Master's degree to be a Japanese translator

@Jonapedia Thank you so much again for your reply! :slight_smile:

Regarding word search, without doubt from now on I will also try to look up the words in Goo辞書 as well as in Tsukuba corpus.

Yes, definitely sentences like that one or others even worse that have many embedded relative clauses are also hard for me to assimilate, especially when speaking so that I don’t have a visual image of the entire sentences and some time to analyze them. :sweat_smile:

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@tiagobione Thank you so much for sharing your experience and giving me encouragement! :slight_smile:

Yes, this is something that many of my teachers have highlighted a lot throughout my Bachelor’s degree and it’s something I always have in mind.

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@midnightsnack Thank you so much for your tips and your encourgament! :slight_smile:

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Thank you for sharing your experiences, it is really interesting to hear about it because I wanted to become a translator at some point as well and didn’t know how to get there. The profession I used to work for is very secretive and that makes things quite difficult sometimes for newbies.

Now I gave up on the whole idea but for younger people with this dream I would like to add something,
because I realized that often people in the forum have the concern that it is absolutely necessary to live in Japan to learn Japanese and it is possible to make a massive step forward in doing so but:

Living in Japan is not necessarily a good place to learn Japanese!

That sounds strange, but if you live in Japan you will feel:

  • Overexposed to the language to a degree making it difficult to really concentrate on studying besides to what else you are doing (living, work, university etc.). Japanese becomes a method for survival rather than a study with a clear structure and defined goal. Even if you want to study you don’t know where to start at some point (Keigo, Kanji, Accent, conversation…) It is much easier to act structured with a certain distance from Japan. The more you already know before you go to Japan the better.
  • Japanese culture is very different from the “West” so if you experience it for the first time it is 100% likely that after a certain time you will experience a massive culture shock and suddenly everything Japanese is not cool anymore and this also is not helpful in your motivation towards studying.
  • Next point is, Japanese adjust their level of speaking to yours in order to be polite (or rarely they speak normal, and in this case most likely you will not understand a lot) so even if you live in Japan you have to manage to level up by yourself - this happens more natural when you are in your home country because you know it is necessary to do the effort by yourself. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing just living in Japan makes your Japanese better.
  • You cannot directly ask people about Japanese like in this forum and you will receive very strange tips on how to improve your Japanese. This is distracting because in the beginning you will believe people because they are native and you think they know what they are talking about.
  • If you are visually sensitive you might loose your love for Kanji if you live eg in Tokyo. The hole city is plastered in three dimensions with text (in weird fonts) that competes for your attention making it difficult to navigate even if you can read already. Until this point (living in Japan for about ten years) I am still looking for the toilet flush button sometimes because there is also an emergency button and for some reason a lot of text explaining what is what and it is everything else than easy to understand.
    There is really a visual information overkill. With this level of overexposure it is not the first thing you might want to do when you are at home to read a Japanese book which seems to be the most important thing after all.
  • The brain works best when you feel calm and safe. This is a condition difficult to achieve when you live in Japan for the first two years.
  • If you go to a language school in Japan you will be surrounded by other foreigners, this condition does not improve your abilities. Eg I started to develop a Korean accent during my last time in a language school.
  • The method in which languages in Japan are taught are questionable looking at how successful they are. (This also applies to universities).
  • Japanese people (also teachers) are very discouraging because they (sometimes but not always unconsciously) perpetually transmit their opinion that a westerner can not become good at Japanese.

In order to learn to speak and to get a feeling for “real” Japanese culture (somehow it seems to me the cultural aspect is very important to translate Japanese) that is not covered in the mainstream media (there are some misconceptions and it is often depicted very superficial) it is necessary to live for a while in Japan (and suffer).
But if the goal is to become a translator maybe most of the work that is necessary towards becoming one can be (better) done from outside of Japan.

(I don’t want to say that living in Japan is just suffering but being exposed to an entirely different way of thinking automatically leads to a mismatch between expectation and reality and that hurts, whatever people may say on social media)

Finally I recommend to stop watching Anime even if you love them, especially if you love them. They do help for learning the language and to learn casual Japanese but to understand the culture (as a whole not only seen from a young persons view) better I recommend to watch eg 深夜食堂, it is on Netflix and I think it gives a quite broad cultural insight. Or movies like おくりびと, たそがれ清兵衛 or 猫のタキシー something not so mainstream entertainment is best for that purpose because these stories of antiheros take a closer and more precise look at society than an idealized movie or drama. Even if you don’t understand a lot just watching it helps to get the atmosphere. A manga useful for that is わにとかげぎす by 古谷実 but it is a bit extreme underground.

To understand Japanese thinking better I found the book もう、怒らない and I think it was 仏教対人心理学読本 from 小池 龍之介 very useful.

And be very careful about which exams or qualifications you are trying to get (or better avoid). I think the N1 is useful for translators (maybe only for translators and people who need it for their job hunting) because it teaches a lot of sentence structures you don’t need in real life. Something like double negations appear a lot and if you want to translate getting a good feeling for such structures helps I think.
But eg you don’t need to take the Kanken exams (it takes an incredible amount of effort to pass the upper levels), they are good at expanding your vocabulary and for handwriting Kanjis but studying them you don’t learn any context so for a translator it might be better to study vocabulary while reading making flashcards with whole sentences or at least a part of it.
In the end it also depends on what you are planning to translate, I had novels in mind but maybe that is not what you are interested in.

Btw. with your attitude I am sure you will learn Japanese fast and efficiently because you know what you don’t know. It is more difficult for people who cannot admit to that. (Speaking from own experience, I had to change my attitude quite a lot in order to improve things)

(Sorry that the whole text is a bit off topic, but I thought I would like to take out some pressure from the idea that is is absolutely necessary to go to Japan based on the experience I had in Japan so far. And most of the foreigners I know in Japan just surrender at some point because learning seems so overwhelming. In this forum there is an entirely different level of enthusiasm compared to the foreigners community in Japan btw. and this helps me to regain some momentum :sweat_smile:)


It is normal to not understand anime and drama unless you are intentionally learning vocabulary for that. Anime and dramas use a ton of words that are not normally used in conversations. especially anime, they have a tendency to use really old words that people don’t say anymore. I highly recommend finding some programming to listen to that is unscripted. talkshows, podcasts, and vtubers have been my go to. Also keep in mind if you want to be a professional translator for business settings, learning keigo is a must.

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(Disclaimer: I’m not a translator.)

Do you want to translate some things in particular? e.g. business contracts vs manga for export.
Each field of translation will have vocab specific to it, even within manga and novels different genres will have their own pools of vocab.

You will get better at what you practice, so if you want to be able to translate manga then you could start practicing translating manga today. I would suggest you start incorporating this practice into your studies this sooner, rather than delaying it until after reaching some JLPT level. can help you compare the difficulty of reading different texts.

WK book clubs are a great resource. You can read through books that others are going through (or have already gone through), post your breakdowns and translations, and if you’re lucky get feedback from others or compare to their translations.

I’m currently working through a book from the absolute beginner book club, I and others users often provide translations / breakdowns, and other users may provide feedback.

You can see My (crappy) breakdowns here and here, I was lucky enough to get feedback for both <3.
You can see breakdowns by other users here, here, here, and here.

(NB: If your target translation language isn’t English then this might not be as useful to you.)

If you prepared some breakdowns / translations you should be able to hire a tutor to review them.

It would be hugely beneficial to talk to (many) people already working in translation industry in a role similar to your target role, ask them how they got there, and for advice on how you can get there.


You’re right, I feel like translating documentaries is a very interesting field, but the demand may not be so high. I’ve seen a few documentaries in my native language (French) where animal names or some words were incorrect, probably because machine translation was used from English, and then the translation might have been “smoothed” by someone who didn’t master the vocabulary. Again we see people who might benefit from specialised translators, but who don’t want to put the money.

I totally agree with you, I’ve seen that many publishers offer proofreading for people whose native language is not English, but obviously it costs money and most scientists in my field say: “I’m too poor, they’ll have to handle my English the way it is”. And obviously, these services are from another language to English. I’ve read that translators can sometimes translate into a language which is not their native language, but that it shouldn’t be too often and that it requires proofreading by a native. So I guess this kind of scientific translation is much rarer in French.

Thanks for trying to help me. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:
As I said above, my native language is French, so this business might not be so well developed in French. But obviously there will be less opportunities than in English in any field, but also less competition, so the market may be in balance.
Also, I think that this kind of translation may require a training in law. To be fair, this is not really my cup of tea. :sweat_smile:

Well, ideally, I would do some scientific translation and some literary translation, because I quite like writing fictional works in French. But I guess I’ll have to start by being not too picky and try to advance in this field!

Yes, and most of the time, the more specific the topic, the less competition, and the higher the salary. I’ve read an interesting book about translation, and the author suggest that most translators have to specialise at some point if they want to make enough money and be efficient.

I’m sorry too. :pray:
But I believe this thread gives us a good opportunity to discuss various things about the fascinating world of translation!


I don’t know if it still applies these days, but back when I got a student visa in 2009, I wasn’t allowed to work during my stay in Japan. Something to look out for at least. You wouldn’t want to get kicked out of the country.

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@Amimononohitsuji First if all, thank you very much for your point of view and for all the recommendations of series, movies, manga and books that you have made me. I will definitely take a look at them! :slight_smile:

About what you have commented, I am aware that living in Japan can be hard in the ways that you mentioned. However, in addition to my professional goal of being a Japanese translator, my personal goal is to master Japanese in all facets, and for this, as you say

Indeed, I am totally willing to give myself to Japanese and do my best to learn the language, even if I have to suffer for that. And going back to the professional subject, I would like to find a good path for me in Japan that nurtures me with professional and academic knowledge, a path that does not exist in my country.

Regarding the Kanken, although it is not very relevant on a professional level, I prepare for this exam mainly for personal motivation and because I love studying kanji. :relaxed:


@vampirial Thanks a lot for your tips! :slight_smile:

Do you know talkshows, podcasts or vtubers with natural speaking and that have subtitles so that I can understand the things I can’t grasp?

@chrisosaurus I would especially like to be a literary translator. In fact I am already beginning to read Japanese novels little by little with the idea both of improving my own level of Japanese and of becoming familiar with Japanese literature written in Japanese.

Thank you so much for the links to the several resources you have mentioned. I’ll check them out! :slight_smile:

About sharing my translations, since English is not my native language nor my target translation language, I probably won’t do it, but thanks a lot for inviting me to do it!

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Which level are you preparing for?

@Amimononohitsuji Kanken 2

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@Shannon-8 @Shiruberu Please, don’t worry! If this thread can be useful for other people as well, all the better! :slight_smile:


Do you have a strategy on how you prepare for it? (Like paper, pen etc., any detail actually). Because there is another topic about Kanken where these things are discussed and it would be very interesting to hear about your approach if you did not already mention it there and you don’t mind to share…

Kent State is where I received my Bachelor’s degree and it’s also where I took all of my Japanese classes. I spent three years learning Japanese there. I was only three classes shy from a minor in Japanese. The Japanese program is run by Eriko Tanaka who is the best Japanese professor I have ever had. She always made things very clear and easy to understand. She was also from Osaka originally, so it was fun to practice “Osaka-nese” every once in awhile.

Dr. Wakabayashi is the head of the Master’s in Translation program at Kent State. She’s actually Australian. Very nice woman, but her bar is set very high. She expects good results, and yes, a grasp on the language is almost a requirement before thinking about trying to apply. The students in the Master’s program also doubled as Teaching Assistants for the lower level Japanese classes. The people I had were really nice, and doubled as tutors if you wanted extra help, as well. Almost all of them were JLPT N2 level speakers. One of the girls had an N1 level. Most had worked in Japan for some amount of time (not saying that that’s a requirement). One studied Japanese at Rikkyo University for one year while also taking classes in Japanese at the same time.

Your friend is in very capable hands!


@Amimononohitsuji Yes, there is actually a thread about Kanken that I participated in with a question I had about studying yojijukugo.

On my way of preparing Kanken, since I have never taken the exam before, I feel that I’m not in a position to give much advice, but basically what I do is for each kanji, I try to remember a word or several for each reading, and then, I do a lot of preparation exercises like the ones you can find on this website:


If you have access to the Japanese Netflix library, I recommend しくじり先生. Chaotic, funny, with a bunch of big personality celebrities talking naturally. Fully subbed of course. :+1:


Thank you, that looks very useful.

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@nat25 since I use the usually just listen to the talkshows and podcasts, so I have no idea about subtitles. for Vtubers, there are a lot of clip translation channels on youtube. Even then I usually listen to the livestreams without watching them. I find that having subtitles up makes it harder to work on my listening skills cause I am used to reading subtitles as if they are a natural thing. When I fist started working on my listening skills I was told to specifically avoid subtitles cause your brain will naturally focus on them instead of listening properly cause it is easier.