Log in

So you want to translate manga professionally... - Practice translating from Japanese to English [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Practice translating from Japanese to English

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

So you want to translate manga professionally... [Apr. 17th, 2007|03:58 pm]
Practice translating from Japanese to English


Hi all! We've been thinking about posting this for a while and only just now got around to it, but for those of you studying Japanese with the goal of translating anime and/or manga professionally, we thought it might be helpful to type something up explaining how to get into "the Industry," based on our own experience. For those of you studying Japanese for the fun of it, you might find it interesting, or you might want to ignore. Feel free to choose either one!

The first step, of course, is to learn Japanese. I think everybody here is already working on that, so let's skip ahead.

The next step is to translate. Translate anything. Songs, your own personal manga collection, doujinshi, websites--anything that you can change from one language to another, do it. Practice a lot. This does a few things. First of all, it's good good practice. We learned a lot of things about the Japanese language just from translating it. We weren't always right, but the more you expose yourself to the language, the better a feel you get for it, and actually translating it is different than just reading or listening to it, so you'll want practice with it all. Second of all, it helps you build up a stock of translation samples. These could come very much in handy in future steps. Third of all, it'll help you realize whether or not translation is really for you. If you start translating stuff and realize you can't stand doing it, you might want to change your career plans.

Alright, now that you have lots of practice and you're ready to get started professionally, the next step is to offer your services. The manga companies probably won't come to you, so you have to go to them. Most companies don't post on their websites when they're looking for translators, either, so sometimes you do have to just contact somebody and say, "Hey, need a translator?" (only maybe a little more businesslike).

Some companies do list when they're looking for translators, and then they list who to contact and how. That makes things very easy. But since you can't always be that lucky, sometimes you have to go through other means. In our case, we applied for an internship at TokyoPop. Internships are awesome in many regards (except for the not being paid thing). First, they help you get to know the company, and vice versa. When the company knows you, and you've built up a good relationship, it's pretty easy to get translation work. Of course, you have to let them know you're interested in translating, but since co-workers talk, that shouldn't be too hard. Chances are they'll test your translation ability by asking for samples and/or asking you to translate something they have on hand.

If you're unable to get an internship for any reason (you've already graduated college or you live too far away), there are other ways to find out who to contact. One is to go to their website. Just because they don't tell you they're looking for translators doesn't mean they aren't, and there should be some contact info in order to find out. This is where having those samples will really come in handy, because once you've offered your services, they're going to want to know if you're any good (or in other words, proof that you have a grasp of Japanese as well as English).

An important thing to note is that most manga companies use freelance translators, so you can live anywhere and still translate for them.

Another way to make contact, in case you'd rather talk in person or something, is to go to conventions. Chances are there will be a booth in the dealers' room of at least one manga translation company. Just make sure to stop by, let them know you translate, and ask if they could use another translator. Having a business card helps, but from how things went down with us, we don't think it's entirely necessary. What happened in the case of us and Del Rey and CMX is they said, "Yes, we are looking for translators. E-mail this person." Then they gave us an e-mail address. When we went to Viz, they took our card and said they'd give it to the person in charge of translators, but we never heard from them, so we're thinking a wiser strategy would be to check back until you catch that person.

And of course, if you want to e-mail a company and just don't know who to contact, if you know somebody who works for them, chances are they could give you the info.

Alright, now that you've made contact and you've sent in your samples, they seem interested, but chances are you heard, "We don't have anything for you right now, but we'll keep you on file." Don't give up! Just check back every month or so, and eventually they probably will have something for you to translate. Just don't let them forget about you, or it could go to someone else.

And that's basically how it seemed to work when we did everything. Feel free to ask any questions you may have, and we'll answer them as best we can! Hope this was helpful!

[User Picture]From: overlord_sumomo
2007-04-18 06:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the information. Though what would be considered as proof of knowing the language? (Would a professor's recommendation work?)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: double_dear
2007-04-18 06:55 pm (UTC)
Usually they ask for samples (which should include the original Japanese as well as your translation). They take the sample and show it to someone they know who knows both Japanese and English, and that person will judge whether or not the translation is adequate or whether you made the entire English version up.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: overlord_sumomo
2007-05-11 02:35 pm (UTC)
Sorry but I have another question that I just thought of. When we translate in order to get the job are we allowed to use a dictionary for words we do not know?
(Reply) (Thread)