Becoming a full-time JP-ENG translator
Thread poster: naruru

naruru
Local time: 13:03
Japanese to English
Dec 24, 2012

Hello, and happy Christmas Eve in the U.S./Merry Christmas in Japan!

I'm currently teaching English in public schools and all ready have taken N2 this December. I can read around 1000 characters at the most and can translate newspaper articles from Japanese to English.

Lately I have been thinking of becoming a full-time translator in Japan and my question is: How to become one?

What are some things I need to consider/do? What kind of portfolio should I prepare if I don't have a certificate in translation in order to prove to companies I am capable of doing translation work? Should I start up a website dedicated to my translation works as a hobby?

Thank you and have a nice day!


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
With all due respect... Dec 24, 2012

...I would not entrust my translation to someone who can only read 1000 characters.

My advice would be to get that number up to 2500 at least. As a translator, you either need at least a university degree, Kanken 2 or JPLT1.

Besides that, speaking/writing/reading Japanese and English is not enough. You also need to find yourself a specialism... like IT, patents, technical translations, legal translations et cetera.

[Edited at 2012-12-24 21:20 GMT]


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Svetlana_Hikari
Russian to English
+ ...
2000 is minimum Dec 24, 2012

I believe 2000 kanji is a minimum you should have mastered in order to do translations from/to Japanese, not to mention special qualifications a translator needs. Experience can sometimes substitute for translation education, but it should be vast i imagine.
I recommend you to study a specific field and, as it has been mentioned below, learn more hieroglyphs.
Gambatte!~


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naruru
Local time: 13:03
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Dec 24, 2012

Thank you for the prompt replies!

I all ready obtain a university degree but it's under fine arts. What's the number one field companies are looking for in a translator at the moment? I was thinking translating documents but after researching online, they're looking for translators who can translate PR Materials, mostly, and instruction manuals (?)...

I'm going to focus on legal and medical terms from now

@Svetlana Hikari: Arigatou~


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Lourdes Alvarez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 23:03
Japanese to English
+ ...
at least N1 Dec 25, 2012

I have been in several intensive courses in Japanese Universities, after 15 years of studies, I still learning many new words use in daily life, TV news, among youth slang and so on.
You can contact with the Japanese University Babel which offers Master Degree in Translation J-E and other languages.
Other recommendation is buy those books that have bilingual stuff, most of the Japan Times publications are the best to understand daily situations, job or university matters.
Good Luck and頑張って下ださい。


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James Hodges  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 13:03
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Not so negative about things. Dec 25, 2012

Just a couple of quick comments.

In that you are currently teaching English, I would assume that you have a college education. If feasible, use and try to incorporate your education into your plans. Also consider how you could leverage your interests and make them into areas of specialization.

There are a number of Japan-based crowd-sourcing sites that give the opportunity to do some translating for real (rather simple stuff). Admittedly, the money that you make from such sources is modest, however, it would be somewhere to start.


Finally, keep learning the language and best of luck.


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Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 06:03
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
+ ...
I think your estimate is off Dec 25, 2012

I think the estimate of the number of characters you can read is probably wrong - you're probably way higher than 1000 - if you took N2, you'd have to know at least 2 - 3 thousand (because it covers N5 - N2), not to mention that you say you can translate newspaper articles (I haven't tested you and choose to believe you ).

I agree strongly with other posters that you need to choose an area of specialisation - in fact, that is how I started my work as a translator without a translation degree as I have a medical degree. Patents are the most lucrative area to work on, followed by business and finance, and then the sciences (medical, engineering, computer science, etc.). Choose something that you are interested in. You could also consider working in-house rather than going freelance straight away.

Some more thoughts:
You can, of course, set up a website to show your language skills - it obviously can't hurt - but have a look on Proz at some of the turnaround times required and see if you would be able to match them or beat them. You could also start by working as a proofreader and gain experience before you start translating. You could also look under the Proz Exchange if anyone is looking to mentor a JP to EN student translator (you might even get paid) and see how they can help you.

A bit scattered, but I hope that helps.


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naruru
Local time: 13:03
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! :) Dec 26, 2012

James Hodges wrote:

Just a couple of quick comments.

In that you are currently teaching English, I would assume that you have a college education. If feasible, use and try to incorporate your education into your plans. Also consider how you could leverage your interests and make them into areas of specialization.

There are a number of Japan-based crowd-sourcing sites that give the opportunity to do some translating for real (rather simple stuff). Admittedly, the money that you make from such sources is modest, however, it would be somewhere to start.


Finally, keep learning the language and best of luck.


Yes, I do have a university degree. It's a necessity to obtain a 4-year diploma in order to apply for a work visa before arrival

I'll take your word on it! Thank you so much


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naruru
Local time: 13:03
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you :) Dec 26, 2012

Lourdes Alvarez wrote:

I have been in several intensive courses in Japanese Universities, after 15 years of studies, I still learning many new words use in daily life, TV news, among youth slang and so on.
You can contact with the Japanese University Babel which offers Master Degree in Translation J-E and other languages.
Other recommendation is buy those books that have bilingual stuff, most of the Japan Times publications are the best to understand daily situations, job or university matters.
Good Luck and頑張って下ださい。


I checked out Babel University but the tuition is quite high, and I'd rather not lose my work visa

I'll go look at some Japan Times books Thanks!


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naruru
Local time: 13:03
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
You're absolutely right! Dec 26, 2012

Sarai Pahla wrote:

I think the estimate of the number of characters you can read is probably wrong - you're probably way higher than 1000 - if you took N2, you'd have to know at least 2 - 3 thousand (because it covers N5 - N2), not to mention that you say you can translate newspaper articles (I haven't tested you and choose to believe you ).

I agree strongly with other posters that you need to choose an area of specialisation - in fact, that is how I started my work as a translator without a translation degree as I have a medical degree. Patents are the most lucrative area to work on, followed by business and finance, and then the sciences (medical, engineering, computer science, etc.). Choose something that you are interested in. You could also consider working in-house rather than going freelance straight away.

Some more thoughts:
You can, of course, set up a website to show your language skills - it obviously can't hurt - but have a look on Proz at some of the turnaround times required and see if you would be able to match them or beat them. You could also start by working as a proofreader and gain experience before you start translating. You could also look under the Proz Exchange if anyone is looking to mentor a JP to EN student translator (you might even get paid) and see how they can help you.

A bit scattered, but I hope that helps.


My estimate may seem a bit off but I base it off of the number of kanji children up to high school. Students need to learn around 2,136 (elementary to high school). Therefore roughly, I can read 90% of characters in 5th grade, 20% of 6th grade, and some characters here and there in secondary. Maybe higher for me but I'm not 100% on that, so I lower it to an estimate number of kanji I know with confidence (reading without looking up in a dictionary). I'll have to look at it again later. I'm currently reading junior high textbooks (history, Japanese and home economics) I've purchased at a bookstore

I can translate newspaper articles but there are kanji I can't read when it comes to politics, economics and other related fields so I have to use my kanji dictionary for pronunciation and definition.

I really like your suggestions and I'll take your word for it. Thank you very much!!


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Allyson Larimer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:03
Japanese to English
+ ...
It's really not as bleak as all that Jan 24, 2013

First let me say, I got my first job in translation with only an N2. It is possible.

Now, I work in Columbus, Ohio. Since there is a major Honda plant close by and a ton of Japanese businesses that cater to Honda, there are always jobs for translators and bilingual secretaries in this area. The same thing is true of Indiana, Detroit/Novi, Seattle, and California. Lots of Japanese businesses equals lots of opportunities for translators.

In the in-house positions that I am talking about, you do not need to come in with a specialty. You need appropriate business level Japanese skills, a good attitude, and to show an interest in the company and their product. You will learn the rest on the job.

That being said, most places do want an N1 for translator jobs. You would be squeeking in with an N2. But if they like you, or have no other candidates, it is possible.


I will say, forget about going freelance though. Without any certification or translation experience, your best bet is to work in-house translating, or to work as a bilingual secretary until you get good enough to translate.

Here's a link to a post I did about companies in my area that staff exclusively for Japanese companies. There is also a link to a company that hires bilinguals all over the country. That might help (if you are not a huge fan of the mid-west.)
http://becomingatranslator.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/hiring-agencies-in-ohio/

Good luck!


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