I’ve been thinking a lot about how people go about translating lately. Everyone’s different, we all find our own ways to approach translation. Not just how we translate something but how we translate it; the process from being given a job to handing it in. So here’s one of my translation processes. Specifically my manga translation process.

Step One: Plan my schedule!

Step Two: Read the manga (more than one volume if possible) [<1 day]
– Make note of key terms (start glossary)

Step Three: (Re-)Read the style guide!

Step Four: First draft
– Format -> Translate (one page at a time)
– Highlight segments unsure of (two colours)
– Fill out glossary

Step Five: Edit (Second draft)
– Checking with Japanese
– Polishing lines (accurately reflect Japanese, keeping them short)
– Edit glossary where necessary

Step Six: Proofing (Final draft)
– Re-read just English

Step Seven: Submission


Step One: Plan My Schedule!

This is a key step that helps me maintain a healthy work-life balance. (At least in theory…)

I will calculate how many pages I need to translate a day if I were working five days a week until the deadline. (These five days are normally half days as I like to work on multiple projects at a time.) I try to give myself time at the start for reading the manga and glossary creation, then time at the end for editing and proofing.

For example, I’m given a 160-page manga due in four weeks, aka 20 days.
I would like to give myself time to read the manga beforehand (although I normally do this in my spare time beforehand while finishing off another translation.) I would also like to have five days to edit and proof. So that gives me 15 days, which is 10.6 pages a day. As I know I normally run into issues (due to various reasons) I will round up then add an extra page, so I try to aim to have 12 pages a day translated.

This is often easier said than done as the ease of translation depends on the project. (E.g if a manga requires a lot of research or is text heavy it will take longer.)


Step Two: Read the manga

My first step is always to read the manga. I know not everyone does this, but I’ve found reading the manga (and if possible, a few volumes) before translating helps me in the long run. It gives me a better sense of the character’s voices, of frequently used terms and hints to any foreshadowing.

In this stage I make notes on paper of terms and character names, and possible translations. Sometimes I even make notes to look up if something might be a reference. (You get to a point where something feels like it might be a reference, especially if the manga is a comedy.)

I honestly like purchasing a physical copy of the manga for this stage. But I also buy a digital copy from Bookwalker for when I’m translating. (Both copies count as business expenses! Woot!)


Step Three: (Re-)Read the Style Guide

Even if I’m translating a manga for a client I’ve already worked for, I like to read the style guide before I start translating. (Or at least I should do it more often.)

I try to ask for an updated style guide before starting too. At least if it’s been several months to a year since I last received one. But not all clients have been good at getting back to me with updated style guides. (This might be because they don’t have an updated one or might be because they forget to reply.)


Step Four: First Draft

For the translation stage I will have the digital copy of the manga on one half of the screen, word in the other half, then the internet open on a third screen.

The internet window will normally have at the ready:
– A few dictionaries (jisho.org and ejje.weblio)
– Thesaurus.com
– SFX references (such as jadednetwork)
– A few tabs of Google for research


There are a few ways one can approach a first draft, but I what I do is write out the formatting of a page before I start translating. This means writing out the speakers, narration, SFX, etc. on that page (how this is laid out depends on the style guide).

Then I will translate the page, filling in the spaces. I will also add translators notes with a “TN:” in a comment. This is for references (to other things or flashbacks), jokes, or translations I really don’t want them to change and why.

I like to write out the formatting then translate because it lets me focus on the flow of the text throughout the page. If I wrote out the speakers etc. as I translated, then it might interrupt that flow which results in unnatural dialogue. It also allows me to get everything on the page. Sometimes I still miss tiny SFX or asides, but this helps me catch 99.9% of them.

(However, I do know some translators prefer to translate everything first, and then put in the formatting. This similarly allows them to focus on translation flow. Adding the formatting after gives them a chance to pick up anything missed and is a good opportunity for a second draft.)


This first draft is also the time when I put key terms into my glossary. I normally separate the glossary into “terms” “characters” and “SFX”. This doesn’t mean only noting the Japanese and English spelling, but add any comments, links to references, and pictures if necessary.

I will also highlight segments of the translation I want to come back to. Yellow for “double-check with Japanese” and blue for “double-check English”.


Step Five: Edit (Second Draft)

I find it helps me to start editing after taking a bit of a break from the translation. At least a good night’s sleep. This is because I need to switch my brain from writing to editing.

Editing for me means re-reading each page and focusing on the Japanese side of the translation. Especially segments I had marked yellow because I was unsure of exactly what was going on.

If I change any key terms in this stage, I’ll make sure that’s reflected in the glossary.

I will try and have editing done in 3-4 half-days, splitting the manga into thirds or quarters.


Step Six: Proofreading (Final Draft)

This is separate from the editing stage because I won’t look at the Japanese at all. The focus here is on the English.

Does it sound like something an English speaker would say? Sound like something the character would say? Does it fit in the bubble (aka can I shorten it)?

I try to read the English aloud, but I admit I don’t always (especially if I’m in a hurry). Also, if I am struggling with the proofing, I will use the text to audio feature in Word. (I don’t like doing this when there is lots of formatting though. I do this more with novels.)

Also, because I’m not referring to the source Japanese, this step ends up taking even less time. Which means 1-2 half-days.


Step Seven: Submission

I’ll make sure I’m submitting the right file before attaching it to the email. (By the way, I normally make a separate save file for each draft, and back up all drafts and glossaries, just in case!) I should also send the glossary at this point too, buuut I admit I have forgotten to send that on more than I should have.

Depending on the client and their system I will either send the invoice with the translation or separately to their accounting department.

Then I fill in my income/expenses excel with the invoice number, date sent, amount, etc.

Then it’s onto the next project!


Other Useful Articles

Manga Translation Pitfalls

Termbases for Manga Translation (AKA Making Project Glossaries)


You can also find me on the Twitters (I guess!)


My Manga Translation Process
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Quinton Davis
Quinton Davis
1 year ago

this was a cool insight into how translations work. I have wanted to start learning the process, translators are the true heroes in the English manga scene but they don’t get enough love. Good work!