Here are some of my favorite books that I recommend for Japanese-English translators.
I don’t suggest every translator buy every single one of these books.
Each of them offer something different that different people will find useful.
However, I have highlighted my top recommendations with: *A MUST READ*
NOTE: I have many more books I’d like to add, but I want to read them first.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions!
NOTE TWO: The following links are affiliated links to Amazon.com <3
Translation (Studies and JP-EN Translation)
Japanese–English Translation An Advanced Guide by Judy Wakabayashi
*A MUST READ*
Just released in 2020, this book is a comprehensive look at Japanese-English translation techniques which can be applied to any field of translation.
This includes some applied theory but focuses more on applying translation techniques to work.
A must read for anyone who wants to be a Japanese-English translator.
The Routledge Course in Japanese Translation by Yoko Hasegawa
This is a pretty hefty book on translation studies but from the perspective of Japanese <-> English translation.
The book goes through key parts of translation and linguistics theory, understanding source texts, translation techniques and how translation projects are conducted.
All the while drawing on examples in Japanese <-> English translation.
It can be very daunting for people who aren’t used to reading academic textbooks. It can also be dry at times, but it is a book enriched with incredibly useful information.
Reviews of The Routledge Course in Japanese Translation
In Other Words by Mona Baker
This book, similar to The Routledge Course, is another academically focused book. (Actually, The Routledge Course is heavily inspired by In Other Words.)
Mona Baker focuses mostly on translation and translation theory. She takes examples from many different languages.
Relies more on translation theory rather than translation techniques.
A worthwhile read if you’re interesting in learning more about the theory side. But not necessary for Japanese – English translation (especially if you’ve already read The Routledge Course).
Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You by Jay Rubin
*A MUST READ*
Once known as “Gone Fishin’” this book looks at Japanese grammar on a whole other level.
Jay Rubin (well known as one of Haruki Murakami’s translators) breaks down Japanese grammar in a way that makes Japanese make even more sense than it may have before.
This is great for people who struggle with the source Japanese text at times.
Defiantly a worthwhile investment for any Japanese – English translation.
Great for video game localizers!
This is actually a free pdf document that anyone can access. The bulk of it is written for game developers interested in localization. But it has some really interesting stuff on programming and language.
Page 20 onward focuses on game localization and the process a company should take to ensure quality translation in video games.
Translation and Translation Studies in the Japanese Context
This book is a collection of essays looking at translation and translation studies in Japan. Each essay is written by Japanese – English translators.
Some essays look at specific Japanese translators. Others at shifts in translation as a whole.
Although interesting, this is not a must read for Japanese translators.
翻訳教室 by 柴田元幸
You may have guessed by the title that this book is for Japanese native people.
It’s not a guide to translation but a collection of short stories translated from English to Japanese and discussions of these translations.
A great book for those who are interested in the Japanese perspective on translation. And great for those who want to improve their understanding of Japanese.
How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay
*A MUST READ*
A fantastic breakdown of freelance translating as a whole. What it is, where to start, what you need to do.
It covers marketing, translation technology, rates, and even translation techniques!
It is a very easy and useful read.
Corinne McKay is well known in the translation industry for her blog Thoughts on Translation. But this book keeps has everything you need in one place.
Smart Habits for Translators [Podcast]
Not a book, but this podcast series is fantastic for new freelancers. It’s chock full of great information for running a healthy business and for being a healthy and happy translator.
One part of translating that many freelance translators forget about is the ability to write emails in Japanese.
This book is written for Japanese people on how to properly construct emails for work. It is incredibly useful for those who want to improve their communication with Japanese clients.
English Writing & Editing
The 10% Solution by Ken Rand
*A MUST READ*
This book is short and rich with knowledge.
It’s about self-editing for writers of all kinds. It aims to help you make your writing crisp, clear and tight.
At only 84 pages with large font this book is easy to get through in an afternoon. Yet its advice is IMMEASURABLE.
Particularly useful for translators who don’t know how to self-edit. But I feel a must read for any translator.
The Elements of Style (4th ed.) by William Strunk and E.B. White
*A MUST READ*
Another short book (only 85 pages) but full of great information about the English language and writing.
It may seem a little dry and boring with lists of words and phrases to be careful of, but it’s actually not! It really makes you think and points out some key information you should be aware of. Aimed at US English speakers but still useful for other fields (especially if you translate into US English even if you’re not a native US English speaker).
Don’t get the 2017 version! It’s more like a textbook and doesn’t have much to do with the original. The 4th edition version is the latest original and the best one to get!