If you’re bilingual or learning Japanese, you might be ready to make a career change. Knowing how to translate to Japanese may be the perfect job for you. The world is changing fast, and soon, all documents will need to get translated. This work includes the text of your favorite book, United Nations legal documents, the subtitles of your favorite show, and even instructions on how to set-up a Lego house. And work to translate to Japanese will continue to grow.
If you want to keep up in this globalized world, learning how to translate to Japanese is crucial since Japan is one of the most powerful nations today. All you need to do is study, get certified by a governing body, and you’re all set. Here’s what you need to know about pursuing this lucrative job.
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This post was updated on March 2021
What Does a Japanese Translator Do?
Have you ever watched Japanese anime? If so, you already have a clear picture of what a translator’s job entails. A translator is responsible for translating written material from one language to another. It is important to keep the context and meaning true to the original text. If you want to translate to Japanese, you have to be extremely knowledgeable in the language.
Although you don’t need to have a degree to translate to Japanese, a certificate would help you book jobs since many employers gauge your level of expertise through the certificates you have obtained.
What Makes Japanese Easy to Learn?
Just like any language, Japanese is challenging to learn. However, that does not mean it’s impossible. You just have to dedicate time and effort to reach the required level of professionalism.
If you are still an intermediate speaker of the language, you may be discouraged from pursuing Japanese since it’s known as one of the hardest languages to learn. The first step in mastering Japanese is to let go of the things cynics say.
Here are some facts that will motivate you to continue learning to translate to Japanese.
Kanji is fairly easy
If you think you’re linguistically challenged, Kanji is perfect for you. While many Japanese language learners forego studying Kanji, it’s non-negotiable for future translators. Learning Kanji is now easier than ever, thanks to many resources available on the internet. When you find the right support, you can master it in a matter of months.
Just like most languages, Japanese also boasts borrowed English words. So if you grew up speaking English, you’re lucky since you already have a head start. Even before you start learning the language, you already know many loaned words, also called “Gairaigo.” This characteristic will let you communicate with native speakers despite having subpar knowledge of Kanji and grammar.
Some loaned words you will encounter include table or teeburu, mic or maiku, and internet or intaanetto. While these words may not be spelled or pronounced the same, they are quite similar to the original English word. Thanks to the predictability of Japanese phonetic patterns, it’s easy to familiarize yourself with English words borrowed by the Japanese language.
One fantastic thing about Japanese is that it’s a pro-drop language. Meaning, the objects and pronouns can be left out if the “what” and the “who” are clear to the speaker and listener. For instance, if a person asks if you already had dinner, you can just say tabeta, which is the past-tense of taberu, the Japanese word for eating. The listener and the speaker already know who and what the subject and object are, so only the verb is needed. This less-is-more approach to language is a godsend for Japanese beginners.
If you already speak Japanese, then you may already be familiar with Kana. People in Japan reduce the Kana you have to learn by recycling basic symbols to represent more sounds. This linguistic efficiency results from dakuten, which are double slash marks. These useful marks change the voiceless sounds of the language to its voiced counterparts.
Unlike Thai and Mandarin, Japanese is not tonal. Although some words can change their meaning depending on the pitch accent, you do not need to adopt a specific tone to translate to Japanese. In some instances, when you do have to use the pitch to know the meaning, the context will make it obvious for you. For example, hashi can mean three things; edge, bridge, or chopsticks. When the setting of the text you are translating is in a restaurant, you already know that the writer is referring to chopsticks.
Not only that, but there are many pictophonetic compounds in Kanji which points to its pronunciation, and a semantic indicator to help you identify its meaning.
No noun genders
Learning romantic languages such as French is hard because you have to master the noun genders. However, you won’t have to deal with this when it comes to Japanese since it does not have feminine or masculine nouns.
New sounds to learn
A lot of people who translate to Japanese do not find it hard to speak the language since it only has few new sounds they have to master. It is great for English speakers learning Japanese, but not vice versa. You already know “r” sounds, which are hard to pronounce for Japanese. This is why you mostly hear Japanese people say “lamen” instead of “ramen.” Usually, most speakers struggle with “r” sounds and “tsu.” Thankfully, your mouth and ears will get the hang of these unique sounds in time.
Why Should You Translate to Japanese?
If you’re still having thoughts on whether or not you should pursue this career path, check out these reasons that will motivate you to translate to Japanese.
Asian languages are intimidating for those who grew up in the US or Europe. However, your fear of learning Japanese will prevent you from progressing. Mastering any language will test your determination and discipline. So if you’re not the type of person who gives up at the first sign of trouble, learning Japanese is for you. Every day, you would understand the value of improving yourself constantly. Since many people think Japanese is very hard to master, you will be regarded as hardworking even before you have booked a job.
Business and job opportunities
Any Japanese speaker who has ever tried using Google translate knows the hassle of it being notoriously inaccurate. This fact should not come as a surprise since most software has trouble processing syntax. Although it’s good when you need a laugh, it won’t give you the accuracy you need, especially for business and other serious matters.
The lack of effective software has driven many business owners to hire translators for business transactions. If you can translate to Japanese, you will be gaining access to a difficult market. Many businesses have realized the potential of Japan and translators are essential to keep an open and transparent line of communication between two parties.
If you come from the US, Japanese is considered an uncommon language to study. You can benefit from the opportunities that would not be available to other translators who specialize in other languages. You will also have less competition since Japanese is not commonly studied or taught.
And hey, remember, we’re always accepting up-and-coming talent in our translation team!
Understand pop-culture and technology
Japan is famous all over the world for being a top innovator. Despite their scarce natural resources, they’ve proven themselves as masters of technology time and time again. This fact is evident in bullet trains, pocket calculators, robots, and even their high-tech toilets.
Considering this, learning how to translate to Japanese will open a lot of opportunities for you to understand how they use cutting-edge technology to make their economy even more powerful. This valuable knowledge is something you can pass on to your clients. If you want to specialize in translating documents regarding science and technology, you will gain a better understanding of how Japanese are leaders in this field.
Additionally, you will also transcend from your past superficial understanding of Japanese songs, manga, anime, and movies. When you have a clear understanding of the country’s pop culture, you can be in tune with its current events and history, which can be beneficial for certain documents that need to be translated to Japanese.
Change your perspective
Any translator who knows a second or third language will tell you some words and phrases expressed better when not translated. You will encounter some Japanese words that totally have different meanings than their English counterparts if there are similar words at all. Although this will seldom help your professional work, it will inspire a drastic difference in your perspective.
Knowing the ins and outs of the Japanese language will let you explore thought processes you never thought existed. It will also make you understand their collective attitude better, which puts heavy emphasis on cooperation and politeness. Soon, you will notice that all these traditions and values are manifested in how they talk and write.
Be more creative
When you translate to Japanese, you can exercise your creativity every single day. While your job to convey messages still has to be in line with your client’s expectations, you can still allow your creativity to flow in choosing the right tense, voice, and word that would accurately represent the original text. Ultimately, it is up to you to find the right terms that will reach the audience effectively.
If you want to go the extra mile, you may even specialize in transcreation, where you will be tasked to create marketing translation copies that suit the cultural demands of a certain place.
Japanese people are famous for their ability to have a good time. In your pursuit to build your client portfolio, you will be encountering new people and building relationships with them. Outside your work, you can bond with them through Karaoke or some drinks, which is important in their culture.
Aside from clients, you will also be meeting people who also translate to Japanese, as well as project managers. These newfound peers will grant you invaluable insight into the industry. Your job will also take you around the world for projects and conferences. This opportunity will grant you a chance to visit major destinations while networking with translators and potential clients.
No monotonous work
Many people want to translate to Japanese because they are tired of doing the same thing every day. With this job, no two documents will be the same. Every day, you will work with a new project, so you have to adjust and challenge yourself constantly. On top of that, each project can be a learning experience, whether it’s about politics, beauty, entertainment, or economics.
Have Fun When You Translate to Japanese
If you know how you speak Japanese, treat it as a gift. Perhaps the best part when you translate to Japanese is you have the power to help communities and companies overcome language barriers. At the end of the day, you know that your job made a difference. As more Asian countries rise in power, more work opportunities will open for you and improve your professional value.