A decade (or so) of translation…

As some friends would know, the final year of this decade has seen me formally enter the industry as a translator. To be precise, I work as a localisation project manager and translation editor for a company based in Japan. I’m not going to share details of what I’m working on, or what I’ve learned since entering the industry, but what I can say is that my fandom translation work certainly played a part in getting me to this point. And so, to commemorate this landmark year, I decided to revisit some of the key points that brought me to where I am today.

If you’ve ever tried to trace my work back, you’d have found that my first forays into translation were all for Code Geass. They’re pretty embarrassing, to be honest, but since I never really revised them, they’re a pretty good indicator of just how bad I was when I started out. Well, as I noted at the time, they were JLPT practice fodder, and I guess they were useful as such, as I passed level 2 that year!

I tried my hand at several other types of media in the ensuing years, including my first song translation. Surprise surprise, it was for Bakemonogatari, the other show that dominated the end of the 2000s for me. But I will always treasure “The story you don’t know” (Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari) for teaching me what the difference between “Kimi no” and “Kimi ga” in this particular context was. It was also a good lesson in just how nuanced languages can be — I’ve no qualms now spending hours trying to understand how words are actually used by native speakers.

Moving on, as the first year if the decade dawned on us, I found myself translating my first manga chapter. This one, the second chapter of the Nodame Cantabile OPERA extra story, also brings back fond memories of another series I loved during the 2000s. I must have spent hours looking up opera jargon and lyrics — thank goodness the years I spent playing the piano and alto sax meant that the music jargon was just revision!

My long-time interest in male seiyuu also found me dabbling in Drama CD translation, as that was the bread and butter of many of my favourite voices. I only ever translated the second act of “Seven Days,” but I will always remember it for being the first time I had to think about the words that Japanese people use to say “I love you.”

Speaking of male seiyuu, that was the time I really fell in love with Nakamura Yuuichi’s voice. But Youkyan’s greatest draw, I would argue, is his at-times-sarcastic-at-times-blasé personality, which kept me laughing through so many of the 160+ episodes of the Macross Frontier radio show. Unlike with Delta‘s “Gori Gori Radio,” I didn’t translate any (T_T), but here’s a taste nonetheless, courtesy of a guest appearance from Youkyan (Alto) and Kamiya Hiroshi (Michal) at the Tokyo ZEPP Live.


The next phase of my Frontier obsession involves the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to translate: episode commentaries. I wasn’t the first to try — can’t remember who, but someone did give the first two Bakemonogatari episode commentaries a shot before they were included on offical Western disc releases, IIRC — but I’m not sure I ever want to do it again, as each summary/translation took more than 24 hours in total! But I will always appreciate what I learned, especially from Supervising Director Kawamori Shoji’s appearance for episode 10!

Given Frontier‘s ominipresence here, it wouldn’t surprise me if most of you thought that my creator interview translations were also born from that series. Similarly, some of you might think that my academic training in politics and international relations only showed up in 2015, with Aldnoah.Zero. But the truth is that both of these milestones involved a completely different series by the name of No.6. What’s more, this was also the interview in which I first encountered a creator who values attachment as the most important basis of interpersonal relationships.

Back to Frontier again — told you this show would dominate this post! — for another foray into fiction. “A Day in Alcatraz” is the first and last short story I’ve ever translated. I’d like to think I did a decent job at the time…but now that I’m embarking on this journey in the industry, I think I would like to try again at some point. If time allows ^^;;;;;;

After that, I guess you could say that my progress in translation plateaued for a few years. I largely found myself wading around in staff and creator interviews, learning new jargon a bit at a time, but never really taking another step to where I am now. But somewhere around 2013-14, I met Dee, and we embarked on a few translation adventures that taught me the importance of character voice. Our other interests have since taken over our lives, but I will forever be grateful for everything I learned from Dee on the three stories we worked on together.

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In fact, that’s probably how I’ve found myself where I am today. Dee was also the catalyst for my efforts to approach and work with other translators. Approaching another translator for the first time is really nervewrecking, even if they’re an amateur like yourself, especially when what you’re offering is feedback about how to improve something they’ve worked on. That Dee was open to my feedback was what gave me the courage to approach everyone else, and it is from working with all these other translators since — Kim, megax, inksquid, why and Ruben — that I gained the confidence to jump ship and change my career. Thank you all, and here’s to another 10 years of Japanese study and translation!

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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