In secondary school (middle school) we had to learn French and Spanish. I really hated these classes because I just couldn’t do them. In all my classes I struggled with spelling and reading, but languages were the worst. I got above average grades but was always frustrated that I could never get those straight As no matter how hard I tried.
Then in college (high school) my friend was learning Japanese and I decided to learn it with her. It was just a hobby at first, I didn’t put much effort into it. But Japanese was a language that clicked with me. Japanese is written is how it’s pronounced, there’s no weird spellings and I loved learning hiragana, katakana and kanji!
Skip forward 9 years and I’ve graduated from undergraduate and am doing an MA in Translation at SOAS in London. My lecturer calls me in to talk about an essay on Skopos. But in my essay I had written “Skorpos” all the way through. I had read articles all about the subject but in my head it was pronounced “Skorpos”, and therefore meant it was spealt “Skorpos” and I hadn’t noticed at all!
My lecturer helped me get tested for dyslexia and yep, I was dyslexic. It was a shock yet also explained a lot in terms of my previous education experience.
Over 2 decades of education and no one had thought to get me tested until I was half way through my masters degree! Turns out I had worked out ways to tackle the major struggles I faced. However, I realized I had to make a choice. Do I continue working in localization, with English and Japanese languages in a professional capacity?
What is Dyslexia?
“Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, is characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, “sounding out” words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads.” – Wikipedia
What it’s like to be Dyslexic (for Me)
- Thinking sounds or words in my head but writing or saying something different.
- Mishearing things.
- Forgetting things easily.
- Thinking I’ve written something correct, but there’s actually a mistake.
- Getting sounds mixed up (especially in Japanese).
- Getting kanji mixed up (especially if they are very similar and I gloss over them).
<- Sometimes not realizing any of these!
These don’t all happen 100% of the time though. It’s more like 5-10% of the time, which makes it harder to notice when my brain has gone on the fritz.
It can be really frustrating to think I’ve done something perfect only to then have someone point out a seemingly obvious mistake, despite the fact that I’ve read it over.
Often I can catch mistakes as I’m writing them. Such as a recent one where I had to keep writing “Secretary”, but would sometimes write “Secredary” or “Decretary”, notice the mistakes and correct them instantly. When I notice a mistake happening a lot I can consciously target it.
Tricks and Techniques I’m Using to Tackle These
I love books. I always have. When I was younger I would read a lot. But that’s sadly not been the case recently because of work and other priorities. Which is a shame because reading really helped me when I was younger with how to write and form sentences. I am trying to read more English and Japanese novels now and get back into a healthy habit of daily reading.
I also love writing blog posts and articles about learning Japanese and about translation. These have helped me greatly in terms of keeping my writing skills sharp. It also helps with the spelling of certain words. If I find the red line of auto-correct appears a lot for a certain word I will try to remember the spelling for it.
With translation I will give myself a day before I proofread a text, and will try to read it out loud. Reading out loud to spot mistakes and awkward sounding sentences is incredibly helpful.
Sometimes I can’t read out loud or don’t have the time, so I have an editor. My editor is actually my husband and he’s amazing at proofreading work not only for basic grammatical issues but also proofreading for ideas. He’s very strict and will let me know when something sounds too close to the Japanese. I learn a lot from the things he points out and the discussions we have about translation.
I think that despite dyslexia, and despite any kind of learning difficulties, it’s still possible to learn another language and to work with languages. It may require more work and effort, but if it’s something you want to do and that you enjoy, you should do it anyway. If you come across issues, work out ways around them, don’t let them stop you.
I love translating. I love transforming a language, making it accessible to others and having fun doing so! The challenges that are thrown at me can be frustrating at times but ultimately incredibly rewarding.
So despite dyslexia I will still translate.