Annotating text in PDF viewers has been more or less a no-brainer; it’s even better now because such features only require very simple interface access and equally simple drag and click actions. However, when it comes to annotating a different language, particularly the ‘mystical’ East Asian languages, then there might be more than a few things that you want to learn or remember to do efficiently. For Japanese, here are four basic pointers:
Clauses and Phrases: Where’s the end?
The Japanese language is known to look as if it is an endless stream of text and letters without any spaces, spare for the sentence-ending punctuation marks. Highlighting the needed annotations would usually require knowing where sentence particles are or sentence pointers that designate new phrases and clauses. While this is not in any way difficult for someone who is already fluent in Japanese, the way some words end with letters and sounds similar to particles could occasionally make it confusing for intermediate learners. For Japanese learning text material, the annotations would usually comprise a direct translation to properly show each clause or the traditional method of simply using different colors to show.
Double character values and extended sentences
There are three major writing systems in the Japanese language. The third of these is Kanji, which is the logographic system that is used to instantly denote meaning to characters in writing words, terms, and even whole sentences. While Kanji letters may be used to write entire words, the complex nature of the system’s character combinations means that each letter is digitally assigned using “multi-byte” encoding. For actual written text, this usually means that each Japanese letter (even Kana letters) would take up writing space that is equivalent to at least two standard ASCII characters on screen. This might not mean much for the actual annotation, but it’s a basic tidbit that every user should know when highlighting digital Japanese text for various documentation purposes.
Character readability and legibility
OCR may perhaps be the greatest convenience man has ever devised in the trend of document digitization. However, while the standard English alphabet isn’t too difficult to scan and analyze by computers, even at the worst of handwriting levels, this may be different for Japanese characters. If you have ever seen a native Japanese person write something in Japanese, you will instantly understand why. Granted, the comment inside the annotation itself would of course always be digital, but the letters that are highlighted may or may not be properly scanned as a letter. At this point, my dear friends, we could simply surmise this as perhaps one of the most important points of Japanese annotation (hint: clarification).
Japanese Interactive Translation and Learning?
One very nifty possibility for annotating Japanese documents is interactive translation. If you ever get another Japanese-fluent pal to work on a Japanese document with you for learning or exercise, then live annotations, as opposed to regular comments or chat boxes, could greatly aid in making the study material more interactive. The annotations themselves could be pre-edited beforehand, only slowly changing or revising as the other person continues to use the PDF viewer as a learning tool. This can even be done with a considerable number of collaborators accessing the same PDF file at the same time; think about an entire class with the presenters as the teachers themselves.