The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Google Translate

Part of my recent haul of books was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (sadly no furigana) which is written as 時をかける少女. I decided to use Google Translate to break it down into parts since the only bit I knew was 少女 and the results were a bit surprising.

時 translated as “time”, which makes sense, but をかける came back as “to multiply”. If I put the whole title into the translator then it gave the book title I expected.

Is this a case of people manually entering the translation to match the English title as the original Japanese is slightly different?

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I would suggest not using Google Translate, as it is not at all a reliable source of translation. In this particular case, the answer is simply that かける has a lot of meanings, especially when written without kanji. Google Translate just picks the one it thinks is best, which is usually not the correct one. You’d be much better off looking up the individual words on - that will give you multiple possibilities for each word along with definitions. Google Translate only gives you one English word, which is usually not sufficient to properly understand the original Japanese word.

In this case, it is probably 翔る, as in to soar, fly, or run.


Google Translate is somewhat heuristic. It works on phrases, not just the individual word level.

You can go to, and if you put a space before and after the particle wo, you can get a word by word translation:
時 を かける少女 - (Without the space, it gives you the book title)

kakeru could be 翔る, which has the meaning to soar or to fly.

Argh, ninjad!

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Thanks! I’ll use jisho as much as I can. I take it that the author’s decision to use hiragana on the cover gives some double meaning to it?

I’m not familiar with the work enough to know for sure, but that’s definitely a possibility. I’ve read, for instance, that ひぐらしのなく頃に is mostly written in hiragana because なく can mean “to cry” in the sense of an animal cry (鳴く), but it can also mean “to cry” as in to shed tears (泣く). Words can also have multiple meanings even when using the same kanji / spelling. For an example of this, try looking up 掛ける in Jisho. It has 24 different English definitions.





Oh my word! That’s going to be fun to learn! :smiley:

Google Translate is a useful tool, but it has a few big problems with it:

  • Japanese relies very heavily on context; the topic is frequently missing from sentences altogether, and some conjugations/grammar structures have multiple possible interpretations. Machine translation struggles with context a lot. There are also a ton of subtle nuances in Japanese grammar that will likely be completely lost in translation, especially so when it’s a machine doing the translating.
  • Google Translate will try to make sense of anything. You can give it some horribly mangled Japanese sentence and it will still attempt to give you a sensible “translation” as if nothing’s amiss.
  • This ties back to my first point, but as you’ve probably noticed, Japanese has a ludicrous number of homonyms compared to English. I suppose that’s unavoidable when an entire language consists of only ~100 distinct sounds. But yeah, any word not explicitly spelled out in Kanji runs a very high risk of GT straight up guessing the wrong meaning. In this case, かける has 25+ possible English translations, but Google only guesses a single one to present as an “answer.”

All things considered, it’s still a good tool to have, but you have to be very conscientious about how you use it. It’s best used as a way to double-check and verify your own understanding, but never take its translations at face value.


It was invaluable while I was in Japan for a holiday, but I’d like to go back now and find the kanji that gave me a menu translation of “negative meat”.


Shameless plug:

If you’re actively trying to step out on your reading skills, I highly recommend that you consider joining one of the book clubs on the forums (The Beginner Book Club and The Intermediate Book Club). It’s a great way to ask questions and get a deeper understanding of what you’re reading to build confidence. Please check these groups out!


Hi, I was lurking and saw your comment.
I had seen those book clubs the other day and I want to eventually try it. I ended up buying the first 2 volumes of Yotsubato for that purpose (probably would still buy them nonetheless though) since I saw that you have a discussion of that series.

So, what I’m intending to ask is, around which level of Wanikani should I try giving it a read?
I am still halfway through Genki… (and kinda have it on hold at the moment).
I don’t mind waiting, I was intending on giving it a try only once I finished the first book of Genki, but since I’m seeing another beginner of Wanikani tackling books I’m wondering if my approach is too passive.

Also, I feel like this is the first time seeing a user on the Internet named Lucas. Which is the same name as my younger brother. So yeah, really random, but I had to mention it!

You should definitely join! I personally was fairly new to Japanese when I joined this site about two years ago. So I wasn’t in the condition to read until the early 20s, but many users have exposure with the language prior to coming here so it really depends on you. How much effort to do you want to put into struggling with a book? There are individuals who are putting a lot of effort to push through while there are others due to time restraints who have to bow out until they have sufficient skills and confidence to read book and other Japanese media. But one thing for sure is the more you read, the better you get at it.

As for my username it has been something I’ve used for internet handles for a long time. So I’m glad that it’s not too common of a name.

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I really don’t mind putting some effort into reading. Especially since it is one of the reasons that I started learning Japanese in the first place.

Okay then, I will give it a try when it gets here. It will still take around 2 weeks, so I still have time to study more Genki and level up a little more here on Wanikani.
… and if I end up seeing that is a bit too much, I can always do like you said, stop and try it again when I feel more confident.

“But one thing for sure is the more you read, the better you get at it.”
This gets me really excited to start! haha

Thanks for the reply! It helped me clear this overcomplicated confusion that I was making.

Also relevant:

Relevant:Satori Reader | Help

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I’ve picked up some of the books suggested in the thread, and have a few others I picked up on holiday. I’m slowly working my way through little bits of them but I think Kiki will be beyond me at the moment. If the next one’s a simple manga and I’ve levelled up a bit then I’ll give it a go.

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I don’t know why this thread was bumped but oh well, I’ll respond to this anyway. The article is talking about the Kana only versions being mainly used when they’re grammaticalized. In this case I would say it’s more about using the broader less-specific meaning of かける

Also, 時をかける is so specific that googling that phrase literally all you get is references to the film.

What happened when she jumped through google translate?? That part of the story sounds the most interesting… Anyone can leap through time…but Google translate??

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