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.

In IT translation or business translation in general, there are many points to look out for. Particularly, we should pay special attention to number-related terms and how to handle them. Needless to say, it is necessary to be extra careful because mistakes in numbers can lead to incorrect operation or cause misunderstandings. But there are many other factors to consider when translating numbers. Some of them are very tricky and easy to misinterpret, and everyone should have it as their basic knowledge.

In this post, we would like to share some interesting points to keep in mind regarding numbers that we actually encountered in translation work.

"Product" is not product?

To start off with, we would like to show an example of what kind of English terms are confusing when translating them into another language. The following sentence is from an actual project that we worked on. We partially modified it to use it as an example.

The calculation logic ensures that the total costs are equal to the product of the summed up total quantity and the price if the price was not changed in the corresponding period.

The tricky word in this sentence is "product." In this sentence, "product" is used to mean one of the four arithmetic operations. Just like this example, the word appears frequently in sentences dealing with math formulas and logical formulas.

In this sentence, it's quite easy to imagine that the term doesn't mean a physical product since it contains other words related to calculations such as "sum up.” However, it gets tricky when "product" is used without any context, so it requires attention.

Here's a sample Japanese translation of the sentence.


It's good to remember all of the four arithmetic operations.



Does "10.000" mean ten or ten thousand?

When big numbers start to come out, it's time to use a thousands separator. Depending on the content, you might also see decimal values.

Did you know that the character used for a thousands separator and decimal separator varies from country to country? If you don't know exactly where the original text was created or which country is covered by the content, you may be translating the numbers into a wrong amount.

Usually, a comma, period, or space is used to separate thousands, and a comma or period is used as a decimal separator. Countries around the world can be divided into several groups depending on which characters they use. Let's take a look at the groups. The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia page. (Source: Decimal separator ⁠— Wikipedia)

Thousands separator: comma
Decimal separator: period

Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, etc.

Thousands separator: period
Decimal separator: comma

Uruguay, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, etc.

1 234 567,89
Thousands separator: space
Decimal separator: comma

Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, etc.

Even in the same country, different characters might be used depending on the document type or the region. In other cases, several characters are used depending on the situation. In addition, some parts of the world have their own rules. In parts of China, numbers are separated by ten thousands instead of thousands. In a region in Croatia, they use a period as the basic thousands separator, but they use a comma only for separating one million.

In this way, different types of thousands separators and decimal separators are adopted depending on the country, region, document, or format. Thus it is always appropriate to handle numbers with the understanding that they can be diverse.

Where to round?

Rounding off or rounding is another tricky term when it comes to translation. We would like to share some descriptions of how to calculate that actually came up in a translation project.

The wording of the instructions of how to round off is quite different in English and Japanese. Let's compare an example in both languages.

1.2345 → 1.235

Round off at the fourth decimal place.

Round off to three decimal places (or round off to the nearest thousandth).

The difference is interesting, right? In English, there is no mention of processing the fourth place. In other words, while the Japanese expression focuses at the targeted place to be rounded off, the English expression focuses at the final calculation results.

We gathered some other expressions related to rounding off numbers.

一円未満切り上げ →  round up to the nearest yen
小数点以下四捨五入 → round off to the closest whole number
少数点第3位以下切捨て → round down to two decimal places

The verb “round” means “rounding something with sharp corners,” so it may be easier to remember the English expressions by having an image of cutting off the small numbers.

The "more or less" problem

Rounding off or rounding is another tricky term when it comes to translation. We would like to share some descriptions of how to calculate that actually came up in a translation project.

The next one is also an expression frequently used with numbers. It is also often translated incorrectly. We'll explain using an example sentence again.

More than 100 people answered the questionnaire.

Many people will probably translate it into Japanese like this:


We often see this when screening our translator candidates where "more than" is translated into 以上, which means "or more." Obviously, "more than" does not include the number that it is used with (i.e. 100 in the example above).

Therefore, using 以上 is not accurate. The Japanese translation should be:

以上 can be used if the English sentence was:
100 people and over (or more) answered the questionnaire.

The same applies to "less than." It is often incorrectly translated as 以下 in Japanese, which means "or less." For an accurate translation, it should be 未満. As you can see, it's the matter of whether or not you include the mentioned number.

However, in situations where you don't have to be exact or just want to convey a sense of scale rather than an accurate threshold, it is common to use 以上 and 以下 to translate "more than" and "less than." This is because It's more simple and easy to read. Although you have to be careful when translating news content, such as the amount of money or population, it is always better to go with the natural wording according to the situation.


Numbers are considered to be relatively easy to translate because they represent almost the same information as the original text. But on the contrary, they are also where ambiguous translations are not allowed.

With that in mind, if you pay attention to the expression of numbers, you should be able to create better translations.

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