So, this tip speaks to the advice on getting organized — your level of organization will largely determine your ability to do quality work within a set amount of time. As you develop a working relationship with a given agency, you will know and be able to clearly communicate whether you can accept or turn down an assignment. Be honest with your clients, Robinson says. When you have a specialty, especially one that not many other translators have, it stands to reason that you be more in-demand for an agency looking for that specialization.
For example, if you do well at translating legal documents, then it would be smart to look for jobs with legal offices. Your specialty can make you stand out, translator Chiara Grassilli writes. As a translator, you should always continue your professional development. Following this method is a way for all translators freelance or otherwise to be proactive and take control of their careers in a deliberate way.
This also demonstrates to potential clients that you are always willing to learn new things. Certification helps you look more professional and it also shows an agency that you have the necessary skills to get the job done. This means reaching out to various professionals in the field, even other translators at your agency. Instead, they can open doors to you via referrals. Networking is a great way to get your name out there and to open yourself up to more opportunities.
In the beginning, this might mean some lean months. He recommends one of two methods of pay for translators: a certain amount per word, or a monthly wage. He says he prefers to charge per word so that his pay scales with how much work he puts in. Chiara Grassilli has a helpful rundown of the various types of organizations where translators can find work.
This is a good way to get on the radars of other agencies while doing some potentially very rewarding work. Another important part of freelancing is improving your communication. Keep in contact with the agency throughout the course of translating a project for them. By doing this, you can preempt any chances for miscommunication. Freelance translator Tess Whitty says the most frequent cause of problems with clients is poor communication.
Finally, consider the bigger picture of what it means to be your own boss. Corinne McKay says this is one of the best parts about working freelance: The clients that you do for work, how much time you spend on each project, when you work, and how much you charge are entirely up to you. However, this also means that you have to be responsible and manage your time wisely. The best way to do this is to think of your freelancing career as a business. Six of these were as part of my formal education, and one Japanese I studied entirely without the "benefit" of any institution of learning.
Yet Japanese is the only one I am fluent in. It is also the one on which both my profession and everyday social and family life are now based. As for learning the fields of translation, this is an on-going process. When I graduated from university, the topics I now translate in computing and telecommunications barely resembled what they are today.
LSIs, fiber optics, and microprocessors didn't even exist. I owe much more to a lifelong love of electronics and gadgetry than anything I learned in school. Sorry if I appear to be scornful of education; that's not my purpose. University taught me how to think and do research, and put me alongside some very stimulating people from all over the world.
But it sure didn't teach me how to do my job. I didn't mean to imply that I didn't have a university education. What I said was that I had "zero years of college Japanese. But what I studied in college and graduate school has helped me only indirectly in my work as a translator, and has been of much less use than the things I have learned outside of academia.
I came to Japan at the age of 26 with no knowledge of the language at all, and I didn't acquire much for the first six months or so. Then, because my application for a work visa was rejected, I had to enroll full-time in a Japanese language school so that I wouldn't get thrown out of the country.
The school I chose was the cheapest in Tokyo at the time; that's why I chose it. Some of the teachers at the school were good and a few were horrible one of the latter was fired and is now a popular street palm-reader in Ginza. I got excited about learning Japanese and I spent almost all my non-English-teaching time for the next couple of years studying and reading Japanese.
I graduated from the school and passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam Level 1 at about the same time I started looking for work as a translator. Though I made some blunders in my early translations I make them still , I think I was ready to begin translating when I did. My brief post-university work experience in the U. I also had, and still have, a strong distaste for "translationese," those literal, unnatural translations that some translators produce.
A lifetime spent reading hasn't hurt, either. Among the jobs I've done over the past year: The history of an acting company for a theater program. A series of papers on the Japanese and world oil industry. Several PR video scripts. A project proposal for an oil refinery to be built in Taiwan. Advertising brochures for televisions, VCRs, stereos, and batteries. Several construction machinery catalogues. An instruction manual for a currency processing machine. Many business letters and reports.
Aside from these last two, which did require some background in linguistics, none of these jobs used any knowledge that I had acquired at university. In the hope of pressing home the point that there are more ways than one to make a living as a translator, here's my experience. I was two years in Japan without any formal training in the language when I undertook my first translation for pay. After two years working in-house, I became a full-time freelancer, full-time meaning ten to fifteen hours a week. I now work for two large direct clients, both of whom have other translators available, and one agency.
For six to seven months out of the year, I'm quite busy in Tokyo. The rest of the year is spent on the road -- cycling, kayaking, or just bumming around. I usually carry a laptop and modem and a few EBs and will take on large jobs as they come up. Although proximity has its virtues, today's technology makes it possible to translate from just about anywhere in the world. Naturally, you need to establish a relationship with the client first. I don't charge as much per page as some of the people on this list, but I've always considered that differential something of a "freedom tax.
Some of the posts on this topic seem to be equating good Japanese ability with good translating ability, but that is not necessarily the case. Although language skills are undoubtedly vital, they do not in themselves guarantee the ability to convey meaning from one language to another. Transfer skills are also necessary. These are aimed at professional translation nothing like any translation you may have done in your undergraduate Japanese courses , and they are a shortcut to acquiring some of the knowledge and experience that most of us have taken years to acquire.
At the University of Queensland, we are also often able to introduce students to job opportunities that get them started out in the profession. Apologies for the plug! After formal studies in Japanese I worked in Japan as an in-house translator and then as a freelance translator for about nine years. Then I did a PhD on Japanese-English translation, and this provided a whole new perspective and depth to my practical experience.
And now I teach J-E translation, and every day I learn enormously both from my students' problems and from their solutions to their problems. I aquired my language skills through self-study. As in, several hours a day basically, because I liked it. I spent nearly five years in Japan, the first two as an English conversation instructor. After two years, I was able to find work as an in-house translator of magazine and newspaper articles about Japanese society, politics, economics, and other subjects of general interest.
I was lucky: I applied at several companies for in-house translation jobs, and none of the companies cared as much about experience, academic background, etc. The interview and testing process earned me a demanding and fulfilling job, where I stayed for nearly three years before returning to the United States and embarking on the freelance path. If pressed to explain how I learned enough Japanese in two years to become a translator, I would say 1 I am visually oriented, and readily took to kanji; and 2 I learned natural sentence patterns, and expanded my vocabulary, by supplementing textbooks with magazines and other material designed for native Japanese readers as soon as I was ready--maybe even before I was ready.
I would listen to the radio and watch TV even when I was not yet able to understand one-tenth of what was being said, and in the same fashion I tackled magazines, manga, etc. I also knew better than to try to force myself to slog through material in which I personally had no interest.
Thus I inevitably chose manga or pop magazines over, say, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. I now do work for various agencies and the occasional direct client. It has not been smooth sailing all the way, and it sounds as though some people on the list make more in a month than I make in a year! Then again, the cost of living here is lower, and I have been known to turn down work if it would cut too much into my leisure time.
Thus far, I have managed to pay my bills and even put a bit of money away. Most of my work as a freelancer has been in the area of corporate communications promotional materials, etc. I've also translated a health-related book this past year. In addition to translation, I also do checking and editing work. Until I went to Japan, editing was my full-time profession. I had the good fortune to be able to learn Japanese under the direction of some first-rate literary translators at the University of Michigan, and I remember one telling me that "understanding the Japanese is the easy part; expressing it in English is the hard part.
I've since found that to be true for myself. The limiting factor on my skill as a Japanese-to-English translator is not my Japanese, it's my English. Born in Hawaii, I was exposed to anime and tokusatsu in the early '70s, when I was about six years old. I fell in love, and they've been a part of my life ever since.
Is Becoming a Japanese Translator Right For You?
Then I had the opportunity to get my hands on real anime, and by this point manga as well, unedited and untranslated. I decided to start studying Japanese so I could read and watch what I was collecting in its original form. My first formal courses were night classes once a week at a community college where I lived, in my senior year of high school.
As an aside, I also aced four years of German in high school, but I hardly remember any of it. You can imagine what they were like. I wasn't satisfied myself, both with my own work as well as what I was seeing around me, amateur and pro alike, and kept working at it, determined to improve. Back then the fans were pretty receptive to someone making an effort to give them something they couldn't get elsewhere, and this made for a pretty safe place in which to start honing my skils.
Essentially, I began studying Japanese and translation for personal satisfaction. I think having a personal interest of some sort makes for much better motivation than simply earning classroom credits. Speaking of which, about this time I was going to college UC Santa Cruz , where I ended up taking another two years or so of Japanese studies. I did get value out of my coursework, because it helped me get the basics of grammar, pronunciation, and writing.
But eventually I hit a wall, and to get over it I started reading novels as well as manga, trying to resort to dictionaries as little as possible. As a result, I can now read a page bunkoban novel in about a week, if I'm reading nothing else a rare occurrence. In a computer software designer was advertising on Usenet for translators for a new anime subtitling company he was forming. I heard about it from a friend, contacted the person in question he was in New York while I was in California , and that was how I broke into professional translation--through the side door.
I was fortunate in that the other person to answer the ad was a native Japanese speaker with English as a second language born in Japan, his family moved to the States when he was a small child. Thus, we complemented each other very nicely. My years at AnimEigo would be an intense, yet still relatively risk-free, training ground. In , AnimEigo brought some of its operations to Tokyo, and sent for me to take over subtitling as well as translation. I didn't have a college degree still don't , and didn't have enough documentable experience to qualify for a working visa on that basis.
So I began attending Japanese school. All the while, I was living in Japan basically on my own, and had to learn day-to-day conversation just to survive. Now I do a variety of translation work in-house, and work on freelancing opportunities within the industry.
I've turned a hobby into an occupation, and most of it has been flukes so far. Now I'm starting to exercise some personal initiative, as I look for a publisher for a couple of book translations, among other things. Here's to whatever comes next My training was more or less conventional -- a year in Japan during college, and then completed the Naganuma advanced modern Japanese program -- but the first person I worked for was a one-man agency who had started as an editor in Japan with no formal language training; he pasted a Touyou Kanji chart to his office wall, started at the top, and memorized his way down.
By the time he hired me part-time, he was very successful as a translator, doing mostly computer and equipment manuals. He let me start on less technical stuff that was too much trouble for him to do. His spoken Japanese was pretty bad, but his clients including some end users loved him -- he did good work, liked to go out drinking with them, and was generally seen as a good fellow.
So there are lots of different methods for getting started. I've always noticed a conspicuous lack of translators among those I studied Japanese with in university. Maybe a lot of my contemporaries regarded the study of the Japanese language as a stepping stone rather than a goal? The standard piece of advice for aspiring translators at least, it's the standard for me is that finding a suitable subject matter specialty is at least as important as learning the foreign language.
Finding translation work
Most people who think that they might like translating as an occupation fail to realize that their clients will be paying them to translate specific documents, and this will require the translator to know something often a lot about a specific area of human endeavor. Are you very knowledgeable about a certain area of science or technology?
A branch of industry? Financial business? If not, you will probably have a hard time getting much work. Also, unless you are a phenomenal language learner, I doubt that you can learn enough Japanese by self-study to become a professional translator. It's a damn hard language for English speakers and vice versa. Assuming that you have at least one of the aforementioned subject areas lined up, I would advise you to spend a few years in Japan, studying the language from professional teachers and acquiring familiarity with the culture.
Once you have satisfied these requirements, we can begin discussing how to find clients. Good luck! I was raised on a steady diet of Japanese anime myself go ahead, ask me anything about Gundam : , but I realized how "blind" a translator of pop-culture materials is when I first sat down to do an actual translation of the text of a video game a year or so ago. There simply aren't any reliable study guides or dictionaries available for up-to-the-minute slang and "street talk.
That's funny: I've noticed that many people in the field seriously underestimate the level of language skill needed for translation. I don't know any other translator who said they started out wanting to be a translator. Not that there aren't people who do become a translator because it was a long-time goal. But in the case for Japanese, I think it takes at least five to six years of relevant experience and training learning to become proficient at any level of translation above the very very low value-added end.
I graduated from one of the major Japanese national universities with a major in economics, did all my course work in Japanese, and it's only been in the past four years or so that I have felt comfortable enough to call myself a 'translator'. For Japanese, anyway, it just takes a lot of committment and dedication to set your sights that far ahead - which is why most JPN-ENG translators sort of fall into the field. I also never really set out to be a translator - my interest was economics and finance, and that's what I was doing when I sort of backed into translation.
Of course, the intense field work from previous jobs was a major help. Other people have suggested it and implied it, I will say very directly - if you don't have a solid background in a particular field or hobby a friend of mine makes a very good living in Europe translating from French to Japanese material on chess, an old hobby of ours from university days - he'd starve to death in the States , it is almost impossible to become a translator.
Obviously, having a broad, general and diverse background of Japanese being exposed to a variety of fields and experiences will help you diversity across fields, which may help if demand in one particular field suddenly dries up - but ultimately, you need English knowledge of the work you're doing to be a good translator - knowing the Japanese is useless if you don't know how to make it sound natural in English.
Just ask any other translators - even the best of them will struggle outside a field they feel comfortable in myself included, and I'm not even one of the best of them. I would also say that game software, anime, and other such areas are indeed very difficult areas to master for a translator, but if they are an interest of yours, than by all means let that be your road to translation - there is a market for work in those fields, and particularly for game software.
No one says everyone has to translate patents and annual reports. I personally would much rather translate something I find interesting; translating a piece of boring or uninteresting material can be about as much fun as watching paint dry. There are very few people in this world who can translate a complex Japanese phrase into a natural-English sentence well.
First Steps For Your Translation Business – Part I
There is a tremendous amount of work to be done however that demands such skills. I am on my 5th year of living in Japan not consecutive years and I feel that I am far from being able to translate without a safety net. Though several people have suggested specializing in a particular field, that is not the only choice. I and at least a few other people on this list do not have a readily definable field of specialization. Some types of work in which source-language comprehension and target-language eloquence are more important than field-specific knowledge are advertising and public relations; speeches, scripts, and other texts for spoken delivery; newspaper and magazine articles; and, for those who don't mind penury, literature.
If you have many interests and have trouble choosing a specialty, then don't be afraid to become a translator first and a specialist later or never. Since I started studying Japanese only after I came to Japan, I can't quite imagine what it's like to try to achieve fluency in the language without being here. But until you have a chance to come to Japan and afterwards as well , one of the best ways to prepare yourself linguistically to be a translator is to read a lot of Japanese.
Read novels, magazines, newspapers, video game manuals, manga--whatever you're interested in. Read a lot, and keep reading even if you don't understand everything. If you find yourself losing interest because it takes too long to look up unfamiliar words in dictionaries, then separate your reading from your vocabulary building: read and read and read without a dictionary, and study vocabulary using word lists and textbooks.
Finally, one advantage of translation as a profession is that it allows relatively easy transition to and from other professions. As others have noted, most translators start out doing something else before becoming translators. What is less often mentioned here is that people also leave translation to take up other careers, including teaching, editing, writing, research, and running their own businesses.
Many people, including myself, wear multiple hats simultaneously. In each case, the experience gained in one profession pays off in the others. Basically you can be a specialist, or not, it depends on your own priorities, interests, and favorite skills. I'll just say I studied for a Lot of Hours to be able to do that--and I have always found second language acquisition to be Really Easy and Enjoyable, relative to most of my peers.
My study of reading and vocabulary was almost entirely self-directed and I never went to a Japanese language school, except for a very short time. What I did do was regularly participate in a language exchange arrangement focused on spoken communication. Also, throughout this time, I was living in Japan and using the language for practical purposes on a daily basis.
Identifying those things that you can both do well, and love doing, is very difficult, for most people.
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That's why going through a systematic exploratory process to figure them out is very important, for most people. Bolles' book offers a great process for identifying both your favorite skills What you want to do and your favorite fields of knowledge or endeavor Where you want to it. To get started, you might enjoy translating something that you've read and enjoyed, regardless of the field it's in. My first unpaid translation was a short story that I liked and wanted my non-Japanese-reading parents to read.
Learning to translate with good quality partly depends on the quantity of translation work you've already done because the work, whether or not its paid, gives you opportunity to meet first hand, and experience tackling, the various problems involved in translation , so it couldn't hurt to get started. A method that I adopted years ago during the intense language-acquisition phase was to make up my mind before starting to read whether or not I would be reading simply for general comprehension or as a grammar-skills and vocabulary building exercise.
That resolved up front the occasionally agonizing dilemma of whether to interrupt the reading process to make sure I could account for everything that was happening in the text, or to keep on trucking, mindful that we all have acquired much of our understanding of our native languages through intensive, long-term exposure, not necessarily via grammar books.
I can attest from my personal experience that you do not need to have some sort of advanced degree to be a professional translator. I guess that makes me kousotsu in the vernacular. I support myself quite nicely as a full-time technical translator. Of course, I already have 8 years experience in the business and clients care much more about experience than anything else. I started out translating in-house at a Tokyo sci-tech magazine publisher. They were quite lenient about deadlines it was only a quarterly and the editors would point out my mistakes quite carefully.
Even though I did not have a degree, I had studied university physics for two years and was quite interested in the physical sciences in general, having read many science magazines religiously Scientific American, etc. If you have a particular field that you are interested in, you might try making that your "specialty" by getting and reading as many dictionaries and English publications you can on that specific field.
If you can demonstrate a reasonable familiarity with the terminology for one specific field, airlines, for example, then you can tell the translation agencies that this is your specialty. Then, when they come across something in that field and their regular translators are hiking the Himalayas, your name will stick out and they will call you. The problem with going the freelance route is that you pretty much have to call and fax and bother and pester the agencies for at least six months before you will get any reasonable response at all. Once they are used to hearing your name, they will call you, but that first six months of no income can be a killer.
As a generalist, I don't think it is necessary to specialize, except in learning Japanese and learning to translate. Another thing: degrees aren't worth much. Get past it. However you can get a foot in the door, go for it. Answer a call for translators that gets posted on Honyaku, for example, do a few trial translations Be honest about where you are, get taken under someone's wing, and study up while on the job for the first two to three years. Actually it's an ongoing learning process.
100 Tips on Becoming a Translator
Translation is the school of hard knocks. You learn from doing. There is no single "getting the job. Building good working relationships is the goal. You like to work with someone; they like to work with you and like your work. The pay is acceptable. It may take time at first, but you get faster and better with experience.
10 Tips for New Freelance Translators
Then your skills are worth more, you can ask for more, you can handle more. When you can work twice as fast, the same page rate starts looking quite good. But you have to start somewhere. That's why some people suggested working in-house. You don't have to start that way. I didn't. But you do have to start somewhere. Yes, get thee to the Land of the Rising Sun You can certainly become a Japanese translator with no experience of living in Japan.
You just can't become a good one. For one thing, you will still have to converse with Japanese clients on the phone, and your spoken Japanese will have to be good enough to give them confidence in your abilities. Unless you are some kind of prodigy, your spoken Japanese is likely to sound stilted and unnatural without at least a year of living in Japan. And no hanging out with mostly foreigners, either he says wagging his finger.
There are always words or phrases that you must have a handle on the language as a living thing to understand. On a different note, I would agree that acquiring knowledge in a specific area is going to be much more useful than studying the craft of translation itself in some structured way. Translation itself you can -- must, really -- learn by doing. Even "technical texts" are seldom entirely technical -- they are written by people in a certain culture in this case, Japanese culture for readers in that culture, and it is surprising how often authors of "technical" texts assume that the reader has a knowledge of some aspect of the culture.
Therefore, the translator, who always has to start by reading the text, must also have that knowledge, and the more experience the translator has had living in a Japanese environment i. Certainly it may be difficult for someone who has financial problems to get to and live in Japan, but I think every effort should be made to do it for at least a couple of years, if one aspires to be a Japanese translator.
On the question of living in Japan, I believe that it is essential for learning to speak and understand real spoken Japanese, with a few very rare exceptions, such as a young man I met at a language school in Beijing ten years ago. And the ability to speak Japanese is very handy when discussing terms and the like with Japanese clients on the phone. I also agree with the people who said that experience living in Japan is necessary for understanding the little details of everyday life and how people express intangible concepts.
For example, I just finished an article that had a lot to do with food and restaurants. I had to figure out what those vague terms about flavors and ambiences referred to in the real world, which I could do, because I've patronized a lot of restaurants in Japan. Then I had to rewrite them in a way that would make sense to English-speakers. If you're translating patents or other highly technical texts, you may be able to get by merely with an ability to untangle long sentences, but even that ability is greatly aided by the experience of listening to long sentences well, not as long as the sentences in patents, but still pretty long [g] and training your brain to understand them on the spot.
At the very least, you need to be knowledgeable enough in the field of each particular job so that you understand what the author is saying including what the author is not saying and why and are able to say it the way somebody in the field would say it in the target language. And that means specialization. But do you need a degree in the specialty?
Probably not. Like being a translator, you just need to be good. In most fields.
However, there are fields in which having a degree or other qualification can make you "more real. Likewise with a lawyer doing law. Or a doctor doing medical things. However, the specialized knowledge and the degree that represents it is only part of the total translation package. So rather than worrying about the degree requirement, I would worry about specializing in fields of particular interest and spending a lot of time getting good. You don't need a degree in translation. You don't need a degree in English. You don't need a degree in Japanese.
Forget the degrees and medals and all and concentrate on getting good. Start now, at the bottom of an economic cycle. By the time it eventually hits a peak don't even ask at what level that will be you will be experienced enough to take care of yourself when budgets are cut. Breaking into the market as a freelance translator may be difficult, so try the old strategy of starting off working in-house somewhere to develop skills. If you can pick up a little work on the side, without a conflict of interest, that is OK.
Develop superior skills in the target language. Do this by deliberate study and careful reading, books on rhetoric, for example.
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Expand your vocabulary so you don't fall into the amateurish trap of falling back on the first word in Nelson's and letting it go because it somehow fits e. For much work, you don't have to be an expert in the target field, but you have to be able to understand what the experts are writing. Develop an understanding for social limitations to the quality of the original Japanese that you are given. Buy books and get magazines in your target field and output language, if you can afford them.
Second-hand is good enough sometimes. College textbooks in your field are good to have.
go here They will give information in context; scanning not necessarily studying them will position you to undertstand material. Learn how to appraise client needs, client perceptions of the original, the work required, and the desired output. Put effort into developing client relationships for two-way benefits. Know when to decline a job offer because you need not say it to anyone it is too tough. I would add that it pays to subscribe to a few magazines in one's special field and target language, to stay familiar with what is going on.
For experienced translators, skimming this kind of material is enough to get a feeling for the terminology, usage patterns, etc. Scavenge the used book dealers for basic references even if out of date. For one, you may get some older material to translate, and, further, it is usually simple to judge if content is dated. Sometimes older books have better explanations than newer ones.
The best basic reference on statistics that I have is from the s. Work hard always at CRM Client Relationship Management so that when there are problems in the original you can explain them and get a go-ahead for judgmental treatment, or clarification, as well as acccess to information. Learn to subsist on low income for a number of years. Wear hand-me-down clothing. You only need one suit, one shirt and one tie to visit clients. From November , in reply to a question from a student of Japanese:. These books will explain the ABCs of getting into the industry, securing work as a freelancer, and so on.
One thing that has come up here in past discussions of entering the industry, and that is probably the most important point to emphasize to you: Knowing Japanese or any other foreign language well is not enough. You will need to develop extensive knowledge of a technical field or two if you hope to make a living as a professional translator.
Specialties vary across a wide range, and include fields like chemistry, pharmaceuticals, finance, engineering, telecommunications and so on, but it is important that you develop a grounding in at least one of these fields. One good way to do so is to work for a time for a Japanese company as an in-house translator so that you can develop some expertise and hone your skills. John Marchioro. John is exaggerating when he says you need to have a specialty "if you hope to make a living as a translator". I agree that it is beneficial to have a specialty, and I enjoy the medical and biotech translation that I do, but there are plenty of people who make a living as generalists.
It's a matter of needs and temperament and knowledge. Zachary is right. I do not have any particular technical specialty myself, since my own background is in the social sciences and it has been of little help for most of the translation work I do the occasional academic paper aside. I regularly lament the fact that I took so few natural sciences courses as an undergrad. But I do think this bit of advice is solid for someone in the early stages of contemplating a career in translation. Having such a specialty will certainly make your life easier if less eventful since you will be translating copy in the same familiar field every day.
And you will likely be faster and consequently make more money at it over the long haul as well should you work as a freelancer. The absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to go to Japan to live for a few years. Although just going to Japan is no guarantee of becoming fluent, I can say with confidence that it is very hard to get truly skilled at Japanese without living in Japan. Not to mention that you need to have a good understanding of Japanese culture to hope to be a good translator. I would also do as much reading in Japanese as I could.
In my case, when I first when to Japan I found some computer magazines that I was interested in and read those a lot. Since I was interested in the subject, it wasn't a chore, and I also found that I learned a lot of vocabulary etc that came in handy years later when translating. You can start this now by finding Japanese web pages about subjects you are interested in and reading them. I also agree that having some kind of specialty is a good thing.
It doesn't necessarily have to be something complicated -- even if you just have an interest in computers or video games, you may be able to put your knowledge in that field to good use as a translator. If you are still in school and relatively sure you want to be a translator, it would probably serve you to take a variety of courses in fields that are likely to be in demand in translation. Evan Emswiler. Translations are not just about foreign languages at all.
A huge part of the job is research, and also you need creativity and understanding of your native language more than you need knowledge of the foreign language. To me, translating a language and teaching a language are totally different. Yuko Kubota. BTW, I'm not sure I would say a translator needs more creativity and understanding of one's native language than of the foreign language assuming one is translating into one's native language, as is usually the case , but being able to write one's native language well is certainly quite important, and is often taken for granted, though it shouldn't be.
After all, your translation is what the client will see. Which subjects will have the most demand is somewhat tricky to determine, and changes over time, but if you are not interested in any fields that enjoy large demands for translation e. Jon Johanning. When I started translation I thought I would learn a lot about Japanese, which I did, but I also ended up learning as much or more about English, which I didn't expect.
Any time spent now mastering good writing skills will be well worth your while. For example, can you distinguish between hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes, and do you know when to use which? Attention to such detail is one of the things that distinguish professional caliber translations. Dan Kanagy. I just struck me that many of the translators that I have met have asked me "What did you do before.
I have also seen only one person who actually graduated from a school with a translation related degree. This would seem to indicate that most translators start off somewhere else and then sort of fall into translation. If anyone sends me a resume seeking work, I almost always ask a question like "What did you do before? I don't think most people fall into translation from somewhere else, but I am interested in knowing what fields of human knowledge the person is familar with outside of the skill of translation. There are a lot of people who are native English speakers, who have learned Japanese as a second language, and who can translate superbly, but who unfortunately know absolutely nothing about anything outside English grammar and Japanese 4-character kanji sayings.
That's great if you are translating a letter home to Mom, but if the job at hand is a technical piece, I want to know what sort of technical background a translator has before farming out the job. There might be generalists who argue that they can and must translate everything. I would go along with the "must" part in some markets, but seriously doubt the "can" part in many cases.
That position is backed up by questions asked on this list. Without a field A, everything is or should be painfully difficult, and this sometimes leads to misconceptions about quality and qualifications.