I am writing this post because I would like you to help me to set my next goal on my path to becoming a Japanese translator and give me some advice. Right now I have just graduated from a Bachelor’s degree in Japanese translation, but far from what you might think, the level of training I have received is really low and much far from the desirable one to be able to translate professionally from Japanese. My current level of Japanese is around JLPT N3, and I feel that I still have a lot of grammar, a lot of vocabulary to learn, and that my language skills must improve much more if I want to be a translator one day. In fact, I’m not able to understand anything about anything that I could be asked to translate: I cannot read a novel (it takes me forever to read and understand a single page), I do not understand any anime, any movie, any drama, any video game with a minimum of plot, nothing. In class, the only thing we have done has been to translate texts from textbooks and some news from NHK Easy News, which has not prepared me at all for the profession of translation.
And even worse, my speaking and listening skills are completely hopeless. I don’t understand anything I hear in Japanese beyond one or two single words and I can’t carry on a simple conversation in Japanese naturally, that is, I can’t chat in a relaxed way with someone understanding what that person is saying to me and being able to say what I want to say without lacking hundreds of words or spending an hour thinking about how to build a long sentence. I only know how to make short sentences and I’m not able to compose long sentences and add elements on the fly as I speak.
And when I have discussed these problems with the different teachers I have had throughout my career, the only thing they have all ended up telling me is “the degree program is what it is. You should go to Japan, certainly your level would improve a lot there”, what I have never been able to do due to financial limitations.
That said, currently I am trying to learn all the Japanese that I can on my own in a self-taught way and in the future I am considering applying for a Monbusho Scholarship in order to go to Japan and try to complete my training, since it does not exist in my country any postgraduate studies that prepare me to be a Japanese translator. And here is where I ask you to share your wisdom. In case of applying for a postgraduate scholarship, which Master’s degree would be the best to be a Japanese translator? Above all, I would like to be a literary translator.
I have been researching the Master’s programs of different Japanese universities and I cannot find any university that trains me as a Japanese translator. It seems that studies related to translation are not recognized there, so I am quite lost and do not even know which master I should aspire to take one day. I have thought perhaps about a Master’s degree in Japanese literature or in Japanese studies, but for this I would need to be previously taught a level of Japanese that allows me to read novels and recognize different styles of writing, which is the most basic and fundamental prerequisite. What’s more, I suppose that to do any Master’s degree I need to have a level of educated native Japanese that I am light years away from…
And for this reason I ask you: how do I prepare to study a Master’s degree in Japan with my very poor level of Japanese? Although with a lot of effort I may be able to obtain JLPT N2 or JLPT N1 (at best) within a year or two, I can’t think of a way that I can improve my language skills to the point that I understand anything that I read or listen to. How do I understand the teachers and all the people around me? And how do I communicate myself if no matter how hard I try, I don’t know how to speak? I feel that I need a previous teaching and a very exhaustive training that I thought I would receive in my Bachelor’s degree and that, however, I have not received. And how do I do it to write papers and take exams in Japanese that would be complicated even in my own language? If one day I am lucky enough to get the scholarship, would I receive any training before taking any Master’s degree that makes me have a native Japanese level?
As you can see, right now I have many questions and no answers. That is why I ask for your help. Any advice you can give me is very welcome.
Thank you so much in advance!