– Discussions with people in the
Japanese media localization industry –
Meet Julie Goniwich
I’m a freelance translator currently living in Japan with my husband and 3-year-old daughter. I worked in-house briefly, but I’ve been freelance for about 7 years now.
I was addicted to manga when I was in middle school and high school, which led to my interest in learning Japanese. Then I found a private tutor that I went to once a week and eventually that led to me majoring in Japanese in university at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; including a semester of studying abroad in Tokyo.
After graduation, I found work freelancing for a few technical translation agencies and saved up to move to Japan with my then fiancé, now husband. We moved to Japan in 2013 and we’ve been here ever since. I even gave birth to my daughter here.
How did you get into translation?
Like many, I dabbled in fan translation when I was younger. I really enjoyed it at the time and even took a translation course in university. I guess I kinda always knew that I was on that track since I started looking for clients to work with as soon as I graduated.
When I first started out, I relied on websites like ProZ to find agencies to work for and wound up getting into technical-related translations first. It wasn’t until shortly after I moved to Japan when an agency that specializes in games contacted me through ProZ that my career in media translations really started.
For most of my career, I’ve worked on mainly mobile otome games with technical translations and editing work on the side. This year though, I’ve started branching and have started working on manga as well!
The otome games and technical work don’t include any credits and are protected by NDAs. So I’ve been very excited to have my first credited works come out.
What did you wish you had done differently when becoming an established translator?
Oh, there’s so many things. To start, I wish I had realized the power of networking sooner!
I can be pretty shy when it comes to meeting new people, so it took a long while for me to finally break out of my shell and really start connecting with other translators, even online. The translator community on social media and Discord are not to be underestimated.
Another major thing I wish I had differently is not stop studying.
After I graduated and started working with Japanese all the time, I guess I must have thought I didn’t need to study anymore. I would just learn automatically through the work I was doing.
This was far from true though and I had no idea how much I was starting to forget. Mostly because certain aspects that we need to study actually wasn’t coming up in my work. I wish I had realized—and been able to maintain the motivation—to study everyday, even it’s only 10-15 minutes a day.
What’s been the biggest challenge establishing yourself as a translator?
As I mentioned before, I got my start in technical translation, which is pretty literal with not much room for creativity.
So, when I tried to expand into gaming and other types of media, my biggest challenge was breaking the habit of translating literally. It took a few failures and encouragement from friends before it finally clicked that yes, it’s okay to let creativity take over when you’re translating.
I enjoy translation even more now as a result!
If you could do anything what would you love to do or try out?
There are a lot of manga I would love to work on, but I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at a novel or a light novel series in the future.
In particular, I would be over the moon if I got to work on the Hakushaku to Yosei (The Earl and the Fairy) light novels. Or the Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi (Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits) series.
Getting the opportunity to work on a console game of some sort in the future would be awesome too!
How has becoming a mother impacted your career as a freelancer?
I would say that being a working mom who freelances has been a pretty positive experience for me.
It can be tough to find a spot in preschools here in Japan. There was a time when I was doing some short assignments from home while my daughter napped. It was a tough period, but now that she goes to school, I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of being able to work at home. Which also means I’m able to not be too far away from where she is.
However, when my daughter is sick, it usually falls to me to be the one who has to take care of her.
I will say that I think the biggest thing becoming a mom has taught me is how to maintain a healthier work-life balance.
I used to work such odd hours before she was born; but I no longer have the time nor the energy to do so. I’ve limited myself to only working when she’s at school. I also avoid working on the weekends as much as possible to leave as much time as possible for spending with my family.
You can fine Julie Goniwich here!