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カテゴリーのアイコン Work Life in Japan
What It's Like to Be a Translator in Japan in 2023
Jan 25, 2024
4 min read
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Are you curious about what it's like to be a translator in Japan in 2023? Delve into the world where language, culture, and communication intertwine. Discover the challenges, opportunities, and unique experiences that come with being a translator in Japan today.

In this digital era, with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and the continuous improvement of machine translation, an array of free tools are available at your fingertips, enabling you to navigate foreign languages using just your smartphone. But what does this mean for translators in Japan in 2023?

What Do You Need to Be a Translator in Japan?

Translation jobs have long been favored by those who have dedicated years to mastering a language. While a degree in translation or Japanese language is not a strict requirement, it undoubtedly provides a solid language foundation and a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and history. Many degree programs include subjects such as Japanese art, history, politics, and social science, enhancing your expertise in diverse areas.

However, proficiency in Japanese is essential, and obtaining a high score in the JLPT N1 (Japanese Proficiency Language Test) is often considered mandatory. It signifies your mastery of the language and opens doors to more opportunities.

If you want to become an in-house translator for a company, then a bachelor's degree (or five years of proven experience in the same field) is essential to get a visa sponsorship. The Specialist in Humanities / International Services Visa will allow you to work in translation.

In addition, become acquainted with the use of CAT tools, such as Trados, which is specific software that assists a human translator in the translation process. CAT tools can save and store past translations in a "translation memory" to reference past works, improve efficiency, and help maintain consistency across different translations.

Decide in Which Field You Want to Specialize

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One crucial decision for aspiring translators is choosing a specialization. It's nearly impossible to excel in translating a wide range of subjects. Focusing on a specific field allows you to become a valuable and trusted resource, striking a perfect balance between quality and efficiency. While manga and novel translation may be appealing, it's a highly competitive field with lower rates due to lower specialization. Alternatively, specializing in technical areas like finance, technology, or medical translation offers better financial prospects and greater control over your income. Media-related translation, such as podcasts, subtitles, and video game localization, is also on the rise, presenting exciting opportunities.

AI and Machine Translation

Now, let's address the elephant in the room: artificial intelligence and machine translation. While these technologies continue to advance, they still need help with idiomatic expressions, cultural nuances, and complex syntax. Human translators possess the essential ability to capture the nuances and subtleties of language, ensuring accurate and culturally appropriate translations.

In addition, machine translation and AI are most effective with common European language combinations such as English into French, Spanish, and German but are still lagging behind Asian languages such as Japanese.

AI and machine translation tools are effective ways to improve efficiency, increasing the daily capacity of translators and proofreaders. A human approach will always be required to tailor translation to a specific audience, market, or culture and to ensure accuracy.

Visa Options for Translators in Japan: Freelance or In-House?

Regarding visa options, translators in Japan can choose between working as freelance translators or in-house translators for companies. Both paths have advantages and considerations, depending on your preferences and circumstances.

In Japan, there is no such thing as a freelance or self-sponsored visa. If you wish to work as a freelancer and receive payment on a project basis, you will need to hold other types of visas, such as a spouse visa or permanent resident status.

To obtain a work visa and legally work in Japan, you must be sponsored by a company that will act as your "guarantor" and handles all the necessary documentation for visa issuance or renewal.

The Future of Translation in Japan: Navigating Opportunities and Challenges

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In conclusion, being a translator in Japan in 2023 requires a strong language foundation and a deep understanding of specialized subjects. Embrace the opportunities presented by AI and machine translation advancements by specializing in fields like technology, legal, or medical translation. Stay proactive in keeping up with industry developments and continuously sharpen your translation skills to thrive in this dynamic and competitive field. The world of translation in Japan awaits you, ready to be explored and conquered.

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