Can you work on translations without knowing Japanese?


New member
Aug 4, 2018
I don't know any Japanese whatsoever. Is it possible for me to work on translations through the use of Google translate or similar, and if so how would I get started doing that? I know that sentence context is often lost when using a translation tool, but at the very least I could dip my toes in the water with partial translations of menus and such. Which resources and tools would you recommend I start learning if I wanted to undertake this?

Or should I just not bother and leave this stuff to the professionals?


Evard's Tentacles of Forced Intrusion
Mar 14, 2014
It depend what you mean by "translation".
If you want to do something to sell of as a translation - drop it off. Japanese is too different from westerner language to be able to do a translation good enough for that.

If you want to make a fan-made translation for a game for example, then yes you can try.

HOWEVER - sorry for the cap pour that part is important - using tool only will make for an approximate translation, way better than knowing nothing of what happen and better than the auto translation by tool since you'll re read and adapt, but still an approximate translation.

You can share such translation for game like rpg maker game here, most peoples (you'll always find some thinking differently) will be glad to have it.

Yet, however much you'll work, it will have error / approximation - there will even be part you won't understand and be unable to translate without help of more knowledgeable persons.

And that IS hard work - you'll use translating tool like google translate as well as on -line dictionaries like Atlas/jparser... (everyone has his list of tool,dictionaries... they prefer).

But honestly, it will be long work.
If you're lucky, the sentence can be easily translated by the tool, so checking a few to compare the result / taking the situation into consideration and you can copy / paste the tool translation in 2 mins for a RPG maker text buble. But on the other extreme, the same lenght of text can come out as gibberish on all tool and take you a good quarter of an hour to sort it out - if not longer if you got to seek help.

So the answer is yes and no.

If you're thinking about rpg maker game, the best way to see by yourself if you're up to trying is by making a partial translation (skill / item), as the text to translate is often easy enough to understand since lot of game have the same kind of items / skill. Of course, In game text / dialogue will be way harder.

Translating a full game is months worth of work, even for someone japanese & english fluent, so be warned that it will be long term work too.
Dec 28, 2017
I think its not worth the effort if you dont know japanese.
Apr 3, 2018
Here's a list of things you need to be able to do when translating a game:
1-understand a Japanese sentence (your weakness)
2-rewrite an English sentence (weakness of a lot of hired translators)
3-use a method for your translation (depends on your game)
4-understand how your translation will appear in the game (another weakness of a lot of hired translators)
5-fix your limits (start small)
You're not a AAA game translator so you don't need to know all of this but if you have difficulties with all these points then translation is not for you.
So, if you think you are good even one of these points, then be sure to capitalize on it.

Everyone has to start somewhere: do a partial and learn from it.
You will probably fail the first time; and if failing isn't enough to convince you it's impossible, then you should continue translating.

I failed two translation projects before having a success. Oddly enough I did it without points 1. and 2.
Apr 28, 2012
Menu translations, yes.
Complete story translations, no.

For small stuff like menus and even games with those pesky quests logs as long as you're consistent with your translation it can work but when you start translating bigger stuff a lot can go wrong, from sentences not making sense to names being written differently making it hard to make out what's going on, to software just straight up making shit up.

I'll be honest I'm not a fan of machine assisted translations, a lot of work goes into them and it doesn't usually result in anything worth nearly the amount of time the person put on the project.

Try it out, see if the results are good enough to say "Hey that's a goshdarn good translation" and make the decision yourself. Essentially its possible to work on translations without knowing Japanese but whether or not the resulting translation is worth the work is a different matter all together.
Mar 26, 2018
It's certainly possible to translate without knowledge of the original language. I tried doing a little myself, using Google Translate and JParser in Translation Aggregator. However, it can take a lot of time, depending on how much effort you put in. If you're aiming for accuracy, it would be best to play through any parts of the game that are related to what you're trying to translate, so that you understand the context.


Tentacle God
Jun 3, 2011
I'll admit I once machine-translated a small section, 1000 lines or so. Through effort, context, and several online dictionaries, you can get a good idea what's being said but A) errors will still litter the translation B) it will read very oddly and C) it's a LOT of work. Going from one source to another to another to make sure things are correct takes a lot of time and effort.


Jungle Girl
Aug 21, 2015
Here's some examples of why context and knowing the language can help so much, even if online translators can be decent sometimes... that being said, this is a bit of an edge case due to being originally entirely katakana/hiragana, whereas most stuff would have kanji as well which would make for less possible misinterpretations of the actual intended meaning.

But I suppose it's probably possible to make a decent translation even with them if you're willing to put in work (and also use other resources to try to better your knowledge of how the language works). The hardest stuff is liable to be speech/thoughts since there's liable to be plenty of things online translators won't pick up on very well, if at all (slang/dialect/etc). Might be better starting off with just a partial translation (menu/inventory/other important stuff) and see how long that takes and how you feel doing it.


Demon Girl Pro
Oct 30, 2011
Google Translate has been pretty good.
I did my own machine translation of Venus Blood Abyss by just dumping it into google translate(through chrome).
If I did some preprocessing beforehand and did some editing after it would be even better results.
But for the time I invested which was a few days work mostly to extract, format and patch while getting things working without errors it's pretty decent.
Much better then if I were to use just Translator Aggregator. I already did a playthrough of the translation and I was pretty satisfied. Yes you do get some weird shit.

If you are going to use the dumping method, make sure to translate names, locations and other tricky terms before dumping it into google.
Also Google works best when you merge the sentences into a line with no weird spacing and line breaks, punctuation is not a problem and can be left as a continuation or as a new line. You may need to do some regex tricks with Notepad to get the format right while still maintaining the position information of the inserted line.
After that you can dump a 7k lines .txt into chrome with translate to english you get from translating sites on. Just split your text into 7k chunks and wait for that to finish, if you go more than that the translation tends to come to a crawl.
After that look at the page source with F12 go to part where the translation is and use Edit Html option and copy that into a text file and remove the html tags and do some format cleaning for whatever google messed up.
After that you might want to read through it and edit things, but who has the time for that?
After its just patching it and formatting it to get it to work in the game. Some things can get tricky like keeping track on which lines go where and word wrapping issues and lines going beyond the text box.
Some games support generating a new text box to continue the text so use that function if you can.

For manually translating things line by line how you organize things and what tools you use definitely helps. I still recommend having all text dumped somewhere even if you are doing a playthrough of the game.
Some tricks that can help is having text to speech and voices enabled, programs that have text to speech support like VNR or NextOSD you can also filter by name with regex so you can filter voiced characters.
I also recommend learning hiragana and katakana, since it is phonetic together with text to speech it will help you tremendously, it also helps you against some Engrish traps that screw up translators.

For Interface Translations the Capture2Text program is perfect in capturing text that cannot be extracted with hooks.
Cheat Engine and are also great to make your own hooks and get hard to get text like tooltips and descriptions.
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Jungle Girl
Sep 8, 2015
For menus and things, i.e. single words and short sentences, sure. You've gotten a lot of good advice here already, but something I'd add is to have three things available: a kana table, a kanji dictionary that includes naughty words (sometimes difficult to find) and knowledge of how to assemble kanji from radicals or sort them by number of strokes as those are the only way to look them up.

I say that because sometimes you'll need to rely on putting something together yourself. Kanji can have many different meanings, some obscure, some slang, etc, and machine translators aren't always gonna have the answers. I only have a few kana memorized, grammatical knowledge, and I know how to search for kanji. Quite often I have to put stuff together on my own. I can tell you from experience that it's entirely possible to translate even paragraphs roughly with that knowledge, it just takes hours. I've spent an hour translating a small error message before. It's hard work if you don't know the language, but it is doable.