Becoming A Japanese Translator: The Zone
Translation is work. It takes skill to do that work. It takes focus to use that skill. And it takes time to gain that focus. But once you get the hang of all that, and you are confronted with a translation assignment, if you are lucky, you may enter the zone.
I’m not really that familiar with basketball. But as I’ve learned from realistic anime, there is something called a zone, where lightning starts shooting through your eyes and body, and you can start doing super human feats (like scoring a 3-point shot regardless of where you are on the court with 100% guaranteed accuracy).
The same thing exists in translation (maybe minus the lightning…)
I mentioned some of the frustrations you will encounter in dealing with translation, and others included their own in the comments section. But sometimes all these frustrations vanish, you get so involved in what you are translating, and literally the rest of the world disappears. You are in a translation zone, where you have fireballs of English and Japanese in your right and left hands, and a powerful opponent standing right in front of you.
When you enter the translator zone, a few things happen:
- Time flows incredibly quickly. You easily look at the clock and see hours blazing by.
- The right words and sentences just seem to pour out of your mind as you type them out with lightning speed.
- You have an adrenaline rush, and when you finish, you have a big smile on your face.
There is just something that creates a special experience when it comes to entering a short translation battle, giving it your all, and coming out victorious. While this experience doesn’t happen often, when it does, it is memorable.
Ever been in the translator zone?
How’d it feel?
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Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
Yes! Kuroko’s is the best! I think in the real world zone it’s not lightning but blood, sweat and tears dripping out.
Not as good as lightning, but still counts I suppose…
It feels pretty damn great!
I actually have some tricks that I use to get myself into the zone more often.
First, I don’t think it’s possible to get into the zone with every single translation, so some I don’t even try. I find that the more things I have to look up the less likely I am to get into the zone, so I don’t even try with translations with long lists of names that I have to figure out how to read, or organizations that probably have an official English name that I have to look up.
But other translations…
1. Read through the whole Japanese text before you start translating it
I used to just jump in and start translating straight away having just read enough to check that it was a translation I could do, but this is a good way to get frustrated while translating. Japanese is much vaguer than English, so it helps to have a good overview of the context of every sentence before you start translating. (If the translation is too big I don’t always do this, but I try to read at least the whole paragraph I’m translating beforehand.) Skipping this step probably isn’t something you do if you translate manga/novels, but it’s tempting to skip it if you’re translating something technical.
2. Look up repeated words that you don’t know beforehand
I do quite a bit of medical related translation (it’s an area of interest for me), but quite often there will be a disease, a type of medicine related job, or some kind of treatment that I don’t know the English for. When those words appear several times in the same translation I figure out how to translate them beforehand.
3. When translating, skip past words that you don’t know immediately to get the main grammatical structure of the sentence down
I replace words I don’t know with some keyboard mashing (jfkdsla;) or ??? to tell myself to come back to it. If I know the general meaning of a word but can’t figure out the exact translation needed in a sentence I will add a question mark after it, or a comment in the document.
Afterwards I go back and fill in the missing words, and sometimes I can get into a “researching stuff” zone, hehe.
Another thing that can also help me to get in the zone is using translation software (I use trados) as it means that I can register more difficult vocabulary so I’m reminded of the translation for it every time it appears in the Japanese, rather than having to think about it each time (especially useful for industry specific jargon). It also lets me easily look up how I’ve translated things in the past, etc. There’s probably a whole article that could be written about translation software for those seriously thinking about translation.
Also if possible turning off e-mail alerts and hiding your phone helps!
Thanks Jen for the detailed info on your experience!