I am currently working on a library guide for Japanese language learners who are interested in becoming translators. There is so much information out there in interviews, podcasts, tweets, and articles that it can be overwhelming. But the more I read and talk with people earning a living as translators, there are certain patterns that begin to emerge and that makes it easier to compile a library guide to help them get started.
My interest in this area is natural as a librarian. People want to read Japanese literature in translation and if they are also learning Japanese some will want to try their own hand at translation. Most Japanese language and literature programs include courses on translation theory and in the upper level language courses students are given the opportunity/assignment to try their own hand at translation. Some programs even include practicums where students have the opportunity to really work on their translations and receive feedback and mentoring.
But one of the areas that I didn’t see being covered in detail in these courses was about the business end of translating. Do you start with a full translation and then approach publishers? Can you submit a CV to a publisher and get freelance translation jobs? How does one get permission to translate a particular text, how do you contact the copyright holder or publisher and what kinds of language do you use to make a good impression and accomplish your task. How does one become a professional translator?
I was not prepared to answer any of these questions. I’m a librarian and a reader, not a translator nor a publisher. My initial concerns were about copyright and not violating copyright by naive and overenthusiastic translators. And so, I knew just enough to let people know that they can’t “publish” translations without permissions, but I didn’t know enough how to guide them through the process of actually getting permission and seeing their translation in print. Questions from students about how to become professional translators was even further from my wheelhouse, but I could at least point them in the direction of professional translators if I could find a way to do it without inconveniencing the professionals. And that is how this journey started.
I started out by following a number of active translators on Twitter. This was fabulous for me, and I highly recommend it for interested students as well. So easy to follow, pick up information, and not inconvenience anyone. Here is a brief list of some of the translators I have been following:
- Emily Balistieri @tiger
- Jocelyne Allen @brainsvbook
- Polly Barton @pollyfmbarton
- Louise Heal Kawai @quietmoonwave17
- Morgan Giles @wrongsreversed
- Lucy North @japanonmymind
- Alison Watts @sashikolady
- Takami Nieda @TNieda
- Avery Udegawa @AveryUdegawa
- Kathryn Hemmann @kathrynthehuman