Mel Ok is a translator and project manager based in Tottori Prefecture. We talked about Japanese study, the JET Program, translation, and Japanese whisky:
- Japanese in high school
- When did your Japanese skills start to “click”?
- Japanese in college
- Teaching English in Japan
- JET Program
- JET CIR placements – rural vs. urban
- Tottori Prefecture’s internationalization efforts
- Interpreting on JET – consecutive vs. simultaneous
- JET Program Translation & Interpretation Course
- Connecting with local organizations for interpretations/translation opportunities
- JET Program application advice
- Watching TV = studying
- Project Management
- Shifting from JET to project management
- QA work
- Unemployment in Japan – ハローワーク (Hello Work)
- Types of translation projects
- Experience writing
- Freelance Translation
- Incorporating as a translator/company
- Translation Trials
- Work-life balance
- Spirits/Japanese Spirits
- Investing in Whisky
- Karaoke Songs
お待たせしました！ It took me longer than I hoped, but the How to Japanese Podcast is back. I’m interviewing another 10 people who have studied Japanese and done work in Japan. The interviews have run long, so I’ll be separating the interviews from my content and posting 20 episodes over the next few months. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
And if you haven’t listened to Season 1, go ahead and give those episodes a listen.
Adam Evanko is the creative mind behind the Gaijinhunter YouTube account where he’s built up over 280,000 subscribers. He’s also an incredibly lucid communicator and diligent student. We discuss his early time studying Japanese, his work at McDonald’s and a hotel in Japan, and how a job at a translation company helped prepare him for a career in video game production:
- Had you studied Japanese before you moved to Japan?
- Once you were in Japan, were you taking classes or doing self-study?
- Did you have any strategies to help you with the reading section of the JLPT?
- Were there any big milestones in terms of a first game, manga, or novel you completed in Japanese?
- 漢字検定 (Kanji kentei – Kanji aptitude test)
- What were your job hunting strategies in Japan? Are there any strategies you would recommend people looking for work?
- Did McDonald’s or the hotel where you worked have any guidance for 敬語 (keigo, polite speech)? How did you learn 敬語?
- What was your experience like as a translation project manager?
- The word my coworker helped me learn was 必殺技 (hissatsuwaza, special move), not whatever it is I said on the pod.
- Did you do any coding, writing, or game creation when you were growing up?
- What is it like to work as a video game producer? What advice would you give people interested going into video game production?
- What drew you to Monster Hunter and what has kept you interested for so long?
- What was it about Monster Hunter: World that took the series to an international level?
- What are you excited to see in Iceborne?
- Do you think anything about Monster Hunter reflects Japanese culture or values?
- How has it been to raise a daughter in Japan? Did you make a conscious effort to include her in your gaming? Do you monitor screen time?
At the top, I talk about being mindful of the difficulty of your Japanese study – sometimes you need to actively choose to do difficult things when you study Japanese.
Shaun McKenna is the Deputy Manager of the Life & Culture Division of the Japan Times. He came on the How to Japanese Podcast to talk about his experience studying Japanese while teaching on JET and the transition to journalism. He also has some great recommendations on how to pitch an editor at a publication like the JT:
- How has it been to edit the Bilingual page?
- Did you study Japanese before you visited? And was JET the first time you visited the country?
- Did you have success with Japanese for Busy People?
- After you finished the textbook, what self-study techniques were helpful?
- Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
- Are a lot of Japan Times writers come to Japan without much training in the language?
- What language milestones were important for you?
- How did you find your Japanese teacher?
- Where did you find free Japanese lessons in Yokohama?
- After you returned to Canada, did you start job hunting in Japan?
- Was journalism a long-term goal for you coming out of college?
- What was your job hunting process in Japan?
- How is the workplace culture at the Japan Times?
- What naming conventions are used in Japanese workplaces?
- Are you able to write for the Japan Times now that you’ve transitioned to editor?
- Are you taking pitches from new writers?
- Have you found new writers on Twitter?
- What’s an ideal pitch? And what kind of web presence do you need?
- Are you able to follow the music scene as much now that you’re not Music Editor?
- Are there any venues you’d recommend in Japan?
At the top, I tell the story of crashing a car in Japan and discuss facing setbacks during language study.
Kristi Fernandez has translated a number of light novels, manga, and drama. She’s also the creator of the group Japanese Translators of New York and a champion for translators on Twitter. We talked Japanese study and light novel translation for the eighth episode of the How to Japanese Podcast:
- What inspired your Twitter thread on translator appreciation?
- What was your path to Japanese fluency?
- What self-study strategies were you using? Was anything particularly effective?
- What do you remember about your first encounter with Japanese in Japan?
- How did your college course present 敬語 (keigo, polite speech) versus more casual speech?
- When did you feel like you were making progress with the language?
- What was the first novel you read? And what reading strategies did you have?
- Are you finding time to read in addition to your translation work?
- How did you find a job using your Japanese skills when you returned from Japan?
- How did you get your first translation job?
- What is the marketing process for translation and what kind of work do you do to fill up your schedule?
- Creating an online presence
- What’s the translation process like for you?
- Has anything changed with your translation process?
- Do you work from a digital or paper copy when translating?
- What are your thoughts on The Dark Maidens? Do you think it has anything to say about the Japanese high school experience?
- What has made the foreign market more receptive to light novels?
At the top, I talk briefly about some of the purchases I made on Amazon Japan during my time on JET and the strategy I used to make sure my package was delivered.
Tamara Latham-Sprinkle has been a full-time Japanese-English freelance translator for a year. She talks about breaking into the world of translation, different translation associations, getting a masters in translation, and working as an interpreter at a manufacturing company in the latest episode of the How to Japanese Podcast:
- What was your path to Japanese fluency?
- What self-study strategies were effective for you?
- Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
- When you visited Japan for the first time how did you feel your Japanese level was?
- At what point did you feel like you were making progress with the language?
- Were you taking Japanese courses or courses in Japanese?
- Did the university provide any support for writing projects in the Japanese courses?
- What were the college clubs like at a Japanese college and how did you find them?
- How did you make the decision to get a masters in translation?
- What is the language requirement for these programs?
- Do these programs help place students in jobs or give you strategies to find work?
- Was there any advice you got that was particularly helpful or stuck in your mind?
- Which translation associations are you active in?
- How was the transition into full-time freelance translation?
- What was it like to work as an interpreter/translator for a manufacturing company?
- What are of the country were you in and how did the Japanese engineers respond to that part of the country?
- Would you recommend this kind of manufacturing interpretation work to people with some language skills?
- How much work are you doing to improve your Japanese in areas where you are doing translation?
- What was it like interpreting in a courtroom setting?
At the top I talk about how Tamara and I first met (hint: over Twitter) and some of the organizations you can look to connect with if you’re interested in Japan-related events.
Brian Caster is a practicing attorney in Japan working in compliance. He’s also one of the most voracious readers I’ve ever met (90+ English books so far in 2019 and counting!). He took some time to tell me about how he learned Japanese, job hunting, and how he brought the goodest dog from Chicago to Tokyo.
- What are you reading right now?
- How did you get to fluency with Japanese?
- Looking back, what study approaches would have been helpful? And is there anything you did that was particularly successful?
- How did you find your Japanese tutor?
- What other authors are you reading?
- Which news apps are you using?
- Did you know you wanted to apply to law school when you went on JET?
- At what point did you know you wanted to go back and work in Japan and how did that inform your application process and the choices you made during law school?
- Did you spend any summers in Japan during law school or take any classes about Japanese law?
- Other than the two years experience, is there anything else you need to be a practicing attorney in Japan?
- How was the job hunting process within Japan? How did it differ from job hunting while living in the U.S.?
- How does work as an in-house attorney differ from outside counsel work?
- How is Honeypie?! What is it like having a dog in Japan?
- What was the process of bringing a dog over to Japan?
At the top I made some translation recommendations, including 夜のくもざる (Yoru no kumozaru, The Spider Monkey Comes at Night) by Haruki Murakami. If you’re looking for public domain material you can publish online, here’s a list of some 随筆 (zuihitsu, miscellanea/essays) that look promising:
Also, I was in the Japan Times a couple weeks back with a look at the podcast and what I learned after talking with everyone: “A podcast that talks to bilingual people about studying Japanese and working in Japan.”
I met Arline Lyons in 2008-2010 when I was working as a translation project manager. I’ve always been really impressed with her professionalism as a translator, so I wanted to talk to her about her study experience and her translation practice. You can find her recent work on sake at Taste Translation and Discover Sake.
- What was your overall path to fluency in Japanese?
- The importance of immersion in learning Japanese
- What kind of language study did you do while working on JET?
- What does it take to keep your language skills “alive”?
- When and how did you become literate in Japanese?
- How did you decide to get your masters?
- The world of patent translation
- What is translation memory and how does it work?
- Translation groups
- How and how much time do freelance translators market themselves?
- What do translators need to pay attention to when adding a new client?
- What strategies should new translators take when looking for clients?
- Subcontracting, direct clients, and machine translation
- When and how did you decide to become more specialized as a translator?
- When you study specialized terminology, do you study the Japanese terms concurrently with the English?
And at the top I talked about some Google search strategies, which I wrote about for the Japan Times back in April 2018.
On the podcast this week I talk with Paula Curtis. I learned about Paula through her writing over at What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies? (aka 心配でしょう), which helped me find a Japan-adjacent job after grad school. We talked about language study, grad school, and how to “do” history:
- Thank you for getting Daniel a job!
- How did you start the website and what inspired it?
- What is a postdoctoral associate position and what is the work like?
- How did you learn Japanese and which textbooks did you use?
- What were the first major texts you read in Japanese?
- Sasamoto Shoji – Early modern historian addressing Sengoku Daimyo and Artisan history
- What is fluency, how do you make progress toward it?
- What older forms of Japanese have you studied?
- How did you decide to go into academia and how do you afford to pay for it?
- Does your research topic need to be fully formed when you apply to graduate school?
- What writing and study techniques have been valuable for you?
- Paula’s Oral History Project
- How did you develop your teaching skills?
- Are there any teaching/classroom approaches that have been particularly effective?
- What kind of funding opportunities are there for language study?
And at the top of the pod I talked about how I learned the phrase なんかの縁. I blogged about 縁 way back in 2008.
You can find Brian MacDuckston of Ramen Adventures crushing bowls of ramen on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and now you can find him on the How to Japanese Podcast:
- How was your trip to Hokkaido? How is Hokkaido different from the rest of Japan?
- How long have you been in Japan and what have you done so far?
- How much time are you doing ramen/journalism work versus English teaching?
- What strategies would you recommend to diversify your income as an English conversation teacher?
- What is it like teaching private students?
- The Collabo-Ramen videos were great!
- How has ramen changed in the last nine years? What trends are you seeing? Is ramen a trend-driven industry?
- Why are Japanese so obsessed with/interested in food?
- When did you start studying Japanese and what strategies have been helpful?
- What ramen vocabulary has been helpful for you?
- Mapple maps were amazing, and are sadly now not necessary because of smartphones
- What has it been like being a creator in Japan?
- When did you start to feel Ramen Adventures taking off?
At the top of the pod, I talk about set phrases used for condolences, which I wrote about in the Japan Times back in April 2016. Here is he set of telegram phrases I found, some usage recommendations for telegrams from a digital telegram service, and the cost breakdown for messages from NTT.
You can also subscribe to the How to Japanese Podcast on Apple, Google, or Spotify.