A lot of people consider becoming a translator the default route for a Japanese learner, without actually thinking about if it’s actually a job they might enjoy doing. You love Japanese. Translation is using that Japanese. So you should love translation. Unfortunately this isn’t the exact equation, and people who love Japanese don’t necessarily love translation. Some may even hate it.
So is translation fun or boring?
This is going to be personal, so let me give you the fun, the boring, and my own feeling on the matter.
- Get to read Japanese (to me this is always fun in itself)
- Expand your vocabulary, grammar, and knowledge into a wide range of fields
- Don’t have to worry about spending time away from Japanese while at work, and not getting in enough time to continue getting better
- See Japanese you would never normally see
- Get paid to improve your Japanese
- Become a much faster reader
- Observe all styles of Japanese writing
- Get practice in reading other people’s handwriting
- Become a temporary expert on whatever you are translating
- Gain a better appreciation of your own language, and how the two languages flow
- Feel great when you create an excellent translation and everything goes smoothly (even the most technical translation can feel like a work of art)
- Have to use a J-E English dictionary often, and sometimes an E-E dictionary
- Read through a lot of boring material (this varies based on what you are translating)
- Stare at a screen and read all day, making your eyes tired
- Are exhausted by the end of the day, as translating is mentally draining
- Deal with frustration when things just won’t translate smoothly, and you find yourself going around in circles
- Deal with bad Japanese sentence composition, in massive blocks of text, and have to turn that into good English writing
- Have to deal with illegible handwriting
- Have to sometimes deal with strange expectations that come from people that aren’t actually familiar with how translation or Japanese works
- May be dealing with subjects you have no interest in
- May be time pressured, leading you to have to balance time vs. quality, but being unsatisfied with either
My personal view?
Translation has its up and downs. There are times I like doing it, and there are times I don’t. For me, I like doing it as something part-time, as it drains me a lot (mentally and physically). However, it has been a great experience, and the fact that I’m still doing it professionally after 5 years should say something. I think my biggest issue is that I’m madly in love with Japanese, but only mildly enjoy translating. It is a job after all.
You really won’t know till you try it.
Not to sound cliche, but you have to experience it first before judging it. And experiencing it as a volunteer translator isn’t enough. When you are a volunteer translator, translating your favorite things for fun, the experience is completely different. It’s when you become a professional that you start to see the real good and bad.
For those with translation experience: What do you find fun? What do you find boring? And what’s your personal view?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.