How to translate a Japanese manual?

Snippet of a Japanese car manual

If you like Japanese cars chances are you start importing parts from the land of the rising sun directly or indirectly. Japanese part manufacturers, marketplaces and auction sites are all great places to hunt those parts you have been searching for. Many parts come with an instruction manual in Japanese, which is no problem when you don’t need. But what if you do? This article will explain howto translate a Japanese manual in a heartbeat.

Lets take the example of an oil gauge from a Japanese brand. You sourced one, bought it and had it shipped to your doorstep. Opening the freshly arrived package will hold a beautiful gauge from Japan, accompanied with a Japanese manual. Sometimes Japanese manuals are heavily decorated with images which makes them very readible. This however will not work in for example; a black & white manual describing wire colours.

Luckily, the internet can be a beautiful place sometimes. You probably know how to translate a foreign language using a variety of translating webpages.  But how to translate a Japanese manual that’s printed? Well, there is an app for that! Google Translate to be exact. Follow the steps below to get started translating paper manual, signs in public places, or even the labels you find in your imported JDM car! This will work for any other language as well.

Downloading the app

  1. Download the Google translate app to your phone (iPhone here or Android here)
  2. Select the input and output language.
  3. Tap the ‘camera’ button
  4. Aim at the text you want to translateA screenshot of the Google Translate app

Translating a text

When you hold your phone steady (sometimes words differ a little bit) you will see the translated text floating over the original text. It should give a good understanding of it means. Below an example of how a translated text might look:

Translated Japanese Manual

I have used this method many times and it has helped me a lot. I needed it mostly to figure out wiring diagrams. Hope this helps you translating too!

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