Translator Resources

All Translation | Translation to or from Japanese

For New or Aspiring Translators

  • So You Want To Be A Translator – My humble contribution to the “becoming a translator” theme.
  • Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida and The Craft of Translation – I personally feel that in order to be the best translator you can be, or perhaps even to be a good translator at all, you have to have some kind of theory about what translation means, in general and to you specifically. It also helps to have a theoretical tool chest you can use to tackle certain kinds of common problems. I think some people may be able to arrive at a mature, dynamic, and fully-formed theory of translation on their own, but most of us would probably benefit from some background or some ideas to jumpstart us. Although translation studies is an expanding field that has more written about it all the time, for starting out I recommend these two companion volumes that were assigned reading back in the Translation Seminar class I took at Swarthmore College (I was a Bryn Mawr grad, but I took most of the classes in my major over at “Swat”). For one thing, they’re collections of essays, which means you get to hear different voices with different opinions. For another thing, the essays cover all kinds of different types of translation. It’s not just poetry or just literature.
  • If you found my page because you’re an aspiring anime translator, please also see the section for anime translators below.

Online Dictionaries (Japanese<->English)

Kenkyusha Online Dictionary – I consider this to be just about the best Japanese/English dictionary on the web. (It also does English-Japanese, but I don’t use that feature often and cannot comment on its quality.) It’s an evolving dictionary, which means that new words are added to this online dictionary as Kenkyusha reviews them for use in its hard-bound dictionaries. The drawback is that KOD is not free. It’s a paid service; you can see their fee schedule here.

Goo Dictionary and Yahoo!Japan Dictionary – These are both free online dictionaries which can also be quite useful. I used them both extensively before I switched to KOD, and will occasionally peek at them now. At this point, of the two I tend to use Yahoo! more.

Denshi Jisho’s kanji by radicals lookup – A friend outside the translation industry turned me on to this one, and it’s been one of those rare great finds. For those times when you need to look up a kanji online or don’t feel like using your physical media to do it, this is the simplest and friendliest kanji lookup I’ve found. It’s very similar to the by radicals lookup in Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC, which is what I used to use, but this site lets you see your options narrowing in real time. As for the other sections of Denshi Jisho, though, I do not endorse using them, because as of this writing, the examples in its dictionaries use the Tanaka corpus. I find the corpus highly problematic, and more likely to lead one astray than otherwise (see information on the Tanaka corpus here and here).

Japan Dictionary’s 擬音語・擬態語 lookup – This isn’t going to contain every single onomatopoeia or mimetic word out there, because nothing will, but I sometimes find ones here that aren’t in my regular dictionaries.

Other Websites

The University of Virginia Library’s Japanese Text Initiative – Sometimes in the course of a translation you come across one or two lines quoted from a classical text which, if there is no established English translation or you cannot access/use an established translation for whatever reason, you have to translate yourself. And you can’t do that in a vacuum. You need to know the context of those lines in the story. The Japanese Text Initiative takes texts which are not bound by copyright and posts them on the web so that students and scholars may freely read them. For the anime This Ugly Yet Beautiful World I used the Text Initiative to access the full text of 雨月物語, enabling me to ground myself in the context enough to produce a responsible translation of the lines from 雨月物語 that Hikari and Takeru’s teacher quoted in their Japanese class.

For Anime Translators in Particular

Becoming an Anime Expert – I know, maybe you’re thinking “but I’m an anime fan, I already know about anime.” Well, okay, but let me ask you this: have you seen Gundam and Sailor Moon? Can you name five manga by Osamu Tezuka? What show defined today’s harem anime tropes? What show immortalized the line お前はもう死んでいる? If you can’t answer one or more of those questions, you may be knowledgeable for a fan but your knowledge probably needs some beefing-up for a translator. For those who aren’t already well-versed in the history of anime, there is a list of basic works in the anime canon to familiarize yourself with as well as other anime-related resources on this page.

役に立たないアニメーション用語集 – Contrary to what its name would lead you to believe, this site is pretty damn useful. It’s a list of terms relating to the television and animation world and their definitions. This kind of stuff is particularly handy for interviews or video extras where creative staff discuss technical aspects of things. A Google search for アニメ用語 or アニメーション用語 will bring up other lists which may cover different words or offer differently-worded definitions. It’s good to have a grip of animation-related terms and their definitions in English as well, but Japanese-Japanese lookup can be extremely useful, since some terms don’t exist in English or mean somewhat different things than their English counterparts.

Media Player Classic – This is the video playback program I use when translating from .mpeg/.avi/.mov files, and it is awesome. The reason for its extreme awesomeness is this: it’s highly customizable, which is great for video translators who want to set up a shortcut that will, for example, jump back 5 seconds and allow them to listen to the same 5 seconds over again (and over, and over…). It’s also a tiny little program, just one .exe file with nothing to install, and doesn’t crash as often or try to give you as much fancy yet annoying “fringe” stuff as Windows Media Player or the like. Richard “Pocky” Kim and Shoko Oono turned me on to this program and I absolutely love it. Windows platforms.