Needless to say, Japanese is a difficult language to translate into English. Just one of the many reasons for this difficulty is that generally there’s nothing to indicate that the title of a book, document, etc. is actually a title in a written Japanese text. Occasionally, titles are encased in quotes (「」), but this is usually only the case of book titles or other media, and even then not only is this rare, but quotes are also often used just to add emphasis.
Documents from large companies are often littered with references to other official documents, manuals, and applications. Often, these documents will already have an official English title. If you are in doubt as to where a particular block of text is a title or not, it’s best just to contact the client or agency you received the document from. At the very least, leave a translator’s note in the form of a comment in Word, etc., indicating your uncertainty and providing two separate translations (one that can be used if the highlighted text is an official title and one that can be used if it’s just a general phrase).
One type of title that is particularly easy to overlook if you haven’t encountered them before is the name of laws. Take, for example, “資源の有効な利用の促進に関する法律.” At first glance, this may look like a general phrase about “laws concerning the promotion of the effective utilization of resources,” but actually, it’s the name of a law which would be more properly translated as the “Act on the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources.” (part of the tip off that this is the name of a law could be the stiffness of the phrase, but sometimes the style of the document is just as stiff).
The official source for “unofficial” English translations of Japanese law names is theJapanese Law Translation website operated by the Japanese government (from which the above translation comes). Any time you see the word “法律,” treat it with a modicum of caution and plug it and the phrase proceeding it into the site. Often, however, laws are referred to by common names shorter than the full, official title used by Japanese Law Translation, which frequently fails to recognize the shorter version. Even if you don’t get a hit on that site, it’s often a good idea to also try the excellent dictionary composite site Weblio or even just do a regular Google search to be safe.
As you should be well aware if you are a current or aspiring Japanese translator, Japanese personal names are simply impossible to translate without help. Even the characters used in common names can be pronounced multiple ways, never mind the increasingly creative pronunciations and character combinations given to the names of members of younger generations. Further, even if you are verbally told the pronunciation, you still need to know the correct romanization, since several romanization systems are currently in use. In a best case scenario, your client will provide you with a list of all personal names appearing in the document as well as their proper romanization before the project starts. If you didn’t get such a list in advance and run into a name you didn’t notice before accepting the assignment, email the client. If the client is difficult to reach or has specified so, you could also leave personal names untranslated with translator’s notes attached to each indicating the need to fill in its romanization. If you are working with a big company and they have a website that is available in both English and Japanese, you can try searching for pages on their site that contain the Japanese name and then look for the matching English page. If the site itself does not have a search engine, you can search their site from Google by first searching for the term you are looking for, clicking the gear button on the right side of the search results page and selecting “Advanced search,” and then typing the address of the site you wish to search in the “site or domain” field on the advanced search page.
Unfortunately, however, most Japanese companies do not translate every page on their website, instead offering a sort of mini version of their site in English. In that case, you can try searching their site for the Japanese name and looking for other relevant information about the person such as their job title or projects they worked on. Then search the English site using probable pronunciations of the person’s name, taking care to match any hits you find with the information you discovered about the person when searching the Japanese site. Even if this method yields results, always attach a translator’s note. Especially in the case of personal names, there’s nothing wrong with asking the client to check your information; as mentioned above, it’s simply impossible to know the pronunciation or preferred romanization of personal names without being explicitly informed of them.
Possible pronunciations of names can be found by searching with Weblio, but I find usingFirefox with the Rikaichan add-on and a blank text entry field such as this one is much more flexible and faster as well.