Hall of fame: Jean

A native Chinese speaker from Taiwan, Jean considers Japanese as her second language. When she’s not translating, she enjoys reading manga and watching variety shows to keep her Japanese skills sharp. To reach the Gengo Wordsmith milestone, she reminds fellow translators to keep persevering because even the most mundane path could lead to success.

What languages do you speak and what are your experiences with learning them?

I was born in Taiwan and my mother tongue is Chinese, but I have studied Japanese for seven years— throughout high school and as my major at university. I also had the privilege of joining an exchange program in Japan for one year. Not only was I able to use the language every day, I also had the chance to meet many locals and take more courses.

After graduation, I spent eight years working for Japanese companies and Taiwanese firms that dealt with Japanese businesses. Thanks to these business partnerships, as well as my Japanese supervisors and colleagues, I learned things that I didn’t encounter in school or come across in textbooks. In particular, working as a Chinese-Japanese translator and interpreter was great training for me.

Outside work, I enjoy entertaining ways to improve my Japanese skills, such as reading manga or magazines, watching variety shows and attending free lectures. I also enjoy reading translated books, magazines, comics and movies. These materials help me gain new insights from more experienced professionals in the industry. Lastly, I’m always on the lookout for new Japanese materials, articles, and e-books to read on my smartphone.

What are your favorite translation tools?

First, I determine the nature of the industry for the project. Next, I determine the best keywords and then I use Google—the online tool I most value—to search for multilingual services and web pages.

Each project requires translators to do research and accurately understand what is being written. A word in Japanese has many synonyms in Chinese, depending on the context, client or industry, and the tone and underlying nuance often change. I’m sure this is the case in every language pair. By using Google, I can access materials, check the nuance, and then figure out the best word to use. As someone based outside Japan, it’s sometimes even more difficult to understand the right context.

Today, translators can also work with dictionaries and check Japanese websites, as well as translate loanwords back into their original language then check other websites for the origins of the word. It’s also easy to get online support from a wide network of Japanese people and Japan enthusiasts.

What are your tips to become a Wordsmith?

First, keep persevering, and second, remember that “slow and steady wins the race”. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard I had become a Gengo Wordsmith. When I first joined Gengo, becoming a Wordsmith wasn’t my goal. I just kept translating steadily each day and saw the number of translated words increase over time. Now, I feel really satisfied about the progress I have made.

For me, the goal has always been about completing each job, whether the job has three characters or 300 characters—sometimes the most mundane course turns out to be a shortcut to success.

For those who spend long hours behind computer screens or behind the scenes, becoming a Gengo Wordsmith is an amazing recognition of our hard work. With this, we can encourage ourselves to move forward, even after we reach the target. This serves as a reminder that we should continue to improve and provide always high-quality work.


Megan Waters

The author

Megan Waters

Megan manages all things translator-related as Gengo’s Community and Digital Content Manager. Born in South Africa but now based in Tokyo, she’s passionate about languages and people. Megan spends her free time exploring secondhand shops, camping in the mountains and hosting the occasional dinner party.

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