• Birchington, England


The title of the June 10 article “Laws, legal terms get official translation” is misleading. As shown on the Web site in question and indeed on the predecessor site: “These are unofficial translations. Only the original Japanese texts of the laws and regulations have legal effect, and the translations are to be used solely as reference material to aid in the understanding of Japanese laws and regulations.”

That’s hardly surprising. Having interpreted for some U.K.-Japan treaty negotiations, I know that it can take years to agree on wording that is accepted as equally valid in two languages — even for one comparatively short document, let alone hundreds of laws. Moreover, by allowing any such translations to become “official,” Japan would be laying itself open to countless arguments regarding linguistic and legal interpretation, let alone debate over the status of English in Japan vs. that of other languages.

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