, no matter how small the information is.

How do you research?

There are various methods to do research, but the internet is probably the most used nowadays. You can get all the information instantly on the internet. Obviously, it is a strong ally for research. Even so, you need to be careful when doing research on the internet due to the large amount of information.

First of all, it would be a waste of time to search randomly. Translators have deadlines, and they have no time to linger over research. As an extreme example, if you're looking at a medical website while doing IT-related research, you'll never find the answer. When doing research, you need to be aware of where you can find the information you're looking for.

In addition, since anyone can upload information on the internet, you can sometimes get hold of incorrect information. Therefore, never just swallow the displayed information. When professional translators come across a new term while translating, they don't use a translated term in the online dictionary right away. They always check if it is really used in the field they are translating in.

In addition to the internet, translators use physical dictionaries and books for research. In some cases, it may be useful to ask someone who has expertise of the content. (But remember to be careful when handling confidential information.) After all, there are no restrictions on what research tools to use. Translators just need to thoroughly research with all available tools.


When people imagine translation work, they tend to think of it as a work of converting one language into another. But in this post, we focused on the research skills that are hidden behind the language aspect of the work.

Actually, translators probably spend more time researching than translating the language. We mentioned in the beginning that research skills are as essential as being fluent in the language. In fact, we think that research skills may be far more important than language skills.

Of course, we are not saying that language skills are unnecessary. What we mean is that research skills boost the ability of translators. They are considered professional by being good at research and finding the suited expression.

Also, along with researching, translators will inevitably take in new knowledge. Being able to enjoy this process of acquiring new knowledge is an important quality for translators as well.

Kawamura's translation services

Kawamura International is ISO 17100 certified, which is an international standard for translation. We only assign professional translators who have passed our test based on ISO 17100.

We select the most suitable translator who specializes in the requested field according to each project. With our unique quality control system, known as TAFT, which encompasses a quality evaluation model and quality review functions of translation and project management, we aim to provide translation services that meet our customers' expectations.

Feel free to reach out to us with any inquiries regarding translation — we are here to answer your questions!