Translating maru batsu into English

Japanese has a very handy shorthand for rating things:

symbol pronunciation meaning
nijuu maru excellent
maru good
sankaku fair
× batsu poor

I avoid using these symbols in my English translations. Even if a legend is included, I think they're too "foreign" to be easily understood by non-Japanese speakers.

The "translations" I use depend on the context. If the full range of symbols is used for ratings, I often go with the letters E, G, N, and U, with a legend:

Topic Rating
Does not run in hallway E
Lines up after recess G
Raises hand before speaking N
Follows instructions U

E: Excellent; G: Good; N: Needs improvement; U: Unsatisfactory

Other alternatives are numerical rankings (3/2/1/0) and letters (A/B/C/D), also with appropriate legends.

If it's something like a list of features, where the Japanese would use 〇 for "feature supported" and × for "feature not supported," my preference would be to use checkmarks for the supported feature, and leave the unsupported feature blank.

Feature Viking LiteTM Viking PROTM

In something like a matrix with 〇/×, I'll often go with a green check for 〇, and a red X for ×:

  sprockets cogs wing nuts

2 comments to Translating maru batsu into English

  • Consumer Reports has its red-dot/black-dot system, which is actually pretty smart because they can show a huge matrix of product x feature evaluations and you can take it all in in aggregate, or focus on one line. Otherwise I’d agree on check/x.

  • I like the Consumer Reports style. It kind of distills the feature matrix to its essence. When you’ve got a bit more space, however, the visual cues of check-marks and such can be valuable.

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