How to Become a Japanese Translator


By helping people who don't speak the same language understand each other, translators serve a critical role for businesses and individuals. The term "translation" carries a couple of different meanings in the professional world. Some translators convert written words from one language to another. Others, also called interpreters, transfer verbal dialogue from one language to another. In either case, you need the right mix of education, skills and experience to land a job.

Job Opportunities and Outlook

  • Opportunities for Japanese translators exist in a broad range of organizations in both the public and private sectors. Translators can work for corporations such as Nikon or for government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Other career paths include becoming a self-employed freelance translator, contracting with a translation service or working in an educational setting teaching language studies or linguistics. Some translators choose to specialize in areas such as medical, technical, court or conference translation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of all types of interpreters and translators will grow 46 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is more than four times the average expected growth rate for all occupations. Expansion in international trade and increasing diversity are among the primary growth drivers.

Education Requirements

  • Most translators require at least a bachelor's degree. If you want to work as a Japanese translator in a particular field, such as computer technology, it is helpful to have a degree in that field. A graduate degree or certificate program in translation can further hone skills. For example, the Monterey Institute of International Studies offers masters degrees focused on English and Japanese translation in four key areas: translation, translation and localization management, translation and interpretation, and conference interpretation. Also, the New York University School of Professional Studies offers a certificate in foreign languages specializing in Japanese.

Certification Programs

  • The American Translators Association (ATA) offers a three-hour certification exam which is helpful in assuring prospective employers that candidates have achieved a standard level of proficiency. As of 2014, candidates who want to take the exam must join the ATA, submit an application and pay $300, which covers costs for administration and grading. To maintain certification, candidates must also complete 20 hours of continuous education activities every three years. These activities can include attending ATA webinars, participating in sessions at the ATA conference, independent study activities or teaching.

Skills and Capabilities Needed

  • The key capability required by a Japanese translator is fluency in both English and Japanese. For translators for whom Japanese is not the native tongue, Japanese language fluency can be enhanced by visiting Japan, reading in Japanese or attending Japanese cultural events. You also need attention to detail, the ability to concentrate and strong listening skills. A good understanding of both cultures will help minimize misunderstandings and smooth out accuracy. Many employers look to hire individuals with translation work experience. This can be gained either through structured work, such as internships, or by volunteering to provide interpretation or translation services at community or sporting events.

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