Project Management Lingo – 請求書

The massive amounts of English required for grad school are slowly wearing down my Japanese ability, but I’ve found a couple of conversation partners (one who just returned to New Orleans) and I still get translation work every now and then (and some of those times I can actually fit it in my schedule). I recently did a little work for a company, and just this past Monday a check finally came through for some work I did over the summer. Both of these events reminded me of a critical translation/project management vocab word – 請求書 (せいきゅうしょ).

To break this fool down literally, first we have to chop off the suffix – 書. You probably recognize this as the character that means “write”; it gets tacked on to the end of almost any document. 身分証明書 (ID). 説明書 (instructions). 契約書 (contract). 計画書 (plan). I could go on for a while. So we have a document of a 請求. If we look at the different types of kanji compounds, I believe this is a combination of two different synonyms. Both 請 and 求 mean, loosely, “to ask for, to request,” so the combination together means the same thing – to request. What are we requesting? Payment, of course! We’ve done all the hard work. We’ve looked up words (not too many). We’ve Googled mercilessly and left comments where we couldn’t find an answer about something in the text (not too many). We’ve revised (quite a bit to smooth out our awkward translationing). And now we’ve finally sent the work in. Time to get paid. 請求書, in more familiar English, means “invoice.”

First I’ll address this from a translator’s perspective. Most companies want invoices by the end of the month, so you can save it until then or you can submit the invoice along with the finished translation. I always take the latter course so I don’t forget. If you get a lot of work from a company, then you can save all your invoices and send them together at the end of the month. Companies may charge a transfer fee of $10 or so, and if you are a yen pincher, then you could try and combine several months’ worth of invoices into a single month. Be careful, though – some companies ask that invoices be submitted within a certain amount of time after the translation is completed.

You want to make sure you have all your bank info on the invoice along with contact info and the job number (if you were given one). As a translator, you should expect to get paid a month or two after you submit your invoice. If you finish your work early in the month, then you may end up waiting as many as three months.

As a project manager, when you receive an invoice, the first thing you should do is print it out. At least that’s how we handled it where I worked. Whether or not you print it may be up to the company policy, but you should immediately take the first step toward processing the invoice. Forgetting to file a translator’s invoice properly is one of the most embarrassing things you can do – trust me. Translators help you look good (or at least try to help you look good), and it pays to take care of them. Once I printed and filed the invoice, I always confirmed this fact with the translator so they could have peace of mind.


Updates 2010/07/08

A couple of updates to old posts. If I added them to the actual posts at this point, no one would notice, so I thought I’d make a separate post.

Project Management Lingo – 改行

In the comments Arline reminded me of one of the commands that can be used to count characters in Microsoft Excel and Open Office. “=len(target cell)” will count all of the characters in the target cell. Note that this is all the characters regardless of line breaks. If you’re working with material that has line breaks within cells, then the easiest way might be to open up a separate file, do the translation line by line counting the characters with =len, and then pasting the final result back into the cells of the original file.

Underrated Phrase – そうですね

Check out the final Collabo-Ramen video! Did you notice the way that Komuro-san was answering my questions? For each of the two questions I included in the video, she begins her response with そうですね. Note the tone that she uses – this is exactly what I was referring to in the Japan Times article. Using this そうですね when responding to questions will make your Japanese sound much more natural.

Who will feed the Haruki Murakami fans online?

Since I wrote this post about Murakami’s/Murakami’s publisher’s Internetal ineptitude, I noticed that my Facebook profile was devoid of Murakami. That’s strange, I thought, I could’ve sworn I had him as one of the two authors I like under the “Books” section of my profile. (The other being Barbara Tuchman. “The Zimmerman Telegram” was a weird combination of all my interests/ethnicities – intrigue between U.S., Mexico, Japan and Germany. My father’s family is Mexican-American, and my father’s mother’s family were Germans who immigrated to Mexico.) I searched for Murakami on Facebook, and sure enough, the unofficial page had been deleted. There is now an official page run by Knopf, AND it’s being updated frequently. This has all happened in the past week and a half, however, so we’ll have to wait and see if it gets properly maintained or ignored like the Random House site.

Project Management Lingo – 改行

Translation isn’t only about content: often presentation is just as important. One of the most important aspects of presentation is 改行 (かいぎょう) – line breaks. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that a lot of Japanese content comes formatted with line breaks after every sentence. This formatting is especially prevalent in Powerpoint presentations.

You should always format the paragraph yourself when translating or editing a translation.
Otherwise you’ll end up with text that is shaped very strangely.
This is an exaggeration, of course.
But in Japanese, this doesn’t look as strange.
Part of it is because Japanese sentences are so long.
And the other part is that it’s much more standard to add line breaks manually in Japanese.
Check out an email from a Japanese person.
I think most Japanese people rarely make it to the end of a line without a manual line break.
Do your best to format the text into coherent paragraphs.
Often the Japanese will have an extra line break between sections, which should give you a hint at appropriate paragraphing.

The other important aspect of line breaking has less to do with presentation and more to do with programming. Because video game text has to fit on a screen, generally there is a cap on the number of characters per line: a “character limit” – 文字制限 (もじせいげん). I don’t know much about the specifics of how this works, to be honest, other than that translators and project managers have to abide by the character limits provided by game companies. Some companies have automatic solutions, but others still input the line breaks manually.

Japanese fonts are all monospaced (each character occupies a uniform amount of space), so it’s relatively easy to break the lines. English fonts are not, at least not always. Certain fonts are monospaced, the classic example being Courier. With a monospaced font, you can set a rubric for yourself at the top of a document. Say that the limit is 32 characters. Type out “abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz” – that gives you 26 characters, and you can add numbers to fill it out: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz123456. 32 characters. In the words of Emeril, BAM. Remember that this just gives you a rough estimate. You should be counting the characters as you go. (And, no, a character limit is not a good excuse for a poor translation.)

Depending on which version of Microsoft Excel you have, you can also use macros to count the number of characters. I’m not very good with coding and the macro I was taught at work doesn’t appear to work on Open Office nor on Office Mac 2008 (my current platforms), so I won’t pass it on for fear of passing out poor info. Anyone know any cool macros to count characters?

Project Manager Lingo – 納期

The second most important project manager word is 納期 (のうき). This shares the first character with 納品, but is in the order ADJECTIVE + NOUN, I think. I believe that you could draw out the compound to something like 納める期 or 納める期間, in which case the verb acts as an adjective. So literally “delivery period.”

The phrase I hear most often is 納期教えてください!

In my office, there are Japanese coordinators that receive translation requests directly from the client and then prepare estimates for the projects. In order to complete the estimate, they have to provide a 納期.

That’s where I come in. I take a look at the volume of the project and give the Japanese coordinator the 納期 – the number of business days it will take to complete a project. This includes the time it will take the translator to translate the material and the time it will take me to check and revise the translated text. I use the numbers discussed previously to come up with an estimated number of business days. The beautiful thing about 営業日 (えいぎょうび) is that they don’t include the weekend. Holy is the project that spans the weekend, for it giveth the translator extra days to work and therefore extra days to revise the document which in turn ensureth a more accurate and pleasant-reading translation.

When I get asked, 納期は? I usually answer with something like, 4、5営業日 depending on the volume. The client will take a look at the estimate the Japanese coordinator submits and then give the official go if everything is in order, at which point we determine the specific delivery date based on the 納期 we provided.

Project Manager Lingo – 納品 & How to Engrish

When I joined my company in 2008, I started work on a Thursday. I figured that would give me a nice two day period to get used to things before I had to tackle a full week. After very little in terms of orientation or introduction, they had me busy with an intense check of some business reports for a steel company. On Friday at the end of the day, one of the three other project managers said, “Oh yeah, Daniel. You need to fill out your shoehole.”

Shoehole? I thought. OK, sure. What’s a shoehole? “Here I’ll forward you mine.” Oh, it’s a weekly report or something. Cool. I managed to use my coworker’s template to fill out the work I’d done and then send it to the right people.

For the next few weeks, I updated my “shoehole” file diligently, still kind of wondering what the hell “shoehole” meant. I thought maybe it was some kind of compartment where employees used to deposit written reports in the 19th century, a term lovingly carried up to the present day, that I had been unaware of for 27 years.

At some point I finally realized what “shoehole” actually meant – 週報 (しゅうほう), weekly report. I place some of the blame for this on my own idiocy and the other guy’s pronunciation, but a lot of it is due to the office attitude, which was (and still is) one of doing for others rather than helping others learn how to do a better job. I’d been saying “shoehole” to everyone for a few weeks…and not a single correction? Maybe expecting an explanation of 週報 is a little much, but 90% of what I’ve learned on the job has been trial and error. The other 10% has been from questions I asked others. No one, not even other project managers, has gone out of their way to make anything easier, and I’d even say that the way information is kept from employees makes things more difficult and provides no incentive to be creative or efficient.

So in response to the apparent interest in project management and freelance translation last week, I’ve decided to start introducing some project management vocabulary, hopefully to arm you all with information I wish people had taught me. These will be useful to translators as well, especially if you are trying to communicate with a Japanese project manager or client.

The first word is the most important – 納品 (のうひん). This is a complex way to say “deliver.”

I delivered the translation to the client, so I can finally go home!

I’m busy today – I’ve got three deliveries to make.

Pretty simple once you get it down. The compound is in the pattern VERB + DIRECT OBJECT (品を納める) and combines the character for product (品, しな) with the multifaceted 納, which can mean send, pay, store, and settle, amongst others. It might help if you think of it as “take care of.” That covers a wide range of actions. As you can see from the above examples, it can be used as a noun or a verb.


A similar and also very useful word is 納税 (のうぜい) which means, using my little hint, “take care of taxes” – pay taxes.

Today is also the debut of my new Japanese site – How to Engrish. Essentially it’s the exact opposite of this site. My goal is to practice writing Japanese and hopefully to make English easier for Japanese people to learn.

I’ve got the Japanese-English language pair covered. Now just to employ an army of linguists to cover every other possible combination. There’s no reason why learning a language should be so difficult – millions of people speak them without any difficulty whatsoever, and a little insight provided by a teacher in the student’s native language can have a great effect. Language study is not a competition, and we should all make an effort to be more understanding with learners: any language mistake diminishes me, because I am involved in language. (It’s still OK to laugh at mistakes though.)

I’ll be going through some major changes in the next few months, so I’ll only post once a week at How to Engrish, and I plan to cut my posts here at How to Japonese down to two a week for now (starting next week) and possibly one a week with the occasional 号外 post. 2010 is certainly turning into an exciting, aggressive year: keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle and secure all children and personal belongings.