How can I maintain and improve my Japanese translation skills?
September 15, 2011 1:10 PM Subscribe
I am a professional translator, Japanese to English. I work almost entirely in comics and novels, at home, alone. My Japanese language skills are atrophying, and I don't know what to do about it.
posted by anonymous to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
(Posting anonymously because I don't need my professional peers and editors seeing me admit that I'm not as good at my job as I'd like to be.)
Having achieved my lifelong goal of becoming a translator (I know, god, what was I thinking) I now find that my language skills have at best plateaued, and may in fact be slowly degenerating.
I'm good at my job, but I could be better. I lack the kind of intuitive miasmic cultural gestalt knowledge that the best translators have, and it slows me down. I'll spend hours puzzling through a strange colloquial construction because I haven't chopped the verb apart right. I'm unfamiliar with a strange loanword that's not in any of my dictionaries. Etc. It's hard to explain my problem to a non-specialist, but the problem does exist.
I am heavily reliant on dictionaries to do my work. My vocabulary is pretty bad, essentially middle school level, so I'm constantly looking up words.
I want to find a way to reverse this trend that's compatible with my fundamental laziness. I am a terrible autodidact. Realistically, there is no way I'm going to drill kanji or vocabulary solely for my own edification.
This doesn't even touch upon my listening/speaking skills, which... forget about it. I used to be great at speaking, but am a shadow of my former self. I no longer live in Japan, I live in Brooklyn. I have no Japanese friends. I've been to a couple of conversation groups, but they're filled with 22-year-old anime fans taking Japanese 102, and are consequently useless to me.
Engaging with Japanese material is work; it is literally my job. I like my job well enough, but I need to find a way to improve my skills that doesn't feel like work.
TL;DR version—How can I improve my Japanese vocabulary and cultural literacy? What should I be reading that I'm not reading?