I signed up for the Japan Translation Federation ほんやく検定

It’s in January. It can be done from one’s home computer. I signed up for the 実用レベル日英翻訳 (Practical Use Level Japanese to English Translation) test.

There are also low level ones (basically, lower than the level needed to actually get hired for anything I guess) as well as an English to Japanese version.

So I have about a month and a half to cover general concepts in translation studies, as well as do a bunch of practice. But I do have a translation studies textbook to work with, so I feel okay, I guess.

It’s not a huge deal if I fail or anything… really just doing it because it seems interesting.


The textbook I have is the Routledge Course in Japanese Translation. It’s definitely daunting… the first chapter calls attention to a lot of the pitfalls and most difficult parts of translation, so hopefully it’s not all as difficult as that. I don’t personally have much interest in translating haikus or huge novels, but even without that there are lots of things I’ve never considered before.


I have read some of the chapters from this book during my study abroad in Japan while taking an intro to interpreting class. It is definitely one of the most difficult textbooks that I had read. I don’t know how much of a background in translating/linguistics you have, but to me, it seemed that later chapters are more difficult than the beginning. But despite the difficulty, it really makes you consider even seemingly obvious things when thinking about translation. Wish you all the best preparing and actually taking the test!


So I looked a bit more into the actual way the test is conducted. For the level I choose, the way it works is there are 6 texts in different categories, and you choose only one to attempt to translate. Presumably in a field you consider a strength of yours.

Those categories are (or at least very likely are)

  • 政経・社会 (Politics, Economics, Society)
  • 科学技術 (Science and Technology)
  • 金融・証券 (Finance and Trading)
  • 医学・薬学 (Medicine and Pharmaceutics)
  • 情報処理 (Information processing / Computing)
  • 特許 (Patents)

After you select one of the 6 texts, you attempt to translate it, and they then assign you an assessment of 一級, 二級, 三級, or 不合格.

This is really interesting, because it means I can use my study time to become much more familiar with translation in one of these categories and just focus on that in the exam.

Well, maybe I’ll choose 2 in case my preferred one is particularly hard or something.


Do you get a piece of pie for each category you translate correctly? :slightly_smiling_face:


Yes, but it’s a whole pie for 一級, half a pie for 二級, and one third of a pie for 三級.


The pass / fail stats are a little scary

In most recent test with available data 791 people took this level of English > Japanese or Japanese > English

For English > Japanese, the people who passed with each assessment
一級 - 3
二扱 - 21
三級 - 64

For Japanese > English
一級 - 4
二扱 - 20
三級 - 41

That leaves 637 with 不合格…


How did this test even cross your radar? And aren’t you studying proverbs right now for Kanken??

The amount of specialized kanji/vocabulary/technical terms for any of these categories, especially for patents (what? why?)…

I don’t even know what to say except where would you start …

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I have to find a new job next year, so this was kind of step one of that. I haven’t stopped studying for Kanken.

Specialized vocab isn’t so scary, since you can use a dictionary, the Internet, anything you would normal use when hired to work as a translator.

Also, according to one translation studies book I have, translation of patents accounts for about 20% of all translation work in Japanese, so that’s why it’s a category.


I s’pose that makes sense but I just wonder, with such a high fail rate, if there is something to becoming well versed in a specific category.

I’m thinking about the medical interpreter field, for example (and which is not exactly the same thing but the idea is similar), where technically anyone could probably do that, but to next level it, you can take a course in medical terminology, and learn whatever else is in the curriculum to make you more effective at the interpreting.

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The data does not indicate how many of the failures resulted from simply failing to complete the full translation, or signing up but not attempting the test at all. It would be nice to have that data too. So that could account for the high failure rate if it’s the case.


Looking at the exercises in the textbook got me thinking, “Yo, where is the Duolingo word bank though…”. Might scoop it and try to work thought it over the holidays, nice find!

Wrong thread? Or were you referring to the Routledge book I mentioned.

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Thank you for posting this Leebo! I would consider giving this a try. It’s interesting that you can use full internet connectivity. That means they are testing essentially the same task as a real translation job. I wonder how they prevent cheating though.

I recently sat the Australian NAATI Professional Translator test for Japanese into English (no result yet). It allows use of electronic dictionaries and desktop-based glossaries, but nothing with internet connectivity. The test is monitored using special software that records keystrokes, webcam and miocrophone.

I was worried the doorbell might ring while I was doing the test (it’s a Japanese doorbell that plays a melody for a minute if you don’t switch it off), but trying to disable it, I accidentally switched on the burglar alarm instead and, not knowing the deactivation code, the security company had to come disable it :see_no_evil: (what kind of alarm can be activated without a code, but only deactivated with one!)

Good luck, let us know how it goes!


Haven’t actually read it yet, but I own this book (came out pretty recently) and I’ve heard good things from the translators I follow on Twitter, if you’re interested:
Japanese–English Translation: An Advanced Guide


The previous test booklet I ordered came. It has all of the texts to be translated, as well as an example of an acceptable translation, and a detailed breakdown of the example translation. I’m pretty impressed. The texts to be translated are only about 1 page in length (on A4 paper), with decent margins. I’m excited to try translating some of them.


Less than two weeks until the exam. I plan to go through all the problems from the previous test book, one every other day or so.

I have been continuing with practicing translating other things in the meantime.


Been wondering how your studies are going. Looking forward to your after exam assessment in 2-ish weeks.


So many kinds of kentei :flushed:

This is a story to remember lol

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This is a story to remember lol

Yes, it sure is! On the upside, I now know how the alarm system works in my apartment, and that the security company doesn’t charge if you acidentally trigger it and they have to visit because you can’t give them the secret code over the phone.
Also, I have to deactivate the doorbell at least one more time, as it turns out I failed the NAATI exam, so I’ll resit later this year.