Japanese - German - Getting started Questions
Thread poster: Armitagee

Dec 23, 2014

Good Evening or Morning.

I am a native German living in Japan.
My JLPT level is at the moment around level 2 and i think next year i will reach JLPT 1 and wish to take the test.
After that, i hope i can work as a translator.
But a few things worry me..

I dont have a University Degree and i am not sure that agencies accept me without it.
I wonder about the price per word when getting started.

My background is a lot of different jobs in different countries.
Kind of like that.. nothing special.
At the moment i work for a agency.
But its more kind of very special work that anyone can do if he speaks proper German.
It runs over the Internet and i am used to keep my timelines and all this stuff.
Almost like a translator but only almost.
I checked a few homepages in the net and found on some German homepages of agencies written. That they are searching urgently Chinese, Japanese or Korean translators.
To me it seems, that its difficult to find Germans the speak this languages good enough.
Because of that i hoped that i would be easier to getting started then the English - German pair.

What are your opinions?



Aaron Schwarz
Local time: 00:14
Japanese to English
Here are my thoughts. Dec 24, 2014

Hello, Armitagee.

Here are my thoughts.

My JLPT level is at the moment around level 2 and i think next year i will reach JLPT 1 and wish to take the test.
After that, i hope i can work as a translator.

One thing about this you need to remember is that JLPT 1 doesn't really mean much.

JLPT 1, at least back when I was in university, was the minimum level required of foreign students to study at Japanese universities. It is a start line, not a finish line.

Plus there are thousands and thousands of people who have passed the JLPT1, so it just doesn't carry much, or even any, weight.

The level you need for most professional translation work is going to require more than what it would take to pass the JLPT 1.

My background is a lot of different jobs in different countries.
Kind of like that.. nothing special.

Even with adequate language ability, without a speciality you'll be forced into relying on pretty sporadic and low paying work.

Before I ever even thought about being a translator, I worked in the military and in normal business companies in Japan for many years, which means that I have a good level of understanding of the hows and whats of communication in those fields. When I come across terms in documents, I do not just know the word itself, I understand the whole concept behind it, and that's what allows me to give what I think is an accurate translation.

With no specialty, you can't really guarantee that sort of thing.

So my advice to you is to pick something to specialize in (something you like enough to want to read and write about all day everyday) and become as much of an expert on it as you can, all the while studying Japanese aiming at something much higher than the JLPT 1.

[Edited at 2014-12-24 03:09 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-12-24 10:20 GMT]


Yareyare Dec 24, 2014


thanks for your advice.

Is there a higher level then JLPT 1 that i could take for qualifying myself?
I heard there is a quiet high Test that the Japanese have to take if they want to enter a University. And that they need to learn a lot of Kanji for doing this.
I am not interrested in going to University(too old for that and here its expensive).

And to be honest then only things i really like are kind of reading News, Politics, History, Wikipedia and watching Anime.
My mind is maybe kind of a Nerd.
I dont really have any special interrest.
And the Jobs i did before were Postman in Germany, Trucker in Scotland, Forest Worker in Sweden.
I dont think this will help.. yareyare

Maybe i need to think about a special interrest and kind of try to get myself further educated in this interrest.



Silvia Schulz
Local time: 17:14
Member (2010)
English to German
Language skills not enough Dec 26, 2014


I agree with Aaron. The JLPT does not mean much for translation. As a translator it is a necessity to be fluent in the source language, but it is doesn't necessarily qualify you as a translator. In order to work as a successful translator (with enough and well-paying clients) you would need to get a proper qualification as a translator for example via special training programs, get familiar with translation tools (like Trados) and specialize in a certain field.

Without such kind of qualifications it will be very hard to almost impossible to built a client base. I also think that the market for Japanese-German is very small and might not provide enough work. Most of my European (non-native English speaking) colleagues who work with Japanese also work in another language pair (like English-Dutch, English-French, English-Spanish).

Furthermore, I think that it will be very hard to find work without a university degree. ALL translators I personally know in Japan and in Europe have some kind of university degree (often in linguistics or related fields).

Good luck,


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