Survival:Acquiring Street Smarts 101 for Japanese-to-English TranslatorsRolling with the punches that the market is already throwing

William Lise (November 5, 2023)


First, regardless of where you are—in your career or geographically—specialize. As the degree of “generalness” of the things you translate increases, its value and your earning power approach an asymptote of zero. Specialization becomes more important to survival every time yet another agency switches to the MTPE business model and stops ordering translation, because what will remain are almost all direct clients that will quickly know when you don't understand what you're translating.

If you’re just starting out or still learning:

Get a non-translation life before you start translating. It can provide opportunities to acquire a specialization, which is essential if you decide to be a translator. And it could also provide a survival career path if what is happening to the translation business continues, and I don’t doubt that it will continue.

If you’re already translating and agency-dependent, but seeing your earning opportunities shrink:

Get out from in front of your computer and start having a life during translation. You need to interact with non-translators beyond your cyberspace presence, and that includes things like LinkedIn, which some translators appear to think is going to save them; it is not.

This is important anywhere, and is particularly important in Japan. The connections you make could extend your earning career a few years.

If you’re either near the end of your career or financially secure:

Don’t bother worrying.

If none of the above applies or is acceptable:

Plan on not translating in a few years.

You might also want to take a look at Some Dos and Don't Bothers in the Post MTPE World of Japanese-to-English Translation.