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Why I Quit Working at a Bank, and Moved to Japan.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve felt comfortable traveling.No matter the country no matter the reason I could go there and things would just work. Growing up, my parents always made sure my sisters and I traveled. We often traveled to Chile to see family. Even our home in the Midwest felt like another country sometimes: Listening to Inti-Illimani while making lefse, enjoying  empanadas on the Fourth of July. (Just kidding, we always hand-made our own burgers) So when it came time to choose whether or not I would study abroad during my university years, the answer was a resounding yes! I had to go! There was no question of if, only where.

So I decided in the fall of 2006 that I would study for one semester in Japan while living with a host family. The problem was, I needed 1 year of formal Japanese language study and I only had 5 months to do it. Now, this might have been where someone else would have said, “ok, nevermind, I’ll stay in the dorm” but instead, I picked up a copy of the text book and over one winter break I studied a semester’s worth of material, passed into the spring semester term, and secured my place in the homestay program.

Little did I know then how much of an impact the decision to take that textbook home would have on my life. One and half years later, diploma in my hand, I finished my undergraduate studies with a double major in Finance and Japanese.

My work in the financial industry did not begin with any major signing bonus. I started as a teller. A small but vibrant financial institution in the midwest which really took active measures to put its people first, we prided ourselves on our down-to-earth, familiar style. When people would come in to make a transaction or seek advice, we would find some way to strike up a conversation and connect at a level deeper than just dollars. Once, I’ll never forget, a man told me about his bean sprout business. “Business is tough.”, he laughed.

The interesting thing about working as a teller is that you know how much money everyone has. Sometimes I would open up an account to hundreds of thousands of dollars; Other times, only a few tens. However, people with only a few tens of dollars were the ones that we really got know the best. Many of them came in almost every day just to warm up, have a conversation,  withdraw $5 or deposit $5, and feel human again. I felt like I was doing something much more meaningful with my life than just cashing checks. Some days, my voice would almost completely be gone from talking to customers so much. I learned that no matter the figure, every person has an a story and I was honored to have been  a part of their story for even just a day.

But Japan just would not get out of my head. Always in the back of my mind I kept wondering, Should I go back? One option was the JET program. I liked how the CIR job sounded but I couldn’t make up my mind if I should apply or not. So, I reached out to my good friend for advice and he told me he had applied the year before but not been accepted. This was it, I thought. This was a sign that we needed to apply to the program together. “You give it another go, and I will to”, we agreed. So I wrote my application, received letters of recommendation, and even made my way to Chicago for the interview all without telling my coworkers or boss.I even went so far as to disguise my trip to Chicago as a trip to see family in Wisconsin. I thought, the chances of me getting into the program are so slim anyway, why even bother?

So, you can imagine my surprise when the acceptance letter arrived. Suddenly I had a very big decision to make: Make use of my business degree while continuing to work my way up in the organization or cut all of that short and move to middle-of-nowhere Japan (because the job location certainly wasn’t Tokyo!) where I would start using my Japanese major to help further sister city relations and intercultural communication. Mind you, at this point I hadn’t seriously studied or used the Japanese language for about two years. It was a major opportunity but also a major risk. Why give up a great job? When I imagined 10 years down the road, working at the same job, I would be living in the Midwest, most likely with a big house, stable income, working a management position, near family and close friends. However, on the other hand, everything was unknown!  Unfamiliar job, unfamiliar people, unknown future. I think back to that time, those days when I was trying to decide, and when I wonder how I ever made the decision I did, what really sticks out is me thinking to myself “What if something is there that I am missing?” “I need to know!””I need to see!” Here was this opportunity in front of me, I needed to take it.

My boss could not have been any more supportive when I told him. “I’m happy for you”, he said to me. On the last day of work he called everyone together and we took a group picture. It’s one of those amazing pictures where everyone’s personality shines through and it makes me smile to this day.

5 years later, I’m still in Japan. I can say without any doubt that there are few decisions in my life that were as pivotal in the making of who I am today as the decision to quit my job back in 2011. I have grown strong in my own skin, become a great listener, made even more amazing friends, and even met my fiancé!

I am not an advocate for being risky always. When faced with important decisions, many times safe is really better than sorry. What made this decision different was that it was surrounded and based in a passion and curiosity for a country, language, and people that just comes naturally to me. I am not an advocate for being risky, but risks surrounded in passion and curiosity are risks worth taking because passion and curiosity never fail, they only guide.


 

Thank you for reading! For those of you curious about my friend, he also got into the program and he too is still in Japan to this day! Also, I still bank at the same financial institution I worked at many years ago. They still have wonderful people working there and I am so proud to have been a part of their team. 413391_10100145446171557_994596006_o

Translating Nikkei: What language barrier?

CommunicateAs a follow up to my previous article, Translating Toyo Keizai, this week we explore The Nikkei (日本経済新聞, Nihon Keizai Shinbun) and the growing presence of translation software.  The Nikkei, first published in 1876 as a weekly goods pricing periodical under a different name, has come to be known as one of the premier national newspapers of Japan publishing 2.77 million morning and 1.39 million evening editions on a daily basis (January ~ June, 2014 Average) Being a financial newspaper (経済→keizai→economy), most of the articles have to do with current state of the Japanese economy but like most newspapers it caters to a wider audience by including other sections such as Sports, Life, and Health. Today’s article comes from the Technology section and is titled (loosely) From Video Calls to Interpreters, Skype Real-Time Translation Software. It’s an article about the exiting prospect of a fully-functional simultaneous translation application and the implications such an application would hold for the future of mankind. The original article published on February 4th, 2015 can be read here, in Japanese, and my English translation–along with a few comments of my own–below:

From Video Calls to Interpreters, Skype Real-Time Translation Software
February 4th, 2015
By Freelance Editor and Journalist Noriko Takiguchi

The day  we can communicate using the internet with foreigners that don’t speak our language…is finally here and there is no need to hire an expensive simultaneous interpretation specialist. If you use Skype Translator, the software automatically translates for you for free.

This is the newest capability being touted by the VoIP service giant Skype. At present, a preview version has been released (in the United States only; Japan release set for the latter half of 2015). During a video call, even when neither speaker can understand their parter’s language, all they have to do is speak in their own language. A language barrier doesn’t mean anything. The software takes your partners speech and translates it into your own language. You can speak with anyone from any country of the world, even if you aren’t very good at languages.

In order to use Skype Translator,  you must first download the latest version of Skype. Then, choose your partner and set Translation to “On”. After that all you need to do is choose the language in which your partner will be speaking.

The preview version of the software is currently compatible with English and Spanish, available on Windows 8.1 and 10 only.

A short breath after your Spanish-speaking friend finishes speaking, text appears in Spanish at the bottom of your screen, followed by translated English text accompanied by a voice that reads it out loud. While still not completely simultaneous, the conversation seems to flow fairly well as long as one speaks clearly. Even if neither party has mastered the other’s language, each can communicate plenty.

Skype already has a messaging service capable of translating over 40 different languages, Japanese being one of them. For the messaging service, input text gets displayed in your partner’s language.

However, the real selling point of Skype Translator in addition to voice-recognition and automatic translation is its powerful built-in learning capabilities. The more people the use the translation software, the better it gets at recognizing speech.

Skype Translator can also be used on other devices such as smartphones. If we can overcome even the language barrier, the world may become an even more familiar place.

(End article)

Regarding the Translation

There were several points that I struggled with in this translation not so much because it was difficult but because the original text was so plain. The article read more like a list than it did a piece of prose…and I found myself challenged to keep this translation true to the sound coming across in the text of the original piece (areas highlighted in purple) I will go over these areas quickly.

“being touted”
This is my translation of the word 搭載, which is used often to describe what kind of weapons a vehicle is “loaded/equipped/set” with. I took the idea of a weapon and imagined someone would be self-confident sporting the latest and most powerful weapon. Then I thought about how Skype is trying to actively sell themselves as the forerunner of this technology and the word “tout” came to mind. Putting it all together, I saw Skype Translator as a weapon they equipped themselves with and “being touted” was chosen.

“communicate”
This is my translation of やり取り. やり取り can loosely be described as a back-and-forth. やる(yaru) “to do” and 取り(tori) “to take” and because in this case the doing and taking would be of words, “communicate” was the best choice.

“however”
This is something that I added to the text and is not a direct translation. The only hint in the original text that may lead someone adding this is は(wa). は sets the subject apart, emphasizing that something new is being introduced, thus, I found it appropriate to add a similar marker in the English translation. 

“If we can overcome even the language barrier, the world may become an even more familiar place.”
The poeticism of this sentence meshes awkwardly and comes across forced in this dry instruction manual of an article. I struggled with trying to create a more beautiful sentence but instead came to the conclusion, especially considering it follows the most worthless sentence of the entire article, to simply leave it alone. 

Writing style aside, the content of this article is exciting because it hints at a world not to0 far off where people of any and every nation communicate freely with each other. That’s very exciting! On the other hand, people like me can not help but wonder if we will fail to become useful.

I look forward to your comments! Until next time,

Dorian

Translating Toyo Keizai: New Words and Wedding Trends in Japan

Kyōyūkon is the new buzzword in Japan. "Shared Wedding"

No matter the country, no matter the culture, words evolve as time slips slowly on. Trends change, people change, and the way people tie the knot changes to reflect the environment. A recent study Marriage Trend Survey (Zekushi Magazine, October 2014) found that among other things a new trend was emerging in the world of weddings, calling for a new word: 共有婚 (Kyōyūkon). “What exactly is this recent Kyōyūkon trend?” asks Kyoto University graduate and journalist Yūmi Tokiwa at Tōyō Keizai news (online).

Understandable trend given the times, the kanji used sum up its meaning well: 共 (kyō) Share/Together, 有 (yū) to Be/Have, 婚 (kon) Marriage. Below is my translation the article which appeared in Tōyō Keizai on January 18th, 2015. It can be read in its original Japanese here.

Weddings, What exactly is this recent Kyōyūkon trend?

A decreasing numbers of guests and lower costs.

The wedding, the most important day of your life. Contrary to what one may believe, the movement of the economy does not hold much sway over the cost of a wedding. “Even during the financial crisis of 2008, the cost of weddings did not go down. It’s because Japanese people consider a wedding to be Continue reading

Translating: The Correct Mindset.

Lifelong Learning 生涯学習Recently, while searching for leads into new opportunities for translation and interpretation, I came across a question posted on the Japanese Q&A portal known as 教えてgoo (oshiete goo) that resonated with my feelings towards translation exactly. There are several websites in English which run on a similar platform. A question is posted, other users freely offer up answers and suggestions, and the original user chooses what they believe to be the best answer. The author of said answer receives credit and reputation in the community for providing valuable information. Whether or not any monetary transactions take place, I am unaware. What I am aware of, and have been surprised by several times to date, is the number of users that offer very detailed, specific, and thoughtful feedback (oftentimes in very polite language). Aside from websites that pride themselves on the quality of their content and manage their community well (such as the American-based Quora), it has struck me that this differs dramatically from the oftentimes shallow and too oftentimes reckless commentary found in similar websites catered to English-speaking audiences.

That aside, here is the original question posted in 2010 by user sosrsvp titled “英語の翻訳者・在宅翻訳・フリーランス翻訳で少しでも稼ぐ為には??”(What does it take to save a little money as an English Translators/Home Translators/Freelance Translator?): Continue reading

Jaspanish: Japanese Verbs, into Spanish.

It happens when you least expect it and it happens more frequently as your language repertoire widens. You are somewhere in-between fluency and mediocrity in your language studies and then you say something incredibly sensible and unexpectedly meaningless. Knowing one language gives you a set of sounds that one can use to describe the world around them. Knowing two languages gives that person a whole new set of sounds, expressions, and ways of possible description. Knowing three or more? Well, that’s when the real fun begins.

Conjugating in Spanish is relatively straightforward.  Like most languages, by-and-large there are rules, these rules are applied to verbs to specify who is doing the action and at what time or whether it is conditional, etc.  The Spanish word for “to listen” or “to hear” is “escuchar”. It is conjugated in the following manner:

Conjugating in Spanish

Regular Conjugation in Spanish

Where the first word in each column is the way the verb is conjugated when the speaker is referring to themselves; second, you; third, he/she; fourth, we; fifth, we; sixth, they. In this way, verbs are conjugated regularly.

Now for Japanese.  In Japanese, verbs are not separated by who did the action, much like in English Continue reading

The BEST Thing to Happen to Language Learning…Ever.

 

Lang-8

If you are on a journey to learn a new language and already speak one fluently…but have not tried Lang-8, then you are in for a revolution.  Debuting in 2007, Lang-8 took language learning to the highest, most user-friendly, international stratosphere (and that was three years ago!) …and it has never looked back.

  • The premise: Free Language Tutoring.
  • How: Users of Lang-8 (Infinite Languages) write journal entries in a foreign language. Then, other Lang-8 users who are native speakers of that language correct them.  In return, those users’ journal entries are corrected by other Lang-8 members.  What often happens is that 2 members who want to learn each others’ native language meet, and thereafter frequently correspond.  A simple way to bridge divides between nations, reduce miscommunication, and further world peace?  Its name is Lang-8. Continue reading

The New JLPT: Review & Essential Tips

Japanese, long noted for its high level of difficulty, has become increasingly difficult to master this year with the onset of the new Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) format.

Background

In the past as is the case still today, the JLPT was divided up into several sections based on reading, grammar, and listening.  However, whereas in the past your passing score was based on your overall score, this year’s test-takers will need to pass every single section in order to be awarded proficiency in that level of Japanese.  What this means is that in order to pass the exam one must be proficient in all levels of Japanese (except speaking).  In other words you may be a fantastic reader and have a high level of kanji-recognition, scoring high in the first section; but should your ear be green and unaccustomed to spoken Japanese then your chances for passing are slim. Slim still are your chances should the opposite be true.

Another change that has been made this year is the addition of a new level between the old level 1 (the most difficult level) and 2.  This change means that the JLPT now offers 5 levels of proficiency examination.

This year I have had the privilege of being in South Korea for the summer where the test is offered twice a year (as opposed to only once a year in the United States).  My aim was 一級 (ikkyuu), the highest level of Japanese proficiency. Note: Ikkyuu is now known as N1. Continue reading