From Argentina to Japan: My journey as a freelance translator

Born and raised in Argentina, Alan is a teacher, pianist, avid reader and a multicultural millennial living in Japan. With years of experience in translation, he has earned the title of Gengo Wordsmith in 2017 as an active Pro translator in two language pairs: English to Spanish and Japanese to Spanish.


My international journey

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a bustling city where you can make a difference if you’re clever enough to realize its many opportunities. I belong to a family of immigrants from Northwestern Italy and Spain. As a child, I started talking to multilingual relatives and friends and learnt a lot on my own. But my background also includes two degrees in Music and Education. In fact, I was a teacher at the Music Conservatory in my hometown and I relate to the arts world as well as to languages and business. My job is often about making interpretative choices.

I didn’t major in languages but I’ve passed several exams. I have top-level C2 in English (Cambridge), Italian (Siena), and will have Japanese this year! Certificates don’t mean much, but studying for them is a stimulus for improvement. To sum it up, I’ve built a career in this field almost single-handedly, and working for Gengo has taught me a lot!

Recently I’ve won a much-coveted and long-awaited postgraduate scholarship and started a new life in Japan, which allows me to travel around, brush up on my skills and fully immerse into this mind-blowing culture.

However, there’s always time for translation. Very different from Buenos Aires, my new workspace near Tokyo is small yet cozy, and super international.

Over 500,000 words translated on Gengo

Many customers have chosen me as a Preferred Translator, which has certainly contributed to my growth and helped me achieve the Gengo Wordsmith milestone. I guess the rigors of classical music training and office work also helped. I’m really passionate about my job and aim for more every day. With Gengo, I enjoy facing new challenges every day at my own, independent workplace. The funniest project I’ve translated so far was a series of slang-laden articles for American online media with sizzling anecdotes about food and some unsayable things. About the strangest one, I can’t divulge the details but it was a letter in Japanese including a few political accusations. Both were awkward but interesting!

As a Gengo Pro translator, I also try to remain detail-oriented as well as fully aware of today’s need for speed and clarity. Plus, I’m aware that knowing languages is not enough! Those who fail to grasp that may be inevitably left behind. As translators, we’re required to convey messages in a natural and, most of all, straightforward way. Sometimes we need to keep a scholarly tone for the academia or put our casual vocabulary to work when required. These are two equally challenging sides of this job.

I think one of the strengths of many Latin Americans like me must be versatility. Switching from one task to another is really useful in this field. No college degree teaches you that, in my opinion.

My must-have online tools

Many of us have enjoyed reading Britannica on paper, but the internet has reshaped our world and we should be grateful for that. Search engines are great tools to make sure our translation is widely accepted and understood. When translating from English, slang and acronym lists are also very useful. For references in Italian, I recommend Treccani; and for Japanese, I use Weblio and Kotobank.

For Spanish, the Real Academia may be essential, but to solve everyday issues, consider more up-to-date sites like Fundéu.

Keeping language skills fresh

I’m a big fan of Latin American, Italian, and Japanese literatures. I’ve recently finished reading some crazy stories by J. Tanizaki and guess I should be proud because it’s quite a challenge to read the original.

But I’m also surprised by the power of my own mother tongue. Spanish is expressive, international, and also a precious asset. By far the most widely spoken Romance language, it draws the attention of many foreign companies eager to reach Spanish-speaking markets. It’s a key tool and specialized language professionals online may act as effective links between worlds.

Language is alive and always evolving, so watch films and news from as many places as possible to catch up with current affairs and learn from people around the world. That’s important not only to sharpen our skills, but also to work efficiently and to keep in mind what customers need. Whatever your native language is, delve into it. Study it, enjoy it, feel the power of the treasure you’ve inherited.


Do you have interesting stories to share and would like to be a guest blogger? Leave a comment below and we’ll get in touch!

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Alan Gazzano

The author

Alan Gazzano

Alan is a teacher and pianist born in Argentina and living in Japan, where he conducts research on education technology while enjoying Asian food and arts. An avid reader and multicultural millennial with years of experience in translation, Alan has been one of Gengo’s Wordsmiths since 2017, and is an active Pro translator in two language pairs: English-Spanish and Japanese-Spanish.

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