Why I Decided to Become a Translator

When I was eighteen, I felt that there was no compelling reason for me to go to college. The job prospects for female college graduates were dim in Japan at that time. Typically, female workers were assigned to serve tea to their male colleagues or make Xerox copies. Instead, I decided to build a career as a translator. I enrolled in a vocational school in Tokyo and underwent two years of intensive English courses. In 1984, I passed the most difficult English exam in Japan, the First Grade in Practical English authorized by the Japanese Ministry of Education, and scored in the top 2% on the Test of English for International Communication. In 1985, I obtained a license to work as an interpreter.

Why I Like Being a Translator

I became a translator because the job offers the greatest intellectual challenges. The subject matter often pertains to leading-edge technology, innovative ideas, or the latest global developments. Since one word often has several meanings and varied connotations, the job also requires an understanding of cultural differences, as well as knowledge of basic tenets of translation. It requires a great deal of self-education. Although translation is rather a low-profile job, it satisfied my inexhaustible curiosity about the world.

In the first few years of my translation career, I exposed myself to various industries. Gradually, however, I gravitated towards finance. I worked for Mitsubishi Trust & Banking, Morgan Grenfell, and Salomon Brothers. My responsibilities at these companies involved translating Japanese and foreign publications as well as internal documents related to regional, national and global economies. I developed a strong interest in economics, especially in research.

Working as a Translator, then Going to College

After working for ten years, I decided to go to college, feeling the real need to understand the underlying mechanisms of economics. I bought books and studied economics on my own, but I always felt my knowledge fell short of the materials I was translating. It was almost like flying an airplane while reading a book entitled “How to Fly an Airplane” at the same time.

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