How should I count words in a Japanese text?
Thread poster: Sergio Juarez Garcia

Sergio Juarez Garcia
Spain
Local time: 23:13
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 25, 2006

I am faced with the problem of having to count the words in a Japanese text for a translation. But how does one exactly count them? Here I explain you my doubts, please help me with an answer, if you know one:

1) Does one count words and particles (meaning by that ha, ga, wo, ni, de, etc, in the same way?

2) Is there any software to automate the process of counting words in a text specially designed for Japanese text?


 

SLMorales  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:13
Member (2005)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Count characters, not words. Jan 25, 2006

For Japanese text, you should count the characters, not the words. I'm not sure if even Japanese readers could agree on a way to count words, especially when one considers compound words in which several kanjis are used together. Standard practice seems to be simply counting the characters. Then, depending on various factors such as a)how many katakana letters are in the text and b)what the subject matter is, as well as c)a translator's degree of wordiness or conciseness, the English word equivalent will usually come to a bit more than HALF of the Japanese character count. You can count the characters in Word using the same "Word count" tool as used for English. I hope that helps!

 

Sergio Juarez Garcia
Spain
Local time: 23:13
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Please, a bit more help! Jan 27, 2006

Shannon Morales wrote:

I'm not sure if even Japanese readers could agree on a way to count words, especially when one considers compound words in which several kanjis are used together.


Thank you Shannon!

As you say, the opinion of our Japanese readers would be really valuable. It isn't so clear for me as yet, because characters are not units of meaning in Japanese as words (including these last ones compounds of one till x kanji). So I don't think it would be right. But still, I am the big ignorant in the matter... Any case, it is true some difficult compounds require us not only to look what the meaning of the word is, but still to find first the reading of the kanji! Double difficulty! (although that be in few cases, at least in my case).


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:13
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Ways of quoting Japanese-English translations Jan 27, 2006

Sergio Juarez Garcia wrote:
It isn't so clear for me as yet, because characters are not units of meaning in Japanese as words (including these last ones compounds of one till x kanji). So I don't think it would be right.


I am not sure what you mean by "being right", but here is what I think:
If I understand your problem correctly, you have a Japanese text, that needs translation into English, and you need to quote (set the price) for the translation to the client.
(If you already have done the translation, and have not agreed on the pricing with the client beforehand, you may be in trouble, but that is another story.)

There are two cases regarding the source material:
1. If the Japanese source text is in hardcopy (fax, book, copy of a document, etc.). then there is no way to count the source text, unless you go ahead and do it by hand (who has the time for that?), so you will have to invoice AFTER the translation is done, based on the target English wordcount, or by the hour, as you agreed with your client.

2. If the Japanese source text is softcopy, meaning: in a file that is editable (Word, txt, etc.) - then there are various tools you can use for automatically counting the Japanese text. Microsoft Word's built-in Count function will do that, too.

When you count Japanese text, you count the characters, not "words" as others already mentioned. This is the standard way, as there is no clear algorithm to find where one word ends and the other starts.
MS Word's Count function will give you the character count. If you use Trados, the analysis function in Trados will also give you the counting results in characters for Japanese text.
You may found it strange, but you should establish your "per character" rate, and get used to using it, because this is the method used most often, and it is generally accepted.

There is a multiplier/divider that usually works for general text translation, and that is 2.5 . (I remember there were discussions about this figure previously in another thread on this forum.) This means you can estimate the target English wordcount by dividing the number of characters in the Japanese source text by 2.5 .
So, if you have a 1000 character long Japanese text, you will end up with approx. 400 English words after the translation.
There are some factors that can change this multiplier somewhat, such as having many katakana words in the text, or many alphanumeric strings (for example English product names, programming code, numbers, sizes for parts, statistics figures for clinical trials, etc.) that will stay the same in the translated text.
You can take some of your past translations and simply compare the number of source characters with the target word count, and see how the ratio works out for you, or for the particular type of texts you are dealing with.

There are some clients (I know at least one agency) that uses a slightly different counting method. They say they count "words" in Japanese text, and they using the figures MS Word would give for a Japanese text under "Words" in the Count window.
This counting method means that each Japanese character is counted as 1, and each continuous string that is written in alphanumeric characters is counted as 1. Here is a sentence as an example:
締め切りは2006年10月21です。
This would be counted as 18 characters, but only 13 "words" in Word.

So, you have to make sure that the rate you are quoting matches the counting method. In the example above, the more alphanumeric strings you have in the text, the less money you are getting in target word units. Whether it is fair or not, is another issue, the point is that both you and your client have to have a clear understanding on how the text is counted, what count will be the base of billing, and at what rate is used for the billing.

I hope this helps somewhat.

Good luck,
Katalin

[Edited at 2006-01-27 16:49]


Dan Lucas
 

Sergio Juarez Garcia
Spain
Local time: 23:13
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks... どうもありがとう Jan 27, 2006

Thanks Kathaline,

Your explanation was great, it has cleared all my doubts! Thanks a lot!


 

Steven Ritchie  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:13
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Half of Japanese word count Sep 5

Most Japanese translation agencies count the characters in a Japanese text. So, each hiragana/katakana and each kanji is counted as one character.

400 Japanese characters is considered to be approximately 200 English words when translated.

You can count the Japanese characters on each page using a hand-held counter as you count to keep track. It's not so difficult, but a little time-consuming.

Alternatively, you can copy and paste the text into an online character counting tool such as this:

http://tool.muzin.org/mojisu/


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:13
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
You can, but you shouldn't Sep 5

Steven Ritchie wrote:
Alternatively, you can copy and paste the text into an online character counting tool such as this:
http://tool.muzin.org/mojisu/

Or at least, not unless the text is already publicly available - which is what Steven meant to say, no doubt. Confidentiality is key! Plenty of CAT tools and utilities to count Japanese characters out there.

Regards,
Dan


CorbettAM
 


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