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Becoming A Japanese Translator: The J-J Learner — 7 Comments

  1. Translators use dictionaries anyway, so going J-J would not put you on a handicap. I think it would even be an advantage because you can now supplement your knowledge of the “real” definition of the word to the translation in the J-E dictionary to come up with the best translation.

    • Of course, dictionaries will be standard for both groups. Sometimes your real definition of the word “conflicts” with the English definition, but most of the time using both creates a nice harmony as you said.

  2. Speaking as a Dutch English bilingual (native speaker of both from 3 years old), who’s spent rather a lot of time translating for her work. Even though I’m actually a programmer… All of this is based on my experience translating manuals, marketing brochures, customer mailings and that kind of stuff.

    Going the J-J route actually gives you an advantage. Often times the J-E dictionary will give you the best translation for the word by itself. But when you look at the word in a sentence you need to convey the meaning of that sentence. And to do so I often find myself searching the E-E dictionary to find the synonym that works best in the given context.

    There’s been a lot of fuss recently about literal translations, due to the whole Fire Emblem localisation thing, and there’s no such thing. A literal translation is unreadable. A good translation, to me anyway, is one that’s a pleasant read. And that means getting across the meaning of the original. I’ve added sentences to paragraphs, split one into two, flipped the entire order of a sentence and restructured the texts I’ve translated in pretty much every way necessary to achieve a text that is pleasant and engaging to read. I find this to be especially important when you’re given marketing material to translate. The more literal you make the translation, the less natural it’ll sound and the impression your potential customer will get be less favourable.

    My ultimate tip for anyone who wants to go into translating (and this is based on my very limited experience) is to read and listen to a lot of material in BOTH languages you plan on working with. Because there are common turns of phrase, not to mention things like sayings, that you will never be able to translate if you don’t simply know the equivalent.

    • Yes, and it takes some time to go from those literal translations that start to appear in your head as a beginner, and then go to the natural (final/real) translation.

      You bring up a great point about E-E as well, which surprisingly plays a big role in Japanese translation.

      • Yes, as I’m a programmer the only reason I ended up doing translations was because I complained about the shit level of the ones they’d been using so far. And then I got a reputation as the go to girl for any questions on English. And I learned really rapidly that 1) you need to learn a lot of jargon in both of the languages you’ll be working with to function effectively 2) you need to the E-E dictionary a lot more than the Dutch-English one when translating from Dutch to English.

        Recently I’ve been working on a new skill as I now have some colleagues who only speak and English and my boss occasionally refuses to give speeches in English. So I’ve been doing on the fly translations for those and I’m getting better at them. At first I could only manage a summary at the end, now I’m doing sentences as they’re spoken. While there are some similarities to written translations, interpretation is mainly a case of translating quickly and you just aim for getting the meaning across. With writing I spend more time crafting the sentences.

        I’ve also reviewed work from other translators and gotten into a row with one via e-mail, because I’d changed a word somewhere. Can’t remember exactly what it was, but they’d literally translated it and I changed it to a synonym which sounded more natural to me. They sole defence was “but that’s a correct translation according to the dictionary”….

  3. Besides translating being tiring, I feel that the ultimate proof that one language won’t get in the way of another is numbers. When you see ‘5’ in an English text you immediately think of ‘five’ while in a Japanese text you think of ‘ご’. Despite all the years you grew up knowing it as ‘five’ you can learn to see it as ‘ご’ just by a change of context. The two languages really are two different parts of your mind that change how you see something.

    • Interesting and very true! I had never thought about it that way with a shared symbol being interpreted depending on which language you were using.

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