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What Does Mr. Simple Gaijin Do At His Day Job? - The Life of an Interpreter/Translator

Since I got hired as an interpreter / translator at my newest company in Bardstown, I can honestly say that I am enjoying life right now. Of course there are going to be growing pains in every job, but for the most part when 6am rolls around Monday through Fridays, I am ready to go to work after my shower and coffee.

But what exactly does Mr. Simple Gaijin do at work?

Unfortunately, due to the secretive nature of my work, I cannot tell you what exactly goes on at my company (mainly because I don't want to lose my dream job, and mainly because an interpreter / translator is supposed to forget the contents of his or her job as soon as it is finished).

But what I can tell you is the kind of activities you can expect to do if you are an interpreter / translator at a mid-sized Japanese company in Bardstown, Kentucky.


1) Interpret for Japanese Expats

This is probably going to be my biggest role here for the next 6 months. My (current) boss does not speak any English, and requires constant support whenever he is around Americans. Without me, he cannot manage operations.

In addition, I also interpret at mostly quality assurance and control meetings. Because I am still very new to the quality assurance and control realm, my boss and company president tell me to get them the gist of what is going on using the Japanese that I know that as I am learning the company's QA/QC department.

Fortunately for me, maintenance meetings are a lot easier because of my previous experience with machinery.


2) Translation of Documents

Probably my strongest point at the moment, thanks to me having my vast library of materials at my finger tips as I translate the following...

  • Daily Emails from my Boss to various people (and vice-versa), and if anyone sends a mass email, I translate the email for him

  • Technical Documents, which usually include...

  • Blueprints

  • Die / Jig / Tooling Requirements

  • Specification Sheets for Parts (like how big certain holes need to be, what kind of screws go where, and so forth)

  • Business Documents

  • Shareholder's meeting synopsis of our gross sales

  • Basic Accounting stuff (I actually find this interesting)

  • Human Resources

  • Hiring plans for new workers

  • Target for optimal manpower

  • 2 week notices to Japanese managers

  • Design Team

  • Helping our two American design engineers with technical translations (they're also learning Japanese too)

  • Quality Assurance

  • Working with our new manager to help her get to know our Japanese Operation's Director and his vision


3) Studying Terminology and Technical Jargon

Whenever the Chief is in meetings with just Japanese people, this gives me time to unwind at my desk with either a cup of joe or green tea and study terminology. My company's president and our director of operations gives me materials to read and look at, and tells me to enter words I don't know into an excel spreadsheet, and then I can make worksheets for myself to study.


4) Watching Youtube

Now I know what you are thinking. My boss is paying me good money to interpret and translate. How the hell could I go behind his back and watch Youtube movies at my desk. I won't deny that I do, but it's what I watch that makes this act acceptable. Like this...

By watching Japanese news, it helps me train myself in taking notes for interpreting and keeps me up to date what is going on back in the "motherland", especially in terms of science and business in the auto industry.

In addition, by looking at the kanji, it also builds my reading skills too. After all, an interpreter/translator's learning NEVER ends.

In addition to watching Japanese news, I also watch videos on how to build interpreting and translating skills. Since my company can't send me to interpreter / translator training at this time due to ramp up for our next major production, my boss gave me permission to use every thing at my disposal to become a better one on my own. What better place to learn than on Youtube itself.


And that's pretty much all I do at work. A lot of people would kill to have my position. Regular hours (though I do have an occasional night meeting with the parent company in Nagano), solid weekly pay, great benefits... and being paid to improve my own Japanese. I couldn't ask for a better job.

What do you guys think? How about my other fellow interpreters and translators? What's a normal day like for you guys?

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