Careers: English to Japanese Translations

Any longtime Wanikani users using Wanikani to keep fresh while working as a translator? Okay. Well who here is hoping to translate novels, manga, or even video games as a career after completing Wanikani and JLPT N1? I listened to the Tofugu Podcast where Kristen & Michael spoke to a video game translator.

It made me realize that I am not crazy when I tell people I am looking for a writer first, a translator second in order to write the Japanese equivalent of my most important work, So Blu.

For a long time I searched high and low on Language Exchange apps for someone with basic conversational English (its a Young Adult novel after all) who can translate French, Russian or Japanese.

The argument I often received was… “Well if your book fairs well in the U.S. market, surely it will go on to be translated into other languages to break foreign markets as well.” I am fully aware that a successfully received novel is readily translated internationally, but my knowledge of the publishing industry as well as my knowledge of language translation tells me that leaving the fate of humanity in the hands of a few opinionated American bibliophiles with a force-fed addiction to YA Fantasy, not Science, is beyond illogical.

My novel So Blu, poses real solutions for overpopulation, climate change, and the fast food industry in a Young Adult Science Fiction narrative. It creates a potential utopia with a suspected dystopicunderground to the likes of Soylent Green or Clockwork Orange. I do not wish to simply translate. I wish to rewrite a Japanese narrative encompassing all the breath, depth, and beauty of the Japanese culture I hold so dear. It would be a grave disrespect to their gifts to humanity to have it any other way.

Could my novel be a manga? Yes. Would I be launching the “English version” at the same time? Absolutely. This cannot work without an infusion into the collective consciousness of many very different people.

I stare up at the stars and I remember the Russians were the first to space. We sore losers simply thought we could move the finish line. I will not let that fact be taken away from them.

When I pull a radish from the earth, I remember how the French were the first to develop a more compounded version of gardening, utilizing raised beds in ways no one had ever thought of before. And the French Revolution, the spirit of Revolution for the social welfare of others is still a cornerstone of their humanity.)

I thought we were out of time.

But now we must try to push that line between Life and Death, from a Green New World and our Earth’s 6th Extinction just a little further…hold on just a little longer…maybe just maybe we aren’t done yet.


Typically you translate into your native language. I think especially when it comes to creative content (business material might be another thing since it’s more formulaic).

But if you ever got good enough to write a novel in Japanese, I guess the sky’s the limit.


@Leebo As I Said, “For a long time I searched high and low on Language Exchange apps for someone with basic conversational English (its a Young Adult novel after all) who can translate French, Russian or Japanese.”

Okay… it’s just that the thread title is Careers: English to Japanese translations. So that’s usually not a career that we (non-natives of Japanese) would be doing.


Maybe one could translate into Japanese and then hire a Japanese editor for proofreading and fixing the grammatical mistakes. Might be an option for rare language combinations as it might be easier to find a Japanese editor than a person who speaks both languages. If the language you are translating from is English, then this will be very unlikely, but for other languages it might be more feasible.

(Assuming your Japanese skills are at least at C1/N1. So your text would be pretty good but not perfect)

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I know this isn’t the purpose of this thread but your novel sounds very interesting. Do you have an early version of your work available?

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There’s nothing to stop a writer from seeking out literary translators to try to find someone who might be interested in translating their work. The main concern is who owns the translation rights to the work. If the work is not published yet or is self-published, the writer retains the translation rights; if the work is published through a publisher, the publisher may own the translation rights, depending on what the publishing contract says.

If you want to find a quality literary translator, language exchange apps are not the place to look, and “basic conversational English” is not sufficient. As @Leebo mentioned, it is generally considered best practice in the translation industry to translate into, not out of, one’s native language (so you’re not likely to find professional E>J translators at Wanikani). The main exception is native speakers of languages that have relatively few speakers worldwide, who will sometimes translate out of their native language into a very widely-known language such as English. This isn’t the case for Japanese, though, and there are plenty of aspiring E>J literary translators who are native speakers.

It sounds like you are maybe thinking about writing your story in Japanese yourself, which would take much longer than getting it translated, but that could feel like a worthwhile and fulfilling struggle. You would still want support from several different native speakers along the way. If you’re curious, Dogen has spoken on this subject a bit, since he started writing fiction in order to improve his Japanese.

Sorry if I’m not answering your questions–I’m not 100% certain what the purpose of your post is. Your initial questions made me think you were asking about translation as a career for yourself, but based on the rest of your post, it seems like maybe you are more interested in finding an E>J literary translator? Or discussing a path toward becoming capable of E>J self-translation?

One way or another, when you’re thinking about translation, I urge you to give up restrictive ideas like a “Japanese equivalent.” Languages do not map onto each other one-to-one, and “equivalence” in translation is a misguided notion.


(sorry for the double post)

It is common complaint among professional translators that whenever someone hires them to do a “native check” of something that was pre-translated by a non-native speaker, they often end up having to re-translate the whole thing, and then get paid a severely reduced rate. Don’t be that person. It’s okay to hire someone to do a “native check,” but it’s important to understand that it can be as much work as translation and pay accordingly.


I think it depends on the level if a translation from scratch is necessary again… If someone actually has C1/C2 proficiency, the proofreader does not need to see the original text necessarily. As at C1/C2 the abilities should be comparable with those of a native. That said, only because I am a native, the texts still need proofreading.
I mean, if I write a book in my Native language, I would still have editors who might proofread my book and they get still the same amount paid. Though I am a Native speaker, I might still not have mastered my language in all contexts. (E.g. academic language is another level than just a casual blogpost, and the latter still needs proofreading)

Therefore, paying the proofreader the same rates as for a translator is only fair. It’s not like you only read it once and you just say, yeah, you missed a comma, but you have to adapt the text to the appropriate style and rule out any mistake that is there.

I have to say that that has frequently been my own experience as a translator into English of a number of European languages. It’s an absolute nightmare to try and correct the efforts of a non-native speaker, especially since it’s necessary to avoid upsetting them.


A YA novel in the publishing sense is targeted at 12-18 year olds, and even then, about half of YA readers are adults. As such, there’s nothing basic about the language at all.

In addition, language proficiency is only one of the skills that a literary translator has to have. They also have to be familiar with the genre of the work, the tone of similar books in that genre, and the current conventions.

For example, in English, first person and limited 3rd person are the most used by far with first person experiencing a resurgence recently.

Your book succeeds or fails based on your readers. There’s no cabal that’s going to tank it. It’s harder to find an audience if you’re self publishing, but it is by no means impossible.

In addition, a literary agent can help walk you through all of these hurdles.


@crispetynougat Just no to everything.

@alo I worked in publishing, I have published and I am a ghostwriter. I’m not looking to open a dialogue or hear opinions. Some people are WaniKani work in Localization. If thats not you or you don’t know someone interested then that’s fine.

@TonyB I am polyglot. You are not. Please refrain from assumptions of the capacities of others. Ayn Rand was a native Russian speaker for instance.

@crispetynougat No. Just no. I don’t think you understood my post.

I’m not sure what the point of your post is then. :man_shrugging:


The end of the first post reads like an excerpt, so maybe the point was partly advertising?


Aye, I suspect the actual point was to elicit a particular response, hence the reply salad.


I initially found it difficult to respond to your unnecessary abruptness politely. You know little or nothing about me, for instance, how long I translated professionally or what and how many languages I am familiar with. Surely it must be you who are making assumptions, as all I did was comment from my experience. Oh, and Ayn Rand is someone I have no respect for at all. But let’s not get personal.


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