Anyone else frustrated with tech related Japanese?

There’s a bunch of WK community members involved in tech one way or another, me included. I specifically work with data pipelines, data lakes, warehousing, and cloud infrastructure.

The other day I was preparing to talk about my profession and tech stack in Japanese. Naturally, I don’t know many tech terms and vocab, so I went on a little research trip through the Japanese docs of various tools and services I already know, such as AWS.

And this research got me quite frustrated… Tech-related Japanese is pretty much katakanized english terms all over. It’s so ugly and difficult to read because of course there are no spaces.

On the plus side, if it’s spoken I can understand it relatively easily because it’s ~50% English terms that I am already familiar with.

Here’s sample ;D

AWS Lambda はサーバーレスコンピューティングサービスで、サーバーのプロビジョニングや管理、ワークロード対応のクラスタースケーリングロジックの作成、イベント統合の維持、ランタイムの管理を行わずにコードを実行できます。Lambda を使用すれば、実質どのようなタイプのアプリケーションやバックエンドサービスでも管理を必要とせずに実行できます。コードを ZIP ファイルまたはコンテナイメージとしてアップロードするだけで、Lambda はあらゆる規模のトラフィックに対して、自動的かつ正確にコンピューティング実行能力を割り当て、受信リクエストやイベントに基づいてコードを実行します。コードは、140 の AWS のサービスから自動的にトリガーするよう設定することも、ウェブやモバイルアプリケーションから直接呼び出すよう設定することもできます。Lambda 関数をお気に入りの言語 (Node.js、Python、Go、Java など) で記述し、サーバーレスツールと AWS SAM や Docker CLI などのコンテナツールの両方を使用して、関数をビルド、テスト、デプロイできます。

English version (maybe it’s not too clear as well? you tell me):

AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes. With Lambda, you can run code for virtually any type of application or backend service - all with zero administration. Just upload your code as a ZIP file or container image, and Lambda automatically and precisely allocates compute execution power and runs your code based on the incoming request or event, for any scale of traffic. You can set up your code to automatically trigger from 140 AWS services or call it directly from any web or mobile app. You can write Lambda functions in your favorite language (Node.js, Python, Go, Java, and more) and use both serverless and container tools, such as AWS SAM or Docker CLI, to build, test, and deploy your functions.

I bet it’s even worse if you’re native Japanese though… Not only you need to understand tech loanwords you often need to understand English because Japanese docs are poor or don’t exist at all.


I was in a Junior devops role in my company, before I left tech for Project Management. I think this is going to give me all kinds of nightmares.


I hear you. I have been studying technical Japanese for my job as well. Coincidentally, feeling the pain just last week, I searched for Japanese computer science books to sentence mine :slight_smile: I found this. Supposedly these are all legal-to-share resources, and it’s been a fair start for me. Not all resources are books, contrary to the repo name, though.

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I don’t think this is just a Japanese thing though. My native language is Dutch, and our tech words are pretty much all English, we only really change the verb endings to conjugate like Dutch verbs and that’s about it.

I think since it’s a relatively recent field, and a lot of the information is available in English, that a lot of languages just imported the English terms as loanwords. It does mean that if you’re holding a presentation, you’re always speaking some in-between of English and the actual language you’re using though :grin:


Same for German, most technical texts will be half English.
But at least in most languages you can just use the English words directly, not unreadable katakana salad…


Yeah, I agree, same in Russian to an extent. But in Japanese it seems to work especially bad compared to European languages.


I work as a Devops engineer in Estonia and speak a lot of Estonian and Russian for work and tbh it’s also quite bad

Luckily I only ever worked in English-speaking companies :slight_smile:

When talking to Russian-speaking friends about tech we usually insert English words and whole sentences because I don’t even know proper tech vocab (even though I grew up in a Russian-speaking family and I’m pretty much at a native level).

I guess it’s just a matter of getting used to all the katakana :frowning_face: But it’s definitely very different to the “normal” Japanese.

I agree 100% and yes, I’m equally frustrated. That includes tech language in all sorts of equipment manuals as well. I wouldn’t say the main issue is that it uses katakana, but at least to me it’s that some of the English words are completely butchered and I get lost when they sound too different.

Alas, that awaits me too when I move to Japan, since I’m a junior DevOps.

This is where “if you don’t know the word just say the English word in Katakana and you’ll be fine” actually works. :laughing:

For IT/computer science this is the case but if it is math or physics it’s totally different. Conversations about math and physics are challenging because there ARE Japanese words for everything. It would be much easier for me if all the words were Katakana versions of the English words I already know. So as a native English speaker, I find the opposite of this (which is the case for most sciences) more frustrating actually. Not saying anybody should be forced to learn English. It’s hard enough to understand the concepts in any language!

Do we really want a bunch of new kanji containing words as substitutes for the English ones?? Inventing new words that aren’t needed in order for them to be “more Japanese” when katakana words work fine is kind of cringey tbh. who would use them? why? But Katakana can also be cringey so :man_shrugging:



Much better. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

flashbacks to complex feelings of not being able to understand the kanji word for “corn” [玉蜀黍] on a fancy menu


It’s interesting, I had the opposite reaction when I started working in that field last year.

Because computers and programming are fairly recent, at a time where Japan already started to import massively English words, I fully expected that field to be 95% katakana english… And yes, there are a lot, especially new technology like cloud computing, but still, at the tactical level of day to day programming there is also a lot of non-katakana words (probably because lot of term come from math)

For example function, variable, parameter, field, member, integer, boolean, string, constant, return, exception, array, enum, union, allocation, deallocation, initialization, indentation, terminal, settings, restart, save, bandwidth, resolution etc etc, are all non-katakana

(And my mind was blown when I realized for the first time that WK L57 羅列 is actually the word used for enum !)


Honestly, I love it. I was helping a colleague understand some of the documentation for KDDI’s cloud infrastructure a few months ago and was like “Sweet, lots of free, career related Japanese vocab that I DON’T have to learn.”

I can’t let them in on the secret that they could learn how to read the diagrams with a few weeks of studying Katakana, at most. :smiley:

Once you read it enough you can quickly identify words from pattern recognition alone.

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I’m not sure if I am frustrated with it or not to be honest, the ‘katakana salad’ that someone else mentioned earlier is a bit of a nightmare at first but once you’ve seen the word a few times, it’s not so bad.

Thinking about it a bit more, I guess it’s not too bad because the meanings of the words don’t actually change between languages. A server is still a server in both languages. It’s the 和製英語 that people use on me thinking that ‘it’s English’ and lol, I can’t always work out what they mean because who knows that バイキング means ‘buffet’, it’s totally unrelated. バリアフリー as well, I was like ‘who is putting barriers up for who now??’

That is aggravating. Why would serverless be translated raw like that? Turning less into「レス」like that Does nothing in japanese to explain to the reader/listen that in this case サーバーがない。

I feel like it would be less obnoxious to just leave the document in English if they’re going to shoehorn everything into katakana like that.

This makes me appreciate how the Chinese are forced to come up with cool translations that are still descriptive since they don’t have a phonetic writing system. They probably say something like “Null thunder box” for “serverless”

Fact check time: okay so the 中国人 actually call servers " [服务器] service instruments". It’s not as cool, but it’s a much better description of what it actually does. Then they put 无 wú in front of it to become “wùfúwùqì 无服务器 Serverless”

Yeah, in that case there was a restaurant called Viking which introduced buffet-style, so it’s basically a case of a brand becoming generic.

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For what I’ve seen, in Chinese they enjoy to use chinese characters for almost anything. Sometimes it gives fun results. Here is a selection:
Computer: 電腦/电脑
Download: 下載/下载
Internet: 網絡/网络
Mouse: 滑鼠 (Taïwan)
Programming: 編程/编程
Software: 軟件/软件

If you’re level 31 or higher, your probably recognized all these characters :smiley:
(except for 鼠, which is not on Wanikani. It means “rat” or “mouse”)

To be fair, there are a number of other “-less” words in Japanese, that I think most could guess it.

Isn’t it about time those poor Japanese people finally got a space bar for their keyboards?