Getting into the translation business
Thread poster: GregLekich

GregLekich
United States
Local time: 18:03
Japanese to English
Nov 9, 2012

I'm an American who just recently moved back to the U.S. after 7 years in Japan, and am looking to pick up work as a Japanese-English translator. I have had a look around the site over the past 24 hours, and it seems that most clients looking for people to translate between these two languages want people who A.)are native speakers of both languages, B.)have long experience as a translator, or C.)have certification of their ability in Japanese, or D.)some combination of the three.

Unfortunately, I've none of these qualifications. Though my Japanese is pretty fluent with regard to everyday situations and topics it isn't native level, and translating technical language takes me a bit of extra time and the aid of a dictionary. In my professional capacity in Japan I did a fair amount of translation, some of it highly technical, but it wasn't my main focus and I never specialized in any particular area, so it's not like I can submit a truthful CV to a client stating that I have worked primarily as a translator for years or have extensive experience translating specialized language in any particular field. And I haven't yet obtained a certificate of Japanese proficiency, though I intend to take the test for one next month.

Given these limitations, I'm a bit nonplussed as to how to get my foot in the door. Does anybody have any suggestions? Would the mentor program be helpful? (I have some free time to do an apprenticeship but I also need to secure a paying job as quickly as I can).

Any help you could offer is much appreciated. Thanks!


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 01:03
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Best of Luck! Nov 10, 2012

As far as I can tell, you are in pretty good shape. Lets look at their requirements again:

people who A.)are native speakers of both languages,

One cannot be native speaker of two languages as far as I know. You are native in English, and that should be enough.

B.)have long experience as a translator, or

You stated that you did a fair amount of translation, some of it highly technical. That should be plenty.

C.)have certification of their ability in Japanese, or

Tell them that if they can find someone with valid Japanese certification, go ahead and hire that person. Otherwise, you are ready to take on the responsibility.

D.)some combination of the three.

Employers are always in search of employees who possess high qualifications but they can rarely find those. Almost always they have to compromise.

I would polish my resume if I were you, highlighting my qualifications. Best of luck to you!


[Edited at 2012-11-10 18:26 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't expect too much, too soon. But it is possible! Nov 10, 2012

GregLekich wrote:
it seems that most clients looking for people to translate between these two languages want people who A.)are native speakers of both languages, B.)have long experience as a translator, or C.)have certification of their ability in Japanese, or D.)some combination of the three.

Don't worry about (A) - that remarkable status applies to very few people here on ProZ.com or anywhere else. Unless a client has filtered job posters by this criterion (and thereby eliminated most of his potential suppliers), he will accept applications from target language natives. Having lived for a decent period in the target language culture is seen as a very positive qualification.

(B) is something that everybody in every walk of life suffers from at some point. Translators are no exception. (C), which you say you're working on, should sort out (D) as well. It's strange you say people want certification in Japanese, because proof of my abilities in French has never been requested - presumably because I was living in France at the time. I wonder whether they aren't specifically interested in Japanese to English translation certification, rather than Japanese (monolingual).

Would the mentor program be helpful?

I'm sure the programme would be helpful, as would a course (even a quite basic one) in translation techniques. You have a B.A., so a Master in Translation would be the perfect addition. You might also think of studying something (anything, really) that interests you, in both Japanese and English, to build up specialisation areas. Note that these are very important for visibility on this site, as is KudoZ participation in those areas.

You actually have an interesting skillset already, with just a few holes to fill, as your English writing skills are impeccable - that much is clear from your "About me" text on your profile. There's only one thing that worries me:

looking to pick up work as a Japanese-English translator.

(I have some free time to do an apprenticeship but I also need to secure a paying job as quickly as I can).

Translating isn't something where you can make quick money - it needs to be thought of as a career, rather than a "job". You may land a contract tomorrow, but the money probably won't come in for a month (or longer) and 1000 words won't pay many bills. Salaried jobs are few and far between, and normally go as internships (i.e. very low pay as they are considered training periods) or to highly experienced translator/proofreaders. Freelancing, whether it be translating, graphic design, programming..., rarely brings in a quick buck. You have to build a client base, which entails spending most of the first few weeks/months marketing your services in between the sparse paying jobs. So, you may be better off getting a part-time "day job".

P.S. I see Atil has already posted with a lot of the above while I've been preparing my reply. However, I have to say that I think you have an extremely good CV - remarkably waffle-free and reader-targeted.

Good luck!


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polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
what's the deal? Nov 10, 2012

Without wishing to cast a damper on your ambitions, I'm curious as to why, if you have experience in another industry, why you are so keen to become a translator, especially since, as you yourself say, you lack the basic credentials.
If, to translate technical texts, you need to spend valuable time poring over dictionaries, with no guarantee that you will hit on the right answer, you will be wasting productive, money-earning time and will have difficulty keeping the cash flow going (you will have costs in the form of computer equipment, stationery, taxes, perhaps accountant fees, insurance, electricity, Internet, etc.).
There are huge numbers of translators on the market, some with experience, top notch qualifications and reputations to match, the majority flailing around as best they can at the bottom end of the market. Is that where you want to be?
I know no Japanese, so this is not the reaction of a potential rival seeking to keep other talent off the market. I speak as one who is sick to the back teeth of bottom-feeding and crowd-sourcing.
Good luck to you whatever you choose to do.


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 00:03
English to German
+ ...
@Sheila Nov 10, 2012

I wonder, what "translation techniques" are.
Thanks
Rolf Kern, translator since 1973

[Bearbeitet am 2012-11-10 19:17 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Difference being bilingual and a professional translator Nov 10, 2012

Rolf Kern wrote:
I wonder, what "translation techniques" are.

Since you've been one for so long, Rolf, I'm sure you know there's a world of difference between being able to speak/write two languages proficiently, and being able to deliver quality commercial translations time after time. I only did a very basic course, but it helped me to fathom out how to deal with acronyms, proper nouns, untranslatables, register...


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The Misha
Local time: 18:03
Russian to English
+ ...
A Master in Translation is a perfect waste of time and effort Nov 10, 2012

... so a Master in Translation would be the perfect addition.

Seeing that you are an American, do not fall for that. Though I am sure there may be some differences across language pairs, no one in the US (and apparently in the UK as well, if my experience with British agencies is any indication) cares about your diploma, or whether you even have one. Everyone wants to know if you can do the job. Better spend your time and education dollars on building a specialization based on things that you already know or are simply interested in. Good luck to you. It'll take you a couple of years, but you'll get there.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
No joke? Nov 11, 2012

Rolf Kern wrote:

I wonder, what "translation techniques" are.
Thanks
Rolf Kern, translator since 1973

[Bearbeitet am 2012-11-10 19:17 GMT]


Just in case the question wasn't ironic or humorously intended, I'd say that by definition, a technique is a procedure used to accomplish a specific activity or task. There are currently several possible approaches - CAT and MT spring to mind - and combinations available to carry out the different tasks involved in the translation sphere.

Back on subject, my advice to the poster is to try to set out initially as a freelancer rather than banking on agencies or companies.


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GregLekich
United States
Local time: 18:03
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Nov 11, 2012

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

Looks like I should just start applying for jobs whether I meet the listed criteria or no, and see what comes of it. I will also sharpen up my resume to focus on particular areas in which I have experience.

One more question though: When I was preparing my profile, I started to translate my "About Me" paragraph into Japanese but decided to leave it just in English for now as it was late at night and I was a bit too tired to finish it. I am assuming uploading my CV in Japanese would be a good idea, but will having other info on my profile in both languages help me out as well?


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:03
Italian to English
Profile language Nov 11, 2012

Not really an answer to your question but you might be interested in:
http://www.proz.com/faq/4237#4237


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 06:03
Chinese to English
Depends on the market you're aiming for Nov 11, 2012

GregLekich wrote:

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

Looks like I should just start applying for jobs whether I meet the listed criteria or no, and see what comes of it. I will also sharpen up my resume to focus on particular areas in which I have experience.

One more question though: When I was preparing my profile, I started to translate my "About Me" paragraph into Japanese but decided to leave it just in English for now as it was late at night and I was a bit too tired to finish it. I am assuming uploading my CV in Japanese would be a good idea, but will having other info on my profile in both languages help me out as well?


If you're interested in working with Japanese agencies, then of course you should make it as easy as possible for them to find you and to work out who you are and what you do. I keep mine in English only because I don't want to work with Chinese agencies.

And yeah, just apply for everything. It's a numbers game to some extent. But what the others have said is right: you may well get some jobs through the job board here, but your best clients and jobs are likely to be referred to you by people you know. Make contacts and network, be helpful on Kudoz. Be a good citizen! It all adds up, and it helps people to see that you're the kind of person they want to work with.


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 00:03
English to German
+ ...
Thanks to neilmac Nov 11, 2012

Therefore, not using CAT or TM will also be a "translation technique".

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