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Work with Japanese Language in the US

ledojaeger

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I hope that this is posted in the correct place!

I've been off-and-on this site for years over my Japanese studies. I am about to graduate with a BA in Japanese Language, and am taking the JLPT N2 as a start this December. Now it's time for me to start thinking about the practicality of a job using Japanese language.

Along with [hopefully passing] the N2, I have studied abroad in Japan and managed the highest class grade at what I judge to be an N3-N2 level (it was the end of the Tobira textbook). I have tutoring experience and one job already under my belt in which I helped a company edit the Japanese version of their brand video (for which I created a thought-for-thought script in English from the Japanese). From graduation it is always my intent to keep mastering N2 content and work hard until N1 is attainable.

What I really want to know is, how much work is out there in the US for Japanese translation? My current course has me staying in the US (I have no current plans to put down roots in Japan). I have limitations when it comes to live interpretation (on a personal note, I'm terrified of being thrust into an 'interpretation' situation and failing miserably when put on the spot), but feel more confident with written language). As an introvert, for me, text translation or localization work sounds wonderful - but it's a matter of how to get there, and if I can do work at my current level (N2; although knowing there's LOTS of N2 concepts I still need to master, because other schoolwork is a hindrance to focus on Japanese).

If anyone has any advice in this realm, if there is stuff I can do right now or if work for me at my current level is a pipe dream, I would appreciate any and all advice. Also, by saying that I'm 'terrified of failing miserably' at something like an Interpretation scenario, I hopefully don't mean to sound self-deprecating or sell myself short; I am just a nervous soon-to-be college graduate trying to be as honest as possible.

何か助言や役に立つ情報がありましたら、感謝いたします。
どうぞよろしくお願いいたします。
 

Buntaro

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Teach in Japan for 2 years. Spend all your free time speaking Japanese. This will get your speaking ability up high enough to where you can get a job you like.
 

musicisgood

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Check out John Deere in Moline, Illinois. Their main office is on Work For Us | Careers | John Deere US
They often do business in Japan and your Japanese I'm sure would fit any openings they may have.

I wanted my daughter to get a job there. (her first language is Japanese) . So it is possible and John Deere has great benefits also.
Let me know if you go that route.
 

salyavin

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While Buntaro's method is better for improving speaking and vocab, if you're staying in the US at least try a japanese student association or similar to try to make friends to speak Japanese with in person this will help. Next down is hellotalk and the like where you speak online which is helpful but still not as good as friends doing things in person. Do this enough and you'll be able to interpret everyday conversations fine. Don't get stuck on any fear. Many translation and interpreting jobs look for a specialization like say medical equipment or whatever, do you have skills beyond Japanese?
If you want to see what professional translation is like try reading the honyaku mailing list Google Groups
 

Buntaro

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Many translation and interpreting jobs look for a specialization like say medical equipment or whatever, do you have skills beyond Japanese?
I agree that it would be a big plus for LedoJaeger to choose a particular field and concentrate on the vocabulary in that field, for example, concentrate on the vocabulary for automobiles, import/export, sports, medicine, or some other field. (I once knew a Japanese fellow who translated for a famous Japanese baseball player on a pro baseball team in America. That was a great job.)

I recently had a student who spoke English quite well. She got a job as a translator at an import/export company but she didn't know the special vocabulary for that field. (She thought she could just "wing" it.) It went very badly for her and she ended up quitting.
 
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ledojaeger

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Thank you, everyone, for your responses; I apologize that it took me so long to get back!

Buntaro, I appreciated your thought to go to Japan and just learn on-the-spot there. Although I want to keep living in the US, I certainly haven't dropped the idea of living in Japan for a time. Thank you for reinvigorating my thoughts about that.

Musicisgood, thank you for the note on John Deere - it'll be interesting to look into them and see if there's anything I can do. Of course, if by some chance I wound up with them, I would have you to thank for the idea!

Salyavin, fortunately, the state I live in (Minnesota) has the Japan America Society of Minnesota and a weekly conversation group, so I was thinking of jumping right into that. Hellotalk is also a great idea on top of that, and the Google Groups link you sent is something I'll be looking into. Thank you so much!

Both Buntaro and Salyavin mentioned specialities. My Japanese professor recommended this same thing, and the more I've looked up about translation, the more I see that specialties are a common theme, so I'll have to think about what I could potentially focus on in that area. I recently met a translator who works at an automotive company, and he described similar things to me (lots of speciality language, so the first few months were rough for him). I am sorry to hear about the student who found the import/export company work too much! That's the sort of situation I'd fear for myself at my current level; but I'll have to keep working hard and not let that abstract fear inhibit job searches.

Also, the person I met mentioned that he went to grad school specifically for translation. A couple other places I've looked into required Masters Degrees. Is a move like that recommended across the board, or if I study hard enough on my own (both in Japanese and about the practice of translation) is translation an attainable goal?
 

Buntaro

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Buntaro, I appreciated your thought to go to Japan and just learn on-the-spot there.
Jaeger,

I strongly feel you will not achieve your goals by going to a “weekly Japanese language corner” in America. This will just not work. You need to spend (at least) two years in Japan. I cannot emphasize this enough.

When I was in Japan, I taught at an English school. I would leave school on a Friday and not get back to school until Monday. From Friday night till Monday afternoon I would not speak a word of English. You absolutely must put yourself into this kind of situation if you want to raise your Japanese listening (and speaking) ability up to the level that you need for translating (especially simultaneous translation).

I'll have to think about what I could potentially focus on in that area.
Start looking at want-ads. See what kinds of translators are being looked for most. If you see there is one kind of translator job that appears a lot more often than others, that might be what you want to start training for. (But you would also need to find out if there is a reason why that type of work might be more undesirable than others.) If you need help where to find such want-ads, please feel free to ask.

Is a move like that recommended across the board, or if I study hard enough on my own (both in Japanese and about the practice of translation) is translation an attainable goal?
No and no. I would strongly recommend against getting such a translating Masters Degree until you have spent years in Japan mastering common daily spoken and listening skills.
 

musicisgood

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Jaeger,

I strongly feel you will not achieve your goals by going to a “weekly Japanese language corner” in America. This will just not work. You need to spend (at least) two years in Japan. I cannot emphasize this enough.

When I was in Japan, I taught at an English school. I would leave school on a Friday and not get back to school until Monday. From Friday night till Monday afternoon I would not speak a word of English. You absolutely must put yourself into this kind of situation if you want to raise your Japanese listening (and speaking) ability up to the level that you need for translating (especially simultaneous translation).



Start looking at want-ads. See what kinds of translators are being looked for most. If you see there is one kind of translator job that appears a lot more often than others, that might be what you want to start training for. (But you would also need to find out if there is a reason why that type of work might be more undesirable than others.) If you need help where to find such want-ads, please feel free to ask.



No and no. I would strongly recommend against getting such a translating Masters Degree until you have spent years in Japan mastering common daily spoken and listening skills.

Another suggestion would be to talk to someone at a Japanese Embassy in the States that is a Japanese national and ask them about what was required to work at the window in English. I think that would give you some insight what lies ahead for you.
I know the lady here at the American Embassy in Tokyo and she is Japanese national. She has to know a lot about "all" the difficulties foreigners come across living in Japan and be able to assist them all in English. It's a tough job.
 
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