Qualifications for Freelance Japanese Translation
Thread poster: Thomas Erwin

Thomas Erwin
Japan
Local time: 09:52
Japanese to English
Nov 6, 2014

Hello,
This is my first time joining one of these kinds of sites. Hope I've done everything correctly so far.

I was wondering about what exactly clients are looking for when they either hire Japanese to English translators. Specifically, I'm wondering just how necessary a college degree really is.

In my case, I've studied Japanese for almost six years, have lived in Japan for nearly three years, and I have the JLPT N1 certification. I transferred as a third year student to a Japanese university and am currently taking all Japanese classes.

However, I realize that rather than staying in Japan and continuing to be a student for another 1 - 1.5 years, I'm much more interested in the idea of leaving early, moving back to the US and getting my translation career going ASAP. I've never enjoyed student life, and if I can save the money that would be spent on the rest of my tuition and just start working now, I think I'd fine that more rewarding.

However, is this going to prevent me from getting enough jobs to adequately support myself? Or does a college degree not really matter if you already understand the language, and are prepared to work hard and can market yourself/build up a network?

Additional question: I understand having an additional specialty in law, medicine, etc will allow you to earn more, and that likely requires a lot of extra education, but can you still earn an decent living without those qualifications?

Also, how are Japanese degrees valued vs. American degrees? And what about online degrees?

Feel free to let me know if this question has already come up somewhere else. I'm not quite sure how to search through these forums yet…
Any advice would be highly appreciated.

Thanks for reading!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Do you have a college qualification at all? Nov 7, 2014

You seem to have already done over fiur years at uni. Do you perhaps have a Bachelor degree already? If so, I think you could well leave without losing very much, though it would be rather a shame - up to you.

But to have studied so long yet be barred from every opportunity that requires a degree of some sort would be a real loss. I'm finding it an increasing problem as I can't even so much as quote for many jobs (increasing numbers every year). I personally can't see why it's obligatory when you have 40 years' work experience in various industries and in four different countries (my situation) but that's the way it is: no degree, no thanks!


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Thomas Erwin
Japan
Local time: 09:52
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the reply! Nov 7, 2014

I really appreciate your input.
I'm maybe a bit younger than you think, and I have just three years of school under my belt, so no, I haven't yet graduated.

Am I correct in assuming you are someone that doesn't have a degree either, and that is preventing you from having as much business as you would like?

I see you're a French translator. I wonder if there's any chance that French clients are more particular about their translators having a degree than Japanese ones? Possibly because of stricter competition?

One other thing I wanted to clarify:
"I'm finding it an increasing problem as I can't even so much as quote for many jobs (increasing numbers every year)." I didn't quite understand this sentence.
What does quoting for a job mean, and what are you referring to when you say "increasing numbers"?

Also something I wanted to bring up:
I understand that there many different kinds of certifications (I'll have to do some more research to learn the names of them) that translators can earn through courses, tests and so on. Wouldn't those perhaps matter more than a Bachelor's Degree in a completely unrelated field?

Anyway, to put it more simply, the idea of being able to leave school behind and start working/earning money/doing my own thing now is much more appealing to me than staying another whole year (I've transferred to a Japanese university, but if possible I'd now like to be able to return to the US sooner for personal reasons). So, if it's truly going to handicap me to not finish my degree at this Japanese school, I'd like to know that now so I could be more motivated to finish up.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Clearer response Nov 9, 2014

kikanshathomas wrote:
I see you're a French translator. I wonder if there's any chance that French clients are more particular about their translators having a degree than Japanese ones? Possibly because of stricter competition?

I can't really say about Japanese, but it's certainly the case in all European language pairs. The EU, for example, won't entertain a translator without a degree.

One other thing I wanted to clarify:
"I'm finding it an increasing problem as I can't even so much as quote for many jobs (increasing numbers every year)." I didn't quite understand this sentence.
What does quoting for a job mean, and what are you referring to when you say "increasing numbers"?

See above - I get contacted for EU jobs and many more, but it doesn't matter how suitable I really am (40 years out at work, in 4 countries, several industries, 8 years as a translator...); I'm disqualified from quoting. Many jobs on this site only apply to degree holders. OTOH, I'm doing just fine without those jobs.

I understand that there many different kinds of certifications (I'll have to do some more research to learn the names of them) that translators can earn through courses, tests and so on. Wouldn't those perhaps matter more than a Bachelor's Degree in a completely unrelated field?

I think a Bachelor in your specialisation would be extremely helpful. But you're right, many good translation qualifications aren't classed as degrees. The DipTrans, for one.

I don't think it's essential to have a degree. You will be somewhat at a disadvantage, and it does seem an awful waste, but you must decide for yourself. You certainly CAN succeed without a degree.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:52
Chinese to English
Perpetual job application Nov 9, 2014

I'm sure it's possible to succeed without a degree. But one way of thinking about the freelancer's life is that it's basically a perpetual state of job hunting. You're always selling yourself to prospective clients, and they're always checking you over. And with pretty much every new client you're going to have to explain why you don't have a degree.

No paper qualification is the be-all and end-all. But I suspect that not having a degree will be a niggle that will add an extra layer of hassle to almost every month of a freelance career. So I'd be very cautious about giving up on university before getting the BA.

Just as a side issue:
I'm not quite sure how to search through these forums yet…

If you're serious about being a translator, you'd better learn this kind of skill pretty quickly. Translators these days live and die by Google (and many other information resources). Your language skills are obviously important, but once you start working you'll quickly discover that good translation isn't really about language, it's about how you approach a text after you've understood all the words.

There are at least three ways to search the forums: by browsing individual sub-forums; using the in-site search function; using domain-limited searches on Google (site:proz.com/forum).


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Thomas Erwin
Japan
Local time: 09:52
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
going back to school... Nov 10, 2014

I've been doing some other research as well, and yes, I'm convinced I should just get it over with. I'll go back to the school I was previously attending in the US. Hopefully they take my credits!

And about searching forums - I did the foolish thing of writing my post before actually going through this website more thoroughly. I actually found it to be very intuitive. In general I would say I'm pretty internet savvy, but thank you for your input as well. I guess I was just in a hurry for no reason. Maybe the coffee I had was too strong or something…

Anyway, many thanks again for all the advice!


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Qualifications for Freelance Japanese Translation

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