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There is a growing demand from overseas and within Japan to consult laws and regulations in English when investing in Japanese firms and real estate.

43 Comments

A Justice Ministry spokesperson. The ministry has started a trial of using artificial intelligence to translate Japanese laws into English.

© NHK

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43 Comments

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This has been the case for quite some time now. I am actually surprised at how far something like google translate/ DeepL/ ChatGPT has come when translating from Japanese to English (the other way around is still subpar). I hardly need to correct the translations anymore, been a life saver!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The task is enormous. Japan, with its Constitution and five major roppó (Codes: civil, civil procedure, criminal, criminal procedure and commercial), along with literally thousands of other pieces of legislation in force, as well as thousands of regulations in the form of ordinances serei and shorei, along with a huge body of published case law that interprets legislation (and develops and advances a new body of law year-over-year, where the legislation is silent or ambigious). And also considering that the Japanese judicial system's rulings can be very difficult to understand, for those scholars who more familiar with other judicial systems, all the while it has long enjoyed a reputation for issuing very nuanced judicial opinions. I wonder if AI is up to the task?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wouldn't Mandarin translation be more useful?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

 I am actually surprised at how far something like google translate/ DeepL/ ChatGPT has come when translating from Japanese to English

That seem to still depend on the kind of Japanese, well structured text (like academic writings and legalese) seems to be easy for the automatic translators to interpret correctly. Casual conversations still need corrections because the typical lack of details in Japanese that need to be added in other languages.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japanese laws in English are already online. Not sure about all caselaw. Maybe he means people are even too lazy to google something when making a large investment. I would not trust chatcrap results and question confidentiality. But if you are too cheap to consult a lawyer you take that risk.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Lawyers are more reliable than the internet.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japanese laws in English are already online. Not sure about all caselaw. Maybe he means people are even too lazy to google something when making a large investment

In the full article the situation is better described, this is not about laws that are already published but about new laws and regulations that have been recently published in Japanese, according to the source it takes around two and a half years for these laws to be translated, with the automatic translators this period is expected to drop... to one year.

This seems to indicate the translations are not directly published but that they will still be reviewed to check they are correct.

But if you are too cheap to consult a lawyer you take that risk.

People would likely still need a lawyer, just that it is much easier to find one that can read English than one that can read Japanese.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

In the full article the situation is better described,

Where is the full article?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Where is the full article?

Sorry, here is one source

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20231205_15/

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@virusrex

Very true, the lack of details do make improvising by the translator necessary. I wonder how long till something like that can be translated better? I find that Kanji and the shortening of words/ contexts tends to be the cause of this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

People would likely still need a lawyer, just that it is much easier to find one that can read English than one that can read Japanese.

All Japanese lawyers read Japanese.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

All Japanese lawyers read Japanese.

Did you miss the part where the demand is from overseas? it is not like you can have easy access (including prices) to Japanese lawyers everywhere in the world, in comparison is much easier (and likely cheaper) to find a lawyer that can read English and give proper advice in the language of the people making the consultation.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

There are Japanese lawyers in many Western capitals.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There are Japanese lawyers in many Western capitals

But there are more lawyers (and likely cheaper) that understand English, specially taking into account that not everybody lives in capital cities.

If you have (let's say) one hundred more lawyers that can read English than those that can read Japanese, basic supply and demand would mean it will be much cheaper to consult the first than the last. As the quote mentions there is even a demand for English written laws inside Japan as well.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

virusrex

   There are Japanese lawyers in many Western capitals

But there are more lawyers (and likely cheaper) that understand English, specially taking into account that not everybody lives in capital cities.

Are English-speaking lawyers the largest language group? I don't know. It's mostly businesses that need international lawyers. It has nothing to do with not everyone living in capital cities. Most international companies have HQs there.

There are many international lawyers for many languages and the laws of many countries. International business would not be able to operate.

If you have (let's say) one hundred more lawyers that can read English than those that can read Japanese, basic supply and demand would mean it will be much cheaper to consult the first than the last. As the quote mentions there is even a demand for English written laws inside Japan as well.

Yes, there is a demand for Japanese lawyers who speak English, and translations of new laws take 1-2 years. In the meantime, they can consult with a Japanese lawyer when required.

I believe in general, there is a shortage of lawyers in Japan. Not all practice tort law.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

AI can be helpful, but it'll still struggle with some of the more long-winded clauses - the fun ones are 10 or more lines long and sometimes with questionable punctuation that have everyone guessing. I know this from experience having been involved in the translation team for a couple of them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hourly rate charged by English-speaking Japanese lawyers

https://sumikawa.net/fee/

American lawyers have higher fees.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are Japanese lawyers in many Western capitals

But not as many as lawyers that know English, which makes it sensible to have the laws translated to improve access to those laws,

Are English-speaking lawyers the largest language group?

The Japanese government seems to think they are important enough to merit the translation of laws and regulations,

Most international companies have HQs there.

But if a lawyer that knows Enlgish is enough, there would not be need to wait (or pay/wait more) for them much more rare ones that speak Japanese. That is a powerful argument to have the laws and regulations translated.

Yes, there is a demand for Japanese lawyers who speak English, and translations of new laws take 1-2 years. In the meantime, they can consult with a Japanese lawyer when required.

There is a demand for any kind of lawyers that speak English, those that do not need to know Japanese would be much easier/cheaper to hire just by the number that are available. And the source clearly says there is a clear demand for English translations, if Japanese was enough there would not be this demand.

Having the vast majority of the laws available would be enough for people to decide if they are interested or not in the topic covered by those laws, the quoted text explicitly says the demand for English translations is growing, obviously that means lawyers that understand Japanese are not numerous or cheap enough to deal with the demand, even if new modifications are not immediately available in English.

Hourly rate charged by English-speaking Japanese lawyers

American lawyers have higher fees.

But America is not the only country where there are people interested in the laws and regulations involved. What if someone in Vietnam/Indonesia/etc. is interested, the client doesn't even have to understand English, just the lawyer which is the one that will consult the laws. That can explain why there is a growing demand overseas, which is clearly said by the quote.

the fun ones are 10 or more lines long and sometimes with questionable punctuation that have everyone guessing. 

Since it still takes a year to get the new laws and regulations ready even after the automatic translation this is likely quite common.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

virusrex

Even when Japanese laws are translated into English businesses will still use an English-speaking Japanese lawyer either here or in another country.

The Japanese government seems to think they are important enough to merit the translation of laws and regulations,

Probably because English is the international language. However many non-English businesses require an understanding of the laws.

Sorry, I can't be bothered to reply to your comment any further.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's not enough to make translations of the laws but requires those who have experience in how the legal system works.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Even when Japanese laws are translated into English businesses will still use an English-speaking Japanese lawyer either here or in another country.

That quote of the article contradicts this, if a Japanese lawyer was the default there would not be any need of English translations, the quoted texts says there is a growing demand for these translations, what evidence do you have this quote is a lie?

Probably because English is the international language

Not only that, but as the quote explicitly says, the demand for English translation is growing. If access to a lawyer that understand Japanese were as common as you say there would not be this growing demand, the translation would be done directly between Japanese and the local language.

Sorry, I can't be bothered to reply to your comment any further.

There is no need for these kinds of clarifications, you can simply not reply.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

It's not enough to make translations of the laws but requires those who have experience in how the legal system works.

Which in no way refutes the fact that the demand for English translations is growing, the quote explicitly mentions this, if lawyers that understand Japanese were as easy to consult as you say there would not be this growing demand.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Laws are not valid until tested in the courts. It's not enough to just make translations even if there is an increase in demand for English.

If I were going to invest millions of dollars in a Japanese business or buy property I would hire a Japanese lawyer.

It's exhausting replying to your numerous comments.

I'm finished, over to you.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Laws are not valid until tested in the courts. It's not enough to just make translations even if there is an increase in demand for English.

That does nothing to refute the fact they are in demand, so the need is there. Since the translation is being demanded then it is invalid to claim it is unnecessary.

If I were going to invest millions of dollars in a Japanese business or buy property I would hire a Japanese lawyer.

And that is your personal case, not what other people must do, specially when they have not even made a decision and may be interested only on seeing the laws and regulations that would apply for the purpose in midn.

I'm finished, over to you.

You already wrote that, and it is still as unnecessary as before.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

We translate legal documents. They are slow but not as complicated as technical papers. AI could speed up the process but will need proofreading.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Which in no way refutes the fact that the demand for English translations is growing, the quote explicitly mentions this, if lawyers that understand Japanese were as easy to consult as you say there would not be this growing demand.

This is totally false. There are hundreds of Japanese lawyers in Tokyo who speak English at a high enough level to be able to communicate effectively wth lawyers from all over the world.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is totally false. There are hundreds of Japanese lawyers in Tokyo who speak English at a high enough level to be able to communicate effectively wth lawyers from all over the world.

What evidence do you have to contradict the quote from the spokesperson of the Ministry? He explicitly is saying the demand is there, claiming his declarations are false require evidence to prove it.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The cost of the law translations is borne by the taxpayer. What do they receive in return?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The cost of the law translations is borne by the taxpayer. What do they receive in return?

Foreign investment is usually considered good for a country because it helps the economy grow and new markets to open, this seems like a good enough benefit to facilitate it by translating the laws, specially when this has been done by officials that are already employed and have many other duties, it is not like the government had to outsource the translations spent extra money to do it.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Countries and individuals invest in Japanese business regardless of the translation of laws. There is no correlation between the two. China is one of the largest investors in Japan. It's Japan's largest trading partner. The US is the largest investor.

The translations are made by experts within the MOJ and do not have other duties. The cost is paid by the taxpayers.

https://www.moj.go.jp/EN/housei/hourei-shiryou-hanrei/housei03_00012.html

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Countries and individuals invest in Japanese business regardless of the translation of laws. There is no correlation between the two

Do you have any evidence the translation have no effect in the amount of investment? that is not a claim that can be made without proof. If anything you can only say you don't know what is the correlation, not that there is none.

The translations are made by experts within the MOJ and do not have other duties

That is not what the original article says, it is already given as a reference.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20231205_15/

The ministry has produced English translations of Japanese laws since 2009. But it takes about two and a half years on average before the English version of a law is released.

That's because the translation work has been done by officials who also have other duties, plus their individual abilities can vary.

Your reference on the other hand do not claim that any of the people involved have the translation of the laws as their only duty. It does not refute what is reported in the NHK.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

it is not like the government had to outsource the translations spent extra money to do it.

They do outsource part of the work to supplement what's done in-house. I know because I've worked on a couple through an agency. It can be a nightmare when translators of various skill level are used on the same project, and you have to unify a hodgepodge of styles and terminology into something comprehensible, on top of how ambiguous laws can be to begin with.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

On a practical level, many larger companies that engage in a volume business in Japan will make sure that they engaged a multi-speciality Japanese law firm. Depending on the area of commerce, a rather prestigious firm is always a big plus. And will often have someone - either outside counsel, or someone in-house legal department - that is comfortably and passingly familiar with Japanese jurisprudence. And customs. The benefits are many. It makes for sound business practice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They do outsource part of the work to supplement what's done in-house. I know because I've worked on a couple through an agency.

That would run contrary to what the NHK reports as a reason for the huge delays in the translation, but it is not unthinkable the spokeperson purposefully avoided commenting on this to have a better justification.

Of course if the result is an increase of foreign investment, outsourcing (specially if only a fraction of the work is done this way) can still be justified.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The Civil Law, the Common Law, and the English Language – Challenges and Opportunities in Asia

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/asian-journal-of-comparative-law/article/abs/civil-law-the-common-law-and-the-english-language-challenges-and-opportunities-in-asia/37C3F6252EA0E11A647632DCC2E7C0FB

Sorry cannot find a free digital copy.

Laws present a complex common standard for a global agreed methodology of interpretation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

virusrex

   Countries and individuals invest in Japanese business regardless of the translation of laws. There is no correlation between the two

> Do you have any evidence the translation have no effect in the amount of investment? that is not a claim that can be made without proof. If anything you can only say you don't know what is the correlation, not that there is none.

Can you show that an increase in law translations will lead to an increase in investments?

I posted a link from the MOJ about the translations

"The process is as explained in the document entitled Law Translation Workflow. First, the responsible ministry or agency prepares a draft translation of the law in question and submits it to the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice then has the draft proofread by a native English speaker, evaluated by a legal expert, and checked by a coordinator who is familiar with Japanese and English-language law. The responsible ministry or agency decides on a translation for release in consideration of the results of the evaluations and checks that have taken place at the Ministry of Justice, and that version is made available on the JLT Website as the finalized translation."

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Can you show that an increase in law translations will lead to an increase in investments?

This is a logical consequence that do not depend at all on any unlikely assumption, putting information outside so people can get interested more easily and commit to further efforts, no complicated logic on that, therefore it can work as a justification for the efforts being done to translate the laws. When you claim this is not the case then evidence becomes necessary, you did not claim this may or not be the case, your claim was that there is no correlation, based on apparently nothing.

I posted a link from the MOJ about the translations

Yes, and once again, your reference on the other hand do not claim that any of the people involved have the translation of the laws as their only duty. It does not refute what is reported in the NHK.

Nothing in the text you quoted says the translation is the only responsibility of any of the people involved, therefore a source that explicitly says they have other duties is still valid.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Native English speaker: A person who is from an English-speaking country, whose native language is English, and who is knowledgeable about both Japanese law and Anglo-American law.

** Coordinator: A person who is from Japan, whose native language is Japanese, and who is knowledgeable about Japanese law and English.

*** Specialist: A member of the Japanese Law Translation Council. The Council is composed of academics, attorneys, and registered foreign lawyers.

https://www.moj.go.jp/content/001401009.pdf

The native English speakers cannot work directly for the MOJ.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The native English speakers cannot work directly for the MOJ

Of course he can, being a native English speaker is not a standard that disqualify the person from working for the MOJ. This extra condition you came up on your own without being included in any of your references.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Non-Japanese citizens cannot be civil servants. I didn't say they didn't work for the MOJ I said they cannot be employed directly. The work is outsourced.

The people mentioned in my previous comment do not have other jobs.

Not all of those involved in the translations work directly for the MOJ.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Non-Japanese citizens cannot be civil servants

One, being a native speaker do not mean the person is a non-japanese citizen.

Two, the claim you make is explicitly denied by the own Japanese government.

https://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/human/econo_rep2/general.html

3. Employment of Foreigners as Civil Servants

(1)Japanese nationality is required for civil servants who participate in the exercise of public power or in the public-decision making; however, it is understood that Japanese nationality is not necessarily required for civil servants who do not engage in the above mentioned work.

So this claim you made is false.

The people mentioned in my previous comment do not have other jobs.

But they have other duties, which is the claim made in the NHK interview that you have not refuted with any source.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

When you claim this is not the case then evidence becomes necessary, you did not claim this may or not be the case, your claim was that there is no correlation, based on apparently nothing.

virusrex, you need to chill out, JT is a comment site, where contributors present an opinion.

Friendly advice, you understand.

Yesterday you advanced, enlighten me, on your extensive knowledge of local government health and safety policy. Its political consequences, and delivered with all insensitivity of a papal bull.

Opinion is discussion, opinion is about sharing rightly or wrongly ones views.

Nothing more.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

That would run contrary to what the NHK reports as a reason for the huge delays in the translation, but it is not unthinkable the spokeperson purposefully avoided commenting on this to have a better justification.

Since when have bureaucrats been forthcoming with factual information? My guess is that the process at the MOJ is so bogged down in the bureaucratic red tape of issuing orders, reviews, and approvals that they are way behind schedule in getting laws translated so are looking at AI to speed up the translation part without having to reform their own processes.

Of course he can, being a native English speaker is not a standard that disqualify the person from working for the MOJ. This extra condition you came up on your own without being included in any of your references.

You seem to be missing Wallace's point. How many native English speakers who are also Japanese citizens, or who are not citizens but are interested in working in a Japanese bureaucracy, AND knowledgable about Japanese and Anglo-American law do you think there might be? Odds are a it's a tiny pool to choose from, hence the need to outsource.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

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