Faces of Gengo: Iori

One of our full-time English to Japanese translators, Iori moved to the U.S. at a young age of 18. As a foreigner, she used her frustration with linguistic and cultural barriers as motivation to master the English language and open new doors. Find out how translating for Gengo impacted her life in this interview.

Nationality: Japanese
Location: Tennessee, U.S.A
Occupation: Full-time translator
Gengo translator since: November 2015
Language pair: English to Japanese

What languages do you speak?

English and Japanese

If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be and why?

Spanish. While in grad school, my department was looking for somebody who can speak Spanish fluently enough to help a family of 15 as a family/group counselor. I, who had moved from Japan to the U.S. at the age of 18, truly wanted to help them since I knew what it is like to live with linguistic and cultural barriers every day, but I didn’t have enough language skills to communicate with, let alone help the family. Through that experience, my frustration became a motivation and now I would really like to learn Spanish and become able to at least understand and empathize with people in need.

Do you have experience living in other countries? If so, where?

I was born and raised in Japan. I joined an international student homestay program when I was 12 years old and had my first “real English” experience (that was only 4 months after I started learning English so needless to say the electronic dictionary was my best friend while I was there). And after I graduated from high school in Japan, I came to the U.S. and I’ve been living here since.

“My town during the fall season a.k.a. the best view ever”

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy being a translator and why?

8. I know how frustrating it is not to be able to fully or smoothly communicate with people who speak another language. Being able to help people experience that is very fulfilling and rewarding. Also, I love how I can learn so many random things by translating various kinds of content that I don’t normally think about exploring. As much as I enjoy translating, I’d give it an 8 because translators can’t change the original text in order to provide an accurate translation, no matter how much I disagree with it or want to add or change something. Sometimes that makes my teeth itch.

How has translating for Gengo impacted your life?

Reading about various subjects helps me learn so many things. I often find myself interested in the subject and wanting to learn more about it after translating. This made me more open-minded and thirsty for knowledge. Now I watch and read genres of movies/books I used to avoid, spend more time with people from different age groups and occupations or have different interests, and try doing new things and going to new places. Overall, I started saying “Yes” to new things more.

“My little workspace”

When you were growing up, what did you aspire to become?

A mental health counselor. When I was in 7th grade, I read a book called “A Child Called ‘It'”, an autobiography of a severe child abuse survivor, and ever since then I have always wanted to give comfort to people who are mentally struggling. Before that, I wanted to be a concert pianist or a doctor, but I realized that I was not that good of a musician long ago and I can’t look at infected wounds or skin diseases.

What quote do you live by?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. Complaining is easy. We see everybody doing that every day especially in this society where social media is used a tool for free speech with no/less repercussion. When I was working as a counselor, most of the problems presented by clients were “somebody else’s fault.” It was always somebody but themselves who were supposed to make some kind of change. But I don’t believe that will make this world a better place. Instead of complaining about others or just wishing things were different, I want to BE the example and I want to BE the change.

“Health and fitness is such a big part of life for me and my husband. Just like improving your language skills, the harder you work, the better results will follow. I love challenging myself and improving myself every day.”

Name three of your favorite translation / language learning tools.

I don’t have three tools to name but “Put yourself out there and use it!” would be my advice. I have had so many people at the gym asking me what they should do to be able to do more pull-ups and I always say “then do more pull-ups.” I think the same goes for the process of language learning. If you want to be better at something, practice more. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or not be able to do it perfectly. Oh and having a significant other who speaks the language always helps. I met my English-speaking husband 10 years ago and he has helped me tremendously.

What would you say are the three things you enjoy most about Gengo?

  1. Wide variety of subjects and the knowledge you can gain from them
  2. The discipline and mental challenge of the translating process
  3. Flexible working time and place

What advice would you give to new or aspiring translators?

Don’t just translate the words literally. Consider and incorporate the meaning/background/culture behind them. That’s what sets you apart from boring old machine translation.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Sometimes, it’s okay to say “Oh well.” It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s great to be the best version of yourself but that doesn’t mean you always have to be perfect. Be you.

Want to become a Gengo translator?


Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

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