Are you a new video game translator? Many beginner Japanese to English game translators struggle to find work. It’s the ever frustrating catch 22 of “you need experience to get the job, but need the job to get experience”. It’s difficult to find a decent company that will give you a break…
That’s why there are those not-so-decent game translation companies out there who are happy to take advantage of you!
This post looks at red flags as a beginner video game translator (although can be applied to other fields).
Ridiculous Workloads for Ridiculous Deadlines
Even a short game can contain a LOT of text. Not just in-game speech but also menus, buttons, headings etc.
Dating games (otome games) are surprisingly huge games. One character’s story line could be from 100,000 to 400,000 Japanese characters. They’re also considered cheap to make and release, especially the mobile games where people can easily throw money at them.
So they’re also easy targets for companies to translate on the cheap and release poor-quality translations for quick money.
The average professional translator can translate about 3000 finished characters/words a day (translated, proofread, edited etc). Of course this varies from person to person.
If you’re given a 200,000 Japanese character story for a single playable character in a game, this would take the average professional about 66 days or just over 2 months to create a high-quality translation. And that’s if you’re working 7 days a week, which is crazy, you need days off! So it would be more like 2.5 to 3 months worth of work.
Yet Jabberwock companies will be in a hurry to get this game released, forcing a 3 week or 1 month deadline on you.
This means you’re forced to translate twice the amount in the same time. This means other sacrifices needs to be made, such as proofreading and/or your free time.
You can work out if a project has aridiculous deadline by calculating:
The projects character count / Your translation speed in a single 7-8 hour work day (including breaks!)
(I.E 200,000 / 3000 = 66.6 days)
If a company approaches you with a seemingly great project and then gives you a deadline, I suggest calculating if it’s do-able.
When the deadline seems unreasonable, ask them to extend it.
If they don’t, DON’T take the project! It will just cause too much stress down the line.
UPDATE: If you’d like a better idea on how many words the “typical” tranlsator does a day you should read “How Long Will It Take You to Type This in English?” from the ATA.
Pay and rates seems to be a subject that many translators skirt around. It makes sense, when the American Translators Association allowed discussion of pay but then they were investigated by the US Commissions Agency for fixing prices in the translation industry. Talking about rates has become taboo.
So as a new person to the industry it’s often hard to tell whats a “good” rate and what’s a “bad” rate.
A way to work out your rate:
The number of characters you can translate in a work day (7-8 hours including breaks) / how many that is an hour.
(I.E 3000 / 7 = 428 words an hour)
Then how much you’d like to get paid an hour / by your words per hour.
(I.E $15 / 428 = $0.036)
BUT realistically you won’t be working 7 hours straight on a translation, it’s more like 5 hours because you have breaks inbetween. (Translating is very tiring on the brain!)
That’s also assuming you have enough work to work full-time, which you probably won’t!
So $0.036 per source character is actually a VERY low rate, even for a beginner professional translator. It will only get you about $100 a day, which actually isn’t much when you consider rent, bills, food, transport, tax etc.
Which is why you need to carefully work out how much you NEED to make in a month to survive + self employment tax. Also taking into account that work will come and go, and you will have busy periods and quiet periods.
So what is ridiculous pay?
As I made clear above $0.035 is a VERY low rate for a professional translator, even when you’re working with games.
Now keeping that in mind, imagine this:
Let’s say you’re asked to do a translation and the company will pay you 45,000 JPY for a project that’s due in 4 weeks. That sounds pretty good for a beginner, about $400-$500 for a month?
But they haven’t told you how many characters you’re doing… Then you start and it turns out it’s about 100,000 Japanese characters.
That’s 0.5 JPY per source character. Or less than 0.5 cents a character!!! When $0.035 is low, $0.005 is completely unreasonable.
If you work at a rate of 2000 characters a day (which is more common among beginners who work slower), you’re essentially getting paid $1.43 an hour, or $10 a day!
Even finding a company that pays you $0.02 per Japanese character works out to only $5.72 an hour or $40 a day! That’s not sustainable for someone who wants to make a career out of translating games.
Find Out EVERYTHING Before Saying Yes!
- Ask about pay.
- Ask about deadlines.
- Will they have someone proofread/edit after? Or are you expected to create the final product? (That will require more work and more time/money)
- Do your math.
Find out everything. If it’s a project you’re happy to work for at that price and time scale, go for it! If not, say NO!
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No – And Explain Why!
When you turn down a company for a poor offer be polite about it and clearly explain why you’re turning them down.
Obviously don’t show them the entire calculations, but a simple explanation for why their conditions are unreasonable.
If you ask for some adjustments to rate/time and they offer you a small adjustment that doesn’t match your requirements I would suggest still saying no.
It’s important to respect your own time and worth while also providing a service that matches that. Avoid companies who will take advantage of you, but also don’t take advantage of those good companies out there. If you get given a chance by a great company it’s important to provide them with a great translation so you can get even more work!
I also suggest, if you’re a beginner, partake in as many translation competitions as you can. Competitions often cover manga, literary, and technical documents. All forms of translation are great experience and competitions are great at helping you hone your skills.
I hope this was helpful! I have personally fallen pray to these Jabberwock companies and I have to say, from my own experience: Never again!!!