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Careers with a Japanese major 
25th-Oct-2009 04:01 pm
Hello all. I was wondering if anyone here majored or minored in Japanese in college and if so, what are your careers? I'm currently an International Studies major with a minor in Japanese but it will be my major once we receive the necessary funding. I'm still at a kind of loss as to what I should pursue once I leave school. Internet searches keep returning government jobs, importer/exporter, etc. These seem rather dry so I'd like your personal experiences.

25th-Oct-2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
The kinds of jobs you get after graduating have next to nothing to do with your major and almost everything to do with the skills and experience you have. Seriously.

I was a Japanese/Poli Sci major and now I'm teaching English because I had experience doing it from before I graduated.
25th-Oct-2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
I graduated with a double major in English and Japanese, and now I'm getting my MFA in literary translation. Now, literary translation doesn't actually pay money, but I'm hoping to get into video game localization and perhaps freelance manga translation and the like, and translate novels and such on the side.

I happen to be really passionate about translation though--I wouldn't pursue something unless I felt drawn to it!!
25th-Oct-2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Ah, I've seen the phrase "video game localization" a few times. I'm actually thinking about a career as a video game translator too.

Have you studied in Japan?
25th-Oct-2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
I second tenou_K.
I double-majored in Japanese and linguistics and I'm a preschool teacher.
A lot of my fellow Japanese majors went to Japan teaching English or as a CIR on the JET program, but none of them would consider that a "career" ... I worked at a Japanese-language preschool in the US for a while but they treated me like dirt so I quit. I didn't get in to JET, and now I work at a normal preschool (I love little kids).

The thing about majoring in Japanese is that you won't graduate fluent (unless you get your degree *in* Japan or have an extremely intense program with significant time spent in Japan), so you won't really be qualified for most jobs that want you to be bilingual or native-level Japanese, which in my experience is most of them.
25th-Oct-2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
If I wanted to work as an interpreter, I wouldn't necessarily have to be "fluent", would I?
25th-Oct-2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
Being able to speak as well as a college-educated native speaker is a generally accepted measure of fluency for interpreting.

In other words - yes, you absolutely do need to be fluent in order to interpret professionally.
25th-Oct-2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
I don't have any input for you - I actually have a question for you. Why choose a major when you have no set career in mind? Isn't that putting the cart before the horse? It seems like it'd make more sense to decide what you want to do first, THEN choose a major that would give you the skills you need for that job.
Whatever you end up choosing, good luck!
25th-Oct-2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks :)

See, I started off as a Computer Science major and discovered that I didn't like programming (that, and I sucked at it). I really liked learning Spanish in high school (they didn't offer Japanese) so I ended up changing my major to International Studies with a focus on Asian countries and chose Japanese as my minor.

I guess, to answer your question, I chose this major because it involved something I enjoyed more than programming/computers.
25th-Oct-2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
It seems like it'd make more sense to decide what you want to do first, THEN choose a major that would give you the skills you need for that job.

I disagree.

If you're just interested in a job, sure, find something you could imagine doing for the rest of your life, and then study what you need to get that job.

But if you enjoy studying a particular subject, I wouldn't let a non-set career stop you from studying it.

26th-Oct-2009 12:16 am (UTC)
That only works if you know what you want to do career-wise. I graduated with a major in Japanese a year and a half ago and STILL don't know what I want to do with my life. No clue whatsoever. If I were required to know what I was doing with my major before I chose it, I'd be in my 5th year as a college sophomore.

For many people, college isn't about job training, it's about experiences and getting to study all sorts of things you're interested in but don't necessarily want a career in.
25th-Oct-2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
I dunno.. you'll get a government or trading job if you're lucky, but for the most part you'll probably end up at a job where your Japanese language ability is of little use since there are severely few jobs that require Japanese in the US.

Graduated with an Asian studies minor (took all the Japanese language classes offered in my college, on top of taking 4-5 culturally informative classes), subbing right now at the local school district.
25th-Oct-2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
If you are interested in teaching English in Japan (not as just some slave-wage slave-hours dispatch eikaiwa joint, but at a real school) you may want to consider majoring in Spanish as a second language for secondary education (middle and high school) and then pursue a masters in ESL/literacy education.
26th-Oct-2009 12:21 am (UTC)
Japanese skills might give you a leg up in applying for a job, but you won't get a career using Japanese after only majoring in it. You've gotta spend a bunch of time in Japan and probably at least get a masters or JLPT1. Unless your program is very intensive and you spend a significant amount of time in Japan, you just won't have the level of fluency needed.

Japanese helped me get my foot in the door at my old position because we had Japanese companies come in and I would greet them and serve them drinks in Japanese - really simple stuff - as sort of a novelty thing. But I used it for maybe 5 minutes once or twice a week. But the only other people who speak Japanese at my company are fully native-level fluent and grew up in Japan or are Japanese.
26th-Oct-2009 02:06 am (UTC)
I can say you won't find many jobs in your major outside of teaching English in Japan, like others have said, without at the very least a master's degree. As for a translating job - they are few and far between - the jobs will be freelance and certainly not enough to live off of.

26th-Oct-2009 04:42 am (UTC)
Teaching Japanese at the high school level is something you may consider, but you'll likely need a degree in education to supplement the Japanese. Additionally, while I've never used my Japanese language abilities in a job setting, it HAS attracted the attention of employers and made me stand out in the application pile. I wouldn't rely on it to get you a job, though - for that matter, I wouldn't solely rely on a BA/BS in anything to get a job. Do everything you can (internships, research projects, independent studies, working with profs) to enhance your skills and demonstrate to employers that you have something unique to offer. A college degree is more of an expectation than something special these days, in many professions.

/advice from the crotchety old grad student. ;)
26th-Oct-2009 07:48 am (UTC)
I haven't graduated yet, but I have Japanese as my major, English as my minor (I'm also Dutch, in case that offers any help), but next year I'll have to work for half a year at a company to gain some working experience.

There are several 'job offers' on the market, but I'm hoping to get work in a travelling agency that deals almost exclusively with journeys to Japan. And maybe even from Japan as well, I don't know. If possible, I'd like to work there once I've graduated a well.

The one thing I absolutely know for certain: I'd never want to be an interpreter. Next to being fluent, you need to be fast, efficient, quick in thinking and have nerves of steal. All things I have not and I'm terrified of interpreting.

I might try to become a teacher in Japan, but I know the chances of becoming that are very low. I've also once 'applied' (It was an exercise for school) for a job offer to become a school exchange officer. I'd have to work for UK schools and make contact with Japanese schools to offer the possibilities of school exchanges.

So there's more to it that you might think, though as tenou_k said as well... My father always told me that you usually end up doing things in later life that have very little to do with what you studied for. So... keep an open mind when looking at job offers?
26th-Oct-2009 10:36 am (UTC)
Currently: rural CIR on JET.

Someday: NPO Events Coordinator. I hope.
26th-Oct-2009 10:37 am (UTC)
I did a Japanese Studies MA and passed the 2kyuu before I became a CIR, if that helps any.
26th-Oct-2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
So it seems the general consensus is to not focus solely on Japanese to land a job, but more so use it as an extra "bump" in resumes.

Do anyone know what jobs in video game translations/localizations entails?

And thank you, everyone, for your opinions. This is helping greatly :) m(-_-)m ありがとうございます。
26th-Oct-2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
I majored in Japanese, and now I'm a patent translator in Osaka. It took many years of study after college, including 3 years on JET, to sharpen my Japanese skills to the point I could work as a translator. Part of that was passing JLPT1, which is required for many translation jobs including mine.

I was determined to get a job using my Japanese and I finally did, but I'm not really happy with it. It doesn't pay as much as I'd hoped--about the same as teaching English, plus twice-yearly bonuses, not really enough considering how difficult the work is and how much education it takes to do it well. Mostly it's just too tedious. If you still have a chance to major in something remotely useful, I think you should do so. Japanese is a great language to study, but it doesn't make a great career. I want to go back to school next year to change careers actually, having realized I don't want to spend the rest of my career as a translator, and won't even have much chance of being hired as a translator if I move back to the U.S.

I've searched for video game translation/localization jobs from time to time, and never found openings for Japanese-to-English translators (sometimes there are openings for translators from Japanese to other langauges) in Osaka. Sometimes I see job openings in Tokyo, or short-term job openings I can't apply for because the timing is wrong. I think you have to be lucky, and be in the right place at the right time. If you're determined to get a job doing this, move to a place where there are video game companies and just keep trying. I've heard there are jobs at Nintendo of America in Redmond Washington, for instance, and maybe a handful of other U.S. cities have video game companies that might hire a translator or two. But I think in general, there are far more people interested in doing this than there are available jobs. The companies hiring for this will never have trouble filling available positions, so your job security will probably not be the best.

27th-Oct-2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
Those are too dry? Well, you could try doing one of those go-getter jobs like leading tours to exotic places.

If you want to be a translator, you do need to get good at Japanese, but you don't need to get any kind of degree in translation. What would probably be more helpful would be to do some internships as an undergrad in relevant fields (e.g. with one of the US manga publishers or something). Translators who make a lot of money tend to be the ones who have a law degree or other special background and who can translate high-level technical documents. Most of this stuff is freelance work that relies on you being good at making and using contacts. Kiss your health insurance goodbye.

If you want to do most kinds of interpretation, you probably do need to do a specialized program.

Bear in mind that video game localization and manga translation are what about 99% of Japanese majors and Japanese-studying otaku in the US want to do as a career. Yes, there are jobs, but there are also a ton of people out there who want them, and you may find that you hate how these fields work in practice. For example, depending on the company, they might divide up a single manga project between tons of different translators and have one editor rewrite these disparate translations to sound good together. Other companies might hire a really qualified translator and expect their output to be useable as-is. The latter experience would probably be a lot more fulfilling for a manga fan.
27th-Oct-2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
Ok, I see people saying there are no openings for translators, you can't make a living at that, yadda yadda.

This is nonsense. What's actually true is that it's rare to see an ad for an attractive full-time job with benefits. A very large portion of J>E translation is handled through translation agencies, which work a lot like temp agencies. As in any other freelance industry, some people with specialized skills (e.g. patent translators, legal translators, medical translators) can make astonishingly high salaries. Most people with "general" (read "crappy") skills don't do so well. Either they can't get much work or they can't command the rates they'd need to support themselves. People with good people skills go a lot further than those unwilling to schmooze.

If you're serious about being a translator, check out Honyaku. It's a list for J>E and E>J technical translators. A couple of regular posters work in video game localization, so search the archives for discussions of that. (But please don't post n00b questions there. They get cranky when people do that.)

To be honest though, if you're worried about "dry" jobs, I'd avoid translation like the plague.
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28th-Oct-2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
Ok, so may "dry" wasn't the right word. Thanks for all the input though :)

I'm definitely planning on going to Japan with my school's study abroad program (hopefully next year) and it was suggested that I keep my eyes open while I'm over there for career opportunities.

Well what kind of government or non-government organizations jobs are available? And do any of these include benefits and/or perks?
22nd-Apr-2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
I am so upset with my advisor at my college . He kept saying minor in japanese language is good for my career. I graduated from good college three years ago and cannot find a good job . My wife and I cannot have any kids because we barely make it with one car and so angry with my advsor !!! YOu are better off in any medical fields !!
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