Translator Career Interview
George Leslie is an American Translators Association-certified, Japanese-to-English translator and has been working in the field for many years.
Translator Career Path
George found the stepping stones toward becoming a translator out of necessity. After some bad luck in the corporate world, he looked to using his linguistic abilities.
“I found that my Japanese skills were good enough to get paid for translating,” he explains.
George earned his MBA from MIT Sloan Management School, but his translation education came from living in Japan.
“I spent 8 years of residence in Japan, including 2 years as a naval officer and 3 years at Nihon University, where I jumped in and had to learn Japanese to survive, and 3 years at Sony,” he says. “All of these were great experiences of Japanese immersion.”
“After that, I returned to the U.S. and kept my language skills alive,” he continues. “I had a long career in U.S.-Japan business, which taught me how the language is really used.”
Translator Degree Programs
“In my mind, education is not the only path to being a translator,” George explains. “Translators translate into their native language. Therefore, three key skills are required: 1) the ability to understand the source language, 2) the ability to understand the concepts being discussed (not just the words), and 3) the ability to express the meaning/concepts in English that is natural to the reader in that field.”
George learned the majority of his Japanese skills from his life experiences, and he accredits that to be the defining factor for a career in translation.
“Formal education is one avenue, but some translators are self-taught,” he continues. “In the end, the quality of your work is all that counts.”
George also recommends to become certified by the American Translators Association (ATA).
“That is the quality stamp of approval,” he adds, “and once you have it, you will never be without work.”
Translator Job Description
George is a freelance translator and the owner of his own translation agency.
Translator Daily Routine
“For a freelancer,” George explains, “if you have an assignment, you get up and grind out the translation, taking breaks whenever your brain becomes numb.”
Translator: Steps to Success
Translators must have a tremendous knowledge of their primary languages and the ability to communicate well.
“Simply stringing together words results in poor quality translation,” says George. “You need to be able to grasp the concept that the writer is trying to convey and then express that intelligently.”
A successful translator also needs: a stable personality since they have to deal with crises, a pleasant personality, an excellent work ethic, and a commitment to meeting deadlines.
Translator Job Opportunities
The hardest part about making it in the translation field is finding that initial experience to get your name out there.
“It takes time, but if you have a good story to translate, you’ll be given a chance,” George says. “If you do well, your career is launched.”
Translator Favorite Aspect
Because a lot of translation work is freelance, there is a freedom in the field that one can’t find in every pursuit.
“It is flexible,” George explains. “You can take a vacation when you want. The work gives you insight into the country of the source language.”
Translator’s Future Ambitions
George plans on continuing his translation work and hopefully expand his translation agency.
Advice for Prospective Translators
“You should go live and work in the country of the source language,” George advises. “Be widely read and widely experienced, and that includes loving English and developing your writing skills.”
“You need to develop a good work ethic in everything you do,” he continues, “and eventually specialize in a field of translation, such as business, law, medicine or software.”