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Doublespeak: Interview with a translator

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Are you bilingual? Trilingual? Omni-lingual? While the latter might not really be possible, making a living as a converter of languages certainly is. Freelance Japanese, French and English translator Marcus Chima does just that. He took a few minutes to share with CareerBuilder -- in English -- what it is he does and how you can get into it too. Amusez-vous!

CareerBuilder: What kind of things do you translate most and least often?

Marcus Chima: I primarily translate news articles and fiction work. Right now I'm translating a digital comic book, which is allowing me to synthesize both translation work and my Adobe Creative Suite skills. I also have a bit of experience in interpretation, particularly when friends need people to act as liaison for visiting Japanese guests for things like exhibitions and conventions. I have yet to do legal translation work, but am definitely interested in that field as well.

CB: With French being closer to English than Japanese is, do you find it easier to translate French, or at this point are you equally comfortable with both?

MC: While the majority of my translation and interpretation work to date has been in Japanese, I've slowly started translating news articles from French to English independently. I've found that French's similarity to English is not necessarily a factor to me versus Japanese per se, simply because my years of knowledge in Japanese have given me a knack for what to look for and do when translating. That said, French translation tends to require fewer revisions before completion, generally because the meanings between English and French words tend to be more similar and precise than in Japanese, where emotional nuances in words are common.

CB: How do you find new clients, and do you have many repeat clients? One would think with translation work much of what you do might be "one and done" assignments.

MC: The vast majority of my clients have been one-term assignments, but one of my current clients has hinted at the possibility of more work in the future. It's definitely an exciting opportunity for me, if it comes through. I usually find clients through postings on websites, including CareerBuilder, though I've also received translation jobs simply through networking and talking to people I meet.

CB: What can you tell us about your certification in Japanese? Are you pursuing certification in French as well?

MC: My current certification in Japanese is the level 2 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which I received after taking the test in December 2009. The JLPT is provided by the Japan Foundation, and is an internationally recognized and standardized certification. The level 2 certification is the second highest level, and I am currently preparing for the N1 level, the highest level, which will be offered in Chicago in December this year. As for French, I will be attempting my first certification at the end of April, the DELF (Diplôme d'études en langue française). The DELF is provided by the French Ministry of Education to assess the French-language ability of foreign candidates.

CB:  How did you get inspired to become a translator?

MC: I come from a family of readers, and my mother owned books in several languages, French among them. Being exposed to these languages in this way inspired me to want to become a translator. Learning Japanese was my choice, though I did learn French for a brief time in my childhood before finally being able to fully commit to it starting in early 2009. I received formal Japanese classes at the Georgia Japanese Language School from 1996-2001, and took several classes during my time at Georgia State University.

CB: What advice can you give to those considering getting into the business of translating?

MC: Network. Always market yourself and your abilities. Meeting other people -- other translators, clients, businessmen, freelance workers, or even just interested parties -- is a wonderful way to get your name out. Look for organizations that are in line with your target language (e.g. Japanese Consulate, Alliance Francaise, Instiuto Cervantes), and take advantage of their membership offers and events. You'll meet people and get the opportunity to use your language skills. There is also an organization, the American Translators Association, which, if you have enough experience translating, will be able to find possible clients for you, as well as provide certification exams.

Last Updated: 16/02/2012 - 12:19 AM

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