Some more thoughts on eikaiwa, this time less bile-fueled

I am looking back at some of my writing on eikaiwa and it is pretty cold-hearted, Internet Toughguy stuff (calling them pathetic and useless only to halfheartedly apologize later). I guess as someone the same age as many of these eikaiwa teachers I had trouble seeing the forest for the trees, but forgive me for only just appreciating that:

(a) for a lot of these eikaiwa teachers it is their first time in the work force, so it isnt really fair to lay their industry’s shortcomings at their feet; and

(b) the service offered by eikaiwa schools isnt that much different from the borderline-deceptive practices of a lot of businesses, but you don’t see me calling moisturizer salesladies a bunch of charlatans for peddling dubious claims, or insurance salespeople scheisters for convincing salarymen to gamble their life savings on risky annuities.

Part of the reason eikaiwa can come off so ugly from the Westerner perspective is because, often for the first time, we are only looking at the dark underbelly of the business instead of the neat and polished exterior. Usually we are happy to be fooled into thinking we need cold soda and DVD recorders, but when Westernness and dreams of a better life are being so clearly deceptively sold, it turns our stomachs.

Imagine if our first experience with the circus was to see a clown with his wig off, makeup smeared, and sipping from a flask? I think we might have a hard time enjoying the show after that.

Even without deception, the fundamental principle of selling something is to create demand where it might not otherwise be. That may be hard for me to appreciate as someone who sits at a desk and translates all day. My job seems to have limitless demand that almost literally falls in my lap, and more importantly I have never had to convince someone to have something translated. But were I to lose my job I’d be back in the business of marketing myself as the right person to turn your Japanese documents into proper English.

56 thoughts on “Some more thoughts on eikaiwa, this time less bile-fueled”

  1. I’m in the same boat as you, as far as the whole “being an in-house translator and never needing to market myself” deal goes. But looking at the quality of posts from some people on the Honyaku ML, for instance, makes it quite evident that there are even freelancers out there who have plenty of work coming there way even without the solid skills to do that work to a satisfactory level. (Well, I suppose it must be satisfactory to someone, since they stay at it.)

    I know a few eikaiwa types who are definitely entrepreneurs, by the way–they started out at Aeon or Nova and then went off to launch their own neighborhood schools. That certainly shows a bit more dedication to the job as a career and elevates them well above the group of aimless young men (sorry, “educators”) in Japan to make a handful of yen each month and spend it all at Gas Panic while trying to pick up Japanese girls.

  2. I don’t think that the problem is the job, nor is it the presentation of the job to Japanese. The problem that I have with many eikaiwa teachers is the self-deception. It is not a “hard” job. Years of doing it does not necessarily make one better than someone just off the boat. If simply being physically present in Japan made one an expert on the culture, you could apply the same logic to say that there are 300,000,000 + America experts out there. Eikaiwa teachers who take their time in Japan as an opportunity to learn the language (not simply to BS about how good their Japanese is to other eikaiwa teachers) and take the job seriously are fine. They really do provide a “useful” – if overpriced and somewhat silly – service. But I don’t like hearing about how that service is bringing a backward Japan into the glorious light of internationalism and let’s face it, what is a good job for people in their early 20s is a lousy career (people who start their own business are different, in my opinion). No amount of self-deception will change that.

  3. I’m not sure we are at cross-purposes here, but I do take exception to some of the comments and attitudes above.

    I own a small English school and teach at a university. and I think you have to make a distinction between the big chains and small quality ’boutique’ English schools.

    I am very proud of what we do in our classes, and we focus on results.

    I agree that the sales-oriented eikaiwa chains do not provide the best quality control. You can get a good teacher or an unskilled one. However, I think we will see a move toward quality as customers become more demanding. Ultimately this may lead to less demand for translators 😉

    Don’t tar everyone with the same brush.

  4. Sendai – very good points, thank you. I think that the many bad apples are spoiling the bunch, and I appreciate your position from an informed place. Learning English itself is a fairly noble and valuable goal for many Japanese people to obtain, so I really hope it does succeed and it does seem kind of odd that there is such a need for people like myself.

    My little screed above is me trying to shake myself away from my odd negative fixation on eikaiwa writ large. Saying that eikaiwa is all a sham or should just disappear is like saying Weight Watchers or piano lessons shouldn’t exist. It’s just not a realistic or mature thing to say.

    When I say “eikaiwa” I should probably be more precise, but in this context I suppose I am referring to those teachers who have come at the tail end of the boom, worked in fly by night schools and may be seeing themselves unemployed right now – much like that guy who was considering truck driving a while back.

    But I will say it again — by my experience both teaching and observing, the eikaiwa school technique of signing people up similar to a karate school or music lessons is beneficial for a motivated few, but the rest who see it as a magic wand or sign up and lose interest end up blowing their money. A really horrible school populated with anime club rejects will serve no one, but even the best must have quite a high turnover rate. I would love to be wrong on this, so as someone who keeps books at an actual eikaiwa school, please give me an idea of the inside story.

    But just as no professional musician could have learned without instructors, perhaps it is worth it for the losers to subsidize the success of those few by giving up their cash in a futile endeavor.

  5. I think maybe before discussing more, we need to agree on a precise definition of what “eikaiwa” as opposed to “English teaching” is.

  6. “I think maybe before discussing more, we need to agree on a precise definition of what “eikaiwa” as opposed to “English teaching” is.”

    If you own an eikaiwa school and teach at a uni, you are a businessperson who moonlights as an lecturer. We all see a difference.

    While I have unfortunately not been able to find the survey again, a year or two back a (totally unscientific) online poll revealed the unsurprising – that something like 60% of eikaiwa students who responded felt that teachers were rude, prejudiced against Japanese, creepy, or pouring attention on female students at the expense of male students (likely all of the above). There is a problem in eikaiwa. Perhaps it is something that “boutique” schools have their collective finger on. But there are more than just a few bad apples in the wider field.

  7. “Eikaiwa teachers and clowns. Your subconscious is still playing Internet Toughguy”

    Exactly what I was going to say.

  8. Meg, you did some English teaching in two different cities in China. From what you’ve heard about the situation in Japan and Korea (which I think are similar in some ways, although Korea seems to be mostly independent schools or small chains, where the Japan market is dominated by large chains), how do you think it compares? I don’t know if China even HAS “eikaiwa” type schools like haegwon in Korea or buxiban in Taiwan, or if English teachers only work in “proper” schools.

  9. Adamu and Durf: You speak of the benefits of in-house translating, without the need to market yourself. I would rebut that, the problem with being an in-house translator as opposed to being independent is that you are ultimately an “employee” without your own “clients,” with little way to evaluate your worth to your employer, and thus subject to layoffs during bad times and other forces far beyond your control.

    As for being independent, “Freelance” translating (and research, writing, and reporting) sounds romantic for many of us bilingual folks when we were in our early 20s, but I think that most of us quickly found that it was low-paying and a poor way to make a career. So many of us moved on. Durf and Adamu, you’ve ended up as professional, in-house translators, and you’ve had great careers so far.

    I would argue, however, that the ideal for a translator/researcher is to set up his own shop with his own clients and his own employees, becoming the conduit that can outsource the work to 20-30yo versions of us who want to do freelance.

    (My use of he/his being gender neutral, of course.)

  10. As well as differentiating between eikaiwa and English teaching, there’s also the JET scheme which doesn’t fit neatly into either category. JET scheme applicants aren’t expected to become full time career language teachers any more than someone on an au pair scheme is expected to become a full time career nanny. The line between JET and eikaiwa became increasingly blurred when schools began to replace their JETs with ALTs from a dispatch company.

    Are there many high profile Americans who started out as English teachers in Japan? I can think of four British authors who did so. David Mitchell and David Peace have both won critical acclaim and Japanese translations of their books are in shops now. Susannah Jones saw good reviews for her first book while Mo Hayder has become a best-selling crime author. She also worked as a hostess in Japan and I can think of two university professors and one high-profile businesswoman who started their working lives that way too.

  11. First high-profile JETs/eikaiwas/ALTs:

    Japan policy wonk Michael Green was a JET. Thats all I can think of off the top of my head. Was Pakkun a JET? Steven Seagal ran his own aikido studio before moving to LA, but I guess that doesnt count.

    The Yomiuri had a piece commemorating JETs 20th anniversary and noted that lots have gone on to successful completely unrelated careers, and some have been Japan involved (lots of JETs on the Daily Yomiuri staff apparently).

    I will tackle these other issues later on once I take care of some business.

  12. Lots of academics have done mercenary eikaiwa in Japan at some point. I’m not really that down on “the act” of eikaiwa. I (wrongly) use “eikaiwa teacher” as a cover-all for “young and stupid in Japan”.

    Mo Hayder strikes me as being the archetype of the eikaiwa teacher that I don’t like – she took superficial Japan experience and blew it up into the most silly myths imaginable in “The Devil of Nanking” (Yes! A VIDEO of the Rape of Nanking would just solve that whole problem! But watch out for those Japanese, they’ll hurt you if you mention the “N” word!).

    “Several articles from IJA [Imperial Japanese Army] veterans were published just after the war – before the right-wing cover up really got started… But in the ‘50s the subject was buried. All references to it were deleted from school textbooks. Most Japanese who write about it tend to live outside the country – Australia, for example. The only Japanese journalist that I am aware of who lives in the country and publishes accounts of the massacre is Katsuichi Honda. He has to live under an assumed name because of death threats from the right wing.”

    Glad to see she did so much research (this “only Japanese journalist” thing is taken from Chang). It has its own category on Amazon. And come to think of it… the only Australian that I know of who writes about the Nanking massacre, David Askew, lives in Japan….

  13. @ Curzon: It’s not so much a *benefit* of being in-house as it is a small freedom from one task that our freelance comrades have to take on. (Well, lots more, actually, if you want to include accounting and filing taxes and paying social security and so on in the package.) A talented freelancer (meaning one who has the marketing skills as well as the translating chops) will always pull in more gross income than an in-house person, I think. This means that those extra tasks can pay for themselves and then some if you put in the effort to do them yourself instead of waiting for Suzuki in sales to bring in the new client.

    I think the standard career arc in language services is to start out in-house and go off to work for yourself at some point. I’ve been in my little publishing house for more than a decade, which is on the long side, probably. You’re right on the money when you say the freelance lifestyle appeals to people in their early 20s more than it should, given the effort and talent it requires, but for those people in their early 20s who figure out a stint in a company can get them the skills they need to go freelance at a more mature age it’s still the best way to go in the long run, in many cases.

    None of this relates much to the original post, though, since English conversation teaching isn’t an industry area that affords as much opportunity to build a set of truly portable skills. There are still English teachers that stay in the country and build lasting careers on top of that early experience, though, whether as entrepreneurs (like I mentioned above) or by picking up enough Japanese to strike out into a different field. My company has hired more than a few former JET ALTs and ex-eikaiwa teachers in the years I’ve been here, and they’ve been quite competent as translators. Even I was an ALT in the early 1990s, although it wasn’t through JET because I’d spent too much time in country before applying.

    All questions of the value of the eikaiwa industry to its Japanese consumers aside, teaching English remains a pretty solid way for young foreigners to get their work visas and get into Japan, which is where you absolutely have to be if you want to get good enough at the language to do other meaningful work here, IMO. For this reason I try not to get down on people jumping into the industry for doing so. (There are plenty of reasons to judge them when it comes to their exit strategy, or lack of such.)

  14. Quite a few Japan-focused academics started out doing JET, including a lot of current graduate students. I wouldn’t be surprised if the crossover from JET is almost on the level of the wave of Japan researchers who lived in Japan as part of GHQ post-war.

    Certainly a fair number of JETs move into eikaiwa for a little while, to extend their time in Japan after the JET contract runs out. I’ve also seen several who continuing working at ALT positions, outside the auspices of the JET program. Unfortunately, there simply is no structure in place in Japan for moving the most highly qualified JET teachers into career teaching positions in public schools. I think there was a big deal made over the one solitary case in all of history. Perhaps one of the problems with JET itself is the weird dual mission is has of simultaneously providing English teachers to schools, while also deliberately providing medium-term cultural exchange to the foreign teachers. The desire to provide cultural exchange arguably discourages promotion of long term commitments for even the best teachers, to the detriment of the core educational mission.

    Wasn’t Ed Norton a JET? He may not use Japanese in his current job much, but I once saw a clip of a very young Norton in one of those cheesy language teaching videos, which was supposedly his first paid acting gig, while he was on JET.

  15. PS I’d also note that the “in-houser -> freelancer -> company owner” arc isn’t one followed by most translators. The majority probably end up in that middle category, never building up their business to the point where they need to start outsourcing work or employing assistants. (In eikaiwa, by way of comparison, that middle stage doesn’t exist at all, except in the form of lessons on the side given by Aeon employees in Starbucks or wherever.)

  16. That’s a bit of an odd comparison. I mean, freelance teacher only exists as a career in specialized arts and crafts like judo or guitar or something, and even then only in very rare cases.

    Do most freelancers start in-house? I’ve been doing freelancing for years on the side and only once or twice even sent a resume for an in-house job, but I can’t imagine any company hiring an in-house translator without freelancing experience.

  17. I think that Edward Norton worked for his uncle who had a company in Japan or some such thing.

    “Quite a few Japan-focused academics started out doing JET, including a lot of current graduate students.”

    I agree with the tone of the above posts – it is all about the exit strategies. While many current grad students, etc. come from JET, it is far more common to see applicants for MA programs who have JET or eikaiwa experience and yet never turned their Japan time (and let’s face it, JET not only gives free lessons, but offers lots of free time) into language skills or really took things seriously enough to put together a research-worthy idea. For every JET or eikaiwa teacher who is a future translator, there are a half dozen who think that they can translate with level 3 or 2 Japanese (as Adamu pointed out in an earlier thread, you need to be better than level 1) because, you know, living in Japan is, like, special.

  18. Talk about high profile eikaiwa teacher.Don’t forget Lewis “Scooter”Libby.
    He also fallowed the tradition of writing a novella set in Japan.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apprentice_(book)

    When Karel Van Wolfren came to Japan in 1962,one of the first job he got in Japan was teaching English in Waseda University.(I checked this)He was only 21 and only graduated highschool in the Netherland.

    And Mo Hayder’s book is sold in Tower Record Shibuya under the title of “Tokyo”.

  19. @ Roy: Do most freelancers start in-house? I’ve been doing freelancing for years on the side and only once or twice even sent a resume for an in-house job, but I can’t imagine any company hiring an in-house translator without freelancing experience.

    I think most of the good freelancers I know were in-house at some point. Note that this isn’t necessarily as an in-house translator: lots of engineers who picked up the language skills and sidestepped into technical translation, for instance. But you can learn so much more about the ins and outs of translation when you’re in the middle of a team working on all stages of the process than you can in isolation, doing just the first draft of an English version. I recommend time in-house to anyone thinking of translating as a long-term career.

    As far as hiring goes, we tend to base our decisions mainly on the aptitude a candidate shows in our translation test and interview. Some folks we’ve given serious looks to have had freelance experience, some in-house experience, and some no experience at all–they just had a knack for truly comprehending the Japanese texts they read and were strong enough in English writing to produce the same information in readable form rather than clumsy chokuyaku.

  20. As a semi-freelance translator at the moment (though not ideally as a career), I can say that it definitely brings in a fair chunk of cash (I’ve made up to a million yen after tax in one month) but I have never been in-house and would probably go quite nuts in a week – at least working at home I can wear ratty old comfy clothes, take breaks whenever I like, listen to music as I work, and not have to deal with any of the office politics or enforced boozing or crowded commutes that office people get.

    While as Adamu noted in-house translators do have the worry of getting downsized, freelancers have the worry of not getting any work next week and the week after that. That is a considerable worry, and the main reason why I would not want it as a career, despite the money. That and the fact that most of what I translate is incredibly boring….

  21. I have so much to say about translation I will make it into another series of posts. But basically, Durf knows what he’s talking about and I totally agree.

    Translation without knowledge of the subject matter is no way to live. Earlier in my career, I felt kind of bad taking money for patent translations that I didn’t really understand, but as Durf mentioned, even those kinds of translation have value to someone.

    Also I don’t really know about exit strategies so much, because once you have exited to somewhere you still aren’t at any real destination. Professional development in any field shouldn’t just be limited to escaping from your current job, and it might come in areas you don’t initially expect.

    Similar to the way teaching English in Japan is a great way to get a visa to be in the country if that is where you want to be (and considering that it is relatively easy to get a work visa for other jobs as long as you are qualified), translation, wherever you do it, presents massive opportunities for self development. A good translator will do background research to learn a working knowledge of the topic at hand, and if you find a particular topic that interests you, you can use that knowledge to either make yourself a better and more expert translator or possibly move on to another field.

  22. “a good translator will do background research to learn a working knowledge of the topic at hand”

    Theoretically a good idea, but if the client wants the job done by tomorrow morning, there isn’t always enough time. I have done a lot of quick and dirty research while doing a translation, and some has been quite educational, admittedly. I do have an exit strategy, but it hasn’t worked as yet – this translation stuff is a way to pay the bills while I try and get it to work. I also have Exit Strategy B, but it would pay a lot less. to me an exit strategy isn’t simply quitting – that is an exit, but not a strategy.

  23. That wasn’t meant as a commentary on your performance. All I am saying is that you must come across some pretty educational stuff along the way, and that’s no small benefit. I mean you are basically getting paid to learn.

  24. Yeah, translation really places a premium on two things. Writing ability in the destination language is one: we can all think of horrible translations that we’ve seen written by native Japanese speakers who don’t realize the import of their choice of English. Subject matter expertise is the other: someone very familiar with Japanese and English but unfamiliar with law might translate 不法行為 as “illegal act” when the term which English-speaking legal professionals would clearly understand is “tort.” (This particular word, as mistranslated, was a point of confusion on Debito’s blog recently until a couple of commenters sorted it out.)

    To pull this tangent out a bit further, I think that source language expertise is pretty peripheral to translation ability. You don’t need 1kyu-level Japanese to be a good translator — if you don’t understand something you always have the option to look it up or even “phone a friend.” (Interpreting is a different story, of course.) Past a certain level of skim-and-roughly-get-it “working proficiency,” measures of Japanese ability quickly descend into a dick-measuring contest that’s irrelevant for most practical purposes, especially when anyone can download Eijiro for a few bucks and have 99.9% of the Japanese language in front of them for ready reference.

  25. That is interesting since I also did not know that there was a big difference between 違法行為 and 不法行為. So that was the Japanese translation for tort. But I have to wonder if a lawyer might translate 不法行為 as tort even when it shouldn’t be, such as in a newspaper article such as this:
    http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1230/OSK200812300014.html

    The kanji for the term make it ready for use in Japanese newspapers, but the term “tort” is definitely legal jargon that has no place in an English-language newspaper. That’s my impression anyway!

    But now that I have confirmed it in my handy LAWDAS

    (もともとは、不法な行為、違法な行為をひろくさすごであったが、現在では一般に、契約上の義務違反や犯罪行為を除いた不法行為をさす。)

    it should be here to stay.

  26. Speaking of bad translations:

    The cafeteria in my building had ちらし寿司 on the menu today.

    The English translation on the placard said “Leaflet sushi.”

  27. No, no, the most wonderful bit of bad translation I have seen in a long time is when I stayed at the Kaminarimon Hotel in Asakusa. On the wall it had the usual Emergency Directions card, this one in Japanese and English. The Japanese noted the existence of fire extinguishers with the logical

    消火器

    The English translated this as the surreal

    “Digestive organs”….

    And I did not realise that about 不法行為 either. Just as well I don’t do a lot of legal stuff….

  28. Worst translation I have ever seen was in a random manga.

    What should have been

    “Come and get some, a$$shole!”

    ended up as

    “Come and get some a$$hole!”

    Sometimes it really is all about the destination language.

    “You don’t need 1kyu-level Japanese to be a good translator”

    For literature, I think that you do. For law, you are perfectly correct.

  29. Joe, I would argue that you do in fact need very strong knowledge of the source language, because a lot of what you need to pick up is very subtle (interactions between sentences, implication, etc.) — stuff you can’t get from a reference book. And this subtle stuff can also be domain-specific — like how “moshiku wa” is a level deeper than “mata wa” in legal writing. People underestimate this sort of knowledge, even in themselves, because it can’t be measured like kanji memorization or whatever, but I can tell the difference between translators who got it and translators who don’t within a paragraph or two, tops.

    That said I do agree that you can understand your source language at a native level and still be a crappy translator if you aren’t able to express it equally well in the target language.

    (I wouldn’t tie any of this to JLPT levels though because they are more or less meaningless except as goals for us as we progress towards minimal fluency.)

  30. Another argument for strong knowledge of the source language as a necessity, incidentally, is that machine translation is getting better and better. There will come a time when dictionary-reliant people with shallow source understanding will make less sense for companies than machine translation + quick edit (the latter probably performed by someone in India). Formalized domains like law will go first, literature and marcom will go last if at all, but only by striving to be the best they can be will translators be able to stay afloat.

  31. “JLPT levels though because they are more or less meaningless except as goals for us as we progress towards minimal fluency”

    Yeah, we need a 0-kyu level. Hell, 1-kyu, that coveted goal of the JET, is just what you need to get *into* a university. You need to know a hell of a lot more than that to actually get out again. I know I did – history classes, for example, the first year were almost totally incomprehensible.

  32. “(I wouldn’t tie any of this to JLPT levels though because they are more or less meaningless except as goals for us as we progress towards minimal fluency.)”

    I agree. Adamu made an earlier comment that you need “considerably more than 1 kyu” (which we have dropped to 1 kyu for the sake of argument) and I think that rings true.

    Machine translation for literature? Never. “A Clockwork Orange” into Japanese?

  33. True, but how much demand is there for literature translation? It’s the more nuts-and-bolts stuff that pays the money – meeting minutes, brochures, financial reports, etc. While machine translation is a long way from that, perhaps Indians working for 1 yen a word or less are not….

  34. “but how much demand is there for literature translation?”

    That’s usually all I do. People who want it done usually do it themselves.

  35. “People who want it done usually do it themselves.”

    Which doesn’t pay that well, unfortunately.

  36. Jade Oc, machine translation is a long way from translating those things as well as a human, but that’s not the possibility that should scare translators. “Good enough that companies will accept the reduced quality in exchange for a X0% discount against human translation”, that is the point that will start to hit human translating as a profession, and it will happen sooner than anyone expects. (2nd- and 3rd-world translators working for very low prices is already happening…)

    Re literature: To do translation of great literature unaided, you would basically need AI (or at least a system that can pass the Turing Test), true. But literary translation is a very small part of the “X to English” translation industry, unfortunately. And anyway, to do translation of, say, formulaic light novels or anime, you can get by with less, especially if you’ve got a human edit pass afterwards. The audience is less demanding and people have already demonstrated that they will accept lower quality in exchange for faster delivery (fanslations, etc.) Companies may decide to start cutting that particular corner.

    Of course there will always be a place for skilled translators and there will always be companies who recognize the value of a professional. But just like in programming, professionals will find themselves competing against increasingly cheap and convenient alternatives, and expected to justify the prices they charge in terms a monolingual manager can understand. It will get tougher.

  37. This “need more than 1kyu” line is crap. A translator needs a good knowledge of grammar (which you can get from reading through a few books) and a knowledge of the vocabulary for the area in which they’re translating. The JLPT levels are totally irrelevant to this, except to the extent that a person at the 3 or 4kyu level will probably be lost with most documents. A person with 2kyu, good English writing skills and subject area knowledge is going to make much better translations than a person with 1kyu who’s a newbie to their field or can’t write very well.

    I also think we’re giving machines way too much credit when we propose that machine translation will supersede human translation at some point. If computers ever get smart enough to make creative writing decisions (which are often needed to patch over the mis-correspondences between languages), losing translation jobs will be the least of our worries.

  38. The JLPT specifically tests academic style language, which might not be much help with literary or excessively casual language you might find in literature. The same goes the other way. There are loads of people who are 100% fluent in social Japanese, but would be totally lost in even 2kyu level formal writing. Aside from 1kyu being a prereq for undergrad college admission (very oddly, there’s no formal language requirement for grad school. They just eyeball your Japanese ability from your application and/or interview) but aside from that, all four levels are mostly worthless as certification.

  39. Joe, I think that we are talking about different things. I mostly translate comedy, novels, and stuff like that so a “diverse” fluency is needed. What you say sounds true for law or patents or a similar area.

  40. M-Bone, even your material is probably not within the structure of the JLPT levels — like Roy said, they don’t care about the casual vernacular, and that’s got to be the biggest challenge when dealing with fiction or comedy. (It’s also probably the last thing that computers will ever be able to translate.)

    Roy — I was under the impression that a lot of graduate study in Japan is not even in Japanese anyway. No?

  41. “they don’t care about the casual vernacular”

    Which raises the problem – some of us have been using 1kyu to mean “badass”. Useful shorthand. In reality, it don’t mean nothing.

    Graduate study in Japanese history or lit had better be in Japanese. In economics, sociology, law, or polisci, it will be mostly eigo.

  42. Grad study in English is usually only in the sciences. I did mine in the humanities, and it was (a) completely in Japanese, and (b) a hell of a learning experience linguistically.

    I’m pretty sure M-Bone could more than hold his own in the NBS….

  43. “Graduate study in Japanese history or lit had better be in Japanese. In economics, sociology, law, or polisci, it will be mostly eigo.”

    Even that isn’t really accurate. A fair amount of the reading will be in English, but the discussion and writing is still usually Japanese in the majority of classes, unless it’s some kind of rare and special international program, or perhaps a rare class taught by a visiting foreign professor. Only the hardcore sciences are likely to use a significant of English in the classroom.

  44. “but the discussion and writing”

    True, I was thinking more about major research. Most foreigners studying in Japan in those areas that I mentioned submit in English in my experience.

  45. “Please watch Into the Sun immediately!”

    I’ve been wanting to check this out forever. Is it a “watch drunk with friends” movie or should I just watch it the next time it comes on TV?

  46. I would love to take the NBS. Would be a great thing to put on a resume.

    WRT machine translation, I think a few things:

    * It won’t take a single job away from a native English speaking J-E translator who’s halfway decent, because the kind of companies that seek that sort of solution will have taken his work away and given it to a bunch of guys in Mumbai or Shenzhen long before then.

    * If computer hardware/software ever gets to the point where it can do my job, I agree with Joe that it’s the least of our worries, because I will just be joining all the soldiers, teachers, product designers, airline pilots, lawyers, doctors, and so on who already lost their jobs to robots powered by GoogleBrain (“beta,” natch).

    * Re Matt’s “Good enough that companies will accept the reduced quality in exchange for a X0% discount against human translation”: If you’re the kind of translator who markets yourself to those clients you’re setting yourself up for a fall in any case. (As he notes, there are already cheap translators out there vying for that work.) To be a translator who succeeds over the long term, be the guy who gets his NBS certification and lives in a major Japanese business center and can answer the call to “come into our office at nine tomorrow so we can talk about this project we’d like done.” The guys in Mumbai can’t handle that client, and neither can the guy with minimal Japanese skills and a hotkey to his Eijiro bookmark.

    * Sean Connery > Steven Seagal, at least in Rising Sun. My friends and I were running around saying “I am very okotta!” for months after we suffered through that.

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