Hall of fame: Joanna

A translator in the Japanese to English language pair, Joanna is one of our Gengo Wordsmiths who has translated over 500,000 units. Now living in the historic city of Kyoto in western Japan, her fascination with the country’s language and culture began after meeting and befriending Japanese exchange students at her high school.

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

I speak English, Japanese and a little French. I grew up on the west coast of Canada where it is mandatory to learn French until high school. However, as the bulk of the French-speaking population lives on the eastern side of the country, I had far more contact with Chinese, Japanese and Korean in my day-to-day life.

At high school, most of the exchange students we hosted were Japanese. Although they were there to improve their English, I always felt I should try meet them halfway. A desire to communicate better with them, the intellectual challenges posed by learning a language completely different to my native tongue, and the Japanese pop culture boom, led me to start a course in Japanese. I loved it and continued learning the language while at college.

I then did an internship at Taiheyo Cement Corporation and became enamored with Japanese culture, too. After passing the N1 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, I pursued graduate studies in Kyoto. Now, I’ve been learning, speaking, and writing Japanese for about 15 years.

What are your favorite translation tools?

The browser tool Rikaichan and the suite of dictionaries to which it links can be very helpful as a quick reference to an unfamiliar or half-remembered word. Weblio gives more precise definitions and includes Japanese–Japanese for very obscure terms.

Finally, the Japanese version of Wikipedia/Wiktionary can often be more up-to-date than dictionaries, and contains references to pop culture terms and phenomena that aren’t included in other resources.

What are your tips to become a Wordsmith?

Set aside time to dedicate to translation every day. This is especially important for big projects. Don’t try to leave things until the last minute because they may end up taking longer than expected—the customer will be happier with a shorter turn-around time, too.

From time-to-time, take on jobs that are somewhat out of your comfort zone. At first, they’ll require more time, effort and research than your staple areas, but eventually they’ll become familiar. By having an expanded repertoire, you can readily tackle more and more jobs.

Want to become a Gengo translator?


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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