Moving “Recycling Oriented Society” to the compost heap

If you translate out of Japanese, you've probably come across the term "循環型社会." According to wikipedia, it means "a society that efficiently uses and reuses finite resources in a sustainable cycle" (my translation). For some reason, the accepted translation for this term seems to have become "recycling oriented society" (it's the only one listed in […]

The worst job ever?

I recently took a job from a translation agency that will remain nameless. I had passed their test some time ago, but didn't do much work for them because their rates were usually too low for me. They recently contacted me about taking part of a big job, and agreed to my usual rates, so […]


The other evening, I was out at a pub with some friends, when my cell phone went off at around 10pm. My friends asked me if I was going to take the call. I pulled out the phone, and saw it was from a translation agency, so I put it on "manner" mode (vibration mode), […]

IJET is being broadcast live

IJET-21 is under way, and this year it's being broadcast live! Link to broadcast feed Kudos to Mike Sekine and the others who made this possible. If you translate between Japanese and English, but didn't get a chance to go to IJET, then by all means check it out.

Pair translation?

Pair programming is the practice of two programmers working collaboratively at one work station. One person types while the other watches and gives advice, with frequent switches. I've pair programmed before, and I've found that — perhaps counterintuitively — we actually got more work done than if we had worked alone, and the work was […]

Translating into or out of the foreign language

In most places around the world, the common wisdom is that you should translate into a native language. This isn't the case for Japan, where for a variety of economic and social reasons, the vast majority of Japanese to English translation is done by native writers of Japanese. Native writers of Japanese who translate into […]

Translator bait and switch

Some of the more unscrupulous translation agencies practice what I call the bait and switch. They use their more expensive translators on the first couple of jobs for a new client, and then switch to their cheaper translators after they've locked in a juicy contract. Of course, you always want to do the best possible […]

Experts Needed

Commoditization is something that you want to avoid as a service provider. When your services become a commodity, they can be replaced by many other service providers. Then you end up competing almost solely on price. There are many ways that you can make your services stand out from the crowd so that they aren't […]

Talk on translation at Japanese high school

Last week, I gave a talk at Naha Nishi High School about the translation profession, as well as language learning and some of my experiences in Japan. The talk was arranged through an educational company called Kids Corporation. Although my talk was in Japanese, the students emceed the presentation in both English and Japanese, and […]

Is a smarter Google worse for translators?

There's an excellent article on the official Google blog about how Google is improving the search engine's natural language understanding. Two of the big areas of improvement are using synonyms and similar words to expand search results, and automatic translation to find results in other languages. These are generally useful, because they get more results […]