To facilitate international transactions and attract foreign investment, the Japanese Ministry of Justice has begun using artificial intelligence to expedite the release of English translations of laws and regulations. Prior to this initiative, it took an average of two and a half years to publish English versions of these documents.
By leveraging AI, the ministry aims to make translations of critical laws and regulations available within a year of their enactment or amendment. In 2009, the government launched the Japanese Law Translation Database System, which provides English translations of laws and regulations. Out of the 8,000 laws and regulations in Japan, 915 were accessible in English as of November.
The translation process entails each ministry or agency drafting an English translation of the laws and regulations under its purview, which is then submitted to the Justice Ministry. Native English speakers knowledgeable in Japanese and U.S. laws review these drafts before they are published.
Preparing these drafts is typically outsourced to private companies due to budget constraints. However, officials from the ministries or agencies sometimes draft these translations themselves while performing their regular duties. Of the two and a half years it takes to publish the translations, approximately two years are spent on preparing the drafts.
In 2019, the ministry formed a panel of experts to analyze the global dissemination of Japanese laws and regulations. The panel, which included business professionals from Japan and overseas, emphasized the need to accelerate the translation process as outdated translations could lead to confusion.
Consequently, the ministry has been exploring the use of AI to expedite the process. During the current fiscal year, which began in April 2023, an AI system specializing in translating laws and regulations was created through collaboration with a research institute and a private company. The ministry has been testing the system since December.
Officials revealed that the system can now produce highly accurate English translation drafts in a matter of hours, even for extensive laws and regulations. In the upcoming fiscal year, the ministry intends to publish 320 laws and regulations in English, which is more than twice the usual annual output. Additionally, the government intends to implement this system in all ministries and agencies during the next fiscal year.