Japanese Translation Contest Announced: Promising Translators 2018

By | March 12, 2018

I’m very happy to announce Self Taught Japanese’s first ever Japanese Translation Contest: Promising Translators 2018

After seeing so many people spending so much hard work doing translations of Japanese stories on their hobby time, often with little (if any) compensation, I thought of running an event that would help discover some of the amateur translators out there who are doing amazing work. To help motivate people to apply, I’ve decided on a monetary prize for the 1st place winner: $100.

Even if you never have done much translation before, if you have good Japanese reading comprehension skills and confidence in your English writing skills, this is a good opportunity to try your hand at translation.

The deadline for submissions is April 9, and the winners will be announced by Jun 9 (mostly likely sooner, but I want to give a big enough buffer in case there is a large number of submissions).

For those interested in participating, please read the following information:

Content: English translation of 2-5 pages of Japanese content from a fiction novel or short story that has not been previously published in English. Please use a 11-point font when measuring the number of pages. You may choose whatever part of the story you like, for example the beginning of the story or chapter, or a pivotal part in the story. Exceptions may be made for slightly longer content (though no more than 10 pages), for example if the first chapter of the story is 6 pages long. Any genre is fine, but please avoid overt sexually-oriented content.

Content Limitations: The translation that is submitted cannot have been published in any paper book or E-book, however it can be published on a blog.

Submission: Submit the translation and the original Japanese text corresponding to the translation as separate documents. I would prefer Google Docs links (I will copy it as soon as I receive it, so no changes you make after original submission will be judged), however I will also accept a Word Doc or equivalent document file. Send these to “selftaughtjapanese.contests [at] gmail.com” with the title “Promising Translators 2018 Submission”. Please do not send extra background information about yourself, the story, or the author (though if you win you may be asked for this). The exception would be if you feel that some information is necessary to proper understanding of the passage chosen.

Submission dates: Submissions will accepted beginning now until the end of the day on April 9, PDT.

Who can submit: The translator himself or herself should be the person submitting the translation. There are no restrictions on race, nationality, sex, etc. (If there is a good translation you have found posted online, consider asking the translator to submit their work to this contest).

Legal Permission: Please make sure you have the permission of the original author to submit to this contest, which includes permission to post online both the translation submitted as well as the original Japanese text for the translated portion. I would like to provide a doc (or link) to both the original texts and the translations of the winners for everyone to view, and I may post short excerpts in one or more blog posts highlighting well-translated passages. If you are still waiting on a response from the author you may submit, but please make it clear permission is pending. Those without permission by the last day of submission (April 9) are not eligible to win.  (Note: works that are clearly in the public domain do not require permission to enter this contest.) Don’t worry if you have never contacted an author before, there are several good articles online to help you (here is one by me).

Content ideas: For those looking for inspiration, consider sides such as Kakuyomu (review), where thousands of stories are available to read for free. However, please be aware that unless explicitly stated these are not in the public domain, and would require permission of the author for submission in this contest.

Translator limitations: Only translators who have not yet had any translations published in print or E-book form are eligable for this contest. Translations published on online blogs do not count for this rule.

Other limitations: One submission per person. If multiple people submit a translation for the same text, only the first will be judged (although this should be unlikely). There is a chance if there are too many submissions I will have to stop accepting submissions at some point, and if so I will update this page immediately. For that reason, it’s probably better to submit earlier than later.

Entrance fee: Free. I’d like to make this opportunity available for everyone.


  • First prize (1 person): $100 (distributed via PayPal)
  • Second prize (1 person): Copies of my two E-books (classic Japanese SF: this and this).

Note: If desired, I will the include the websites or blogs of the first and second prize winners in the announcement email. Also, if the translator has mentioned someone who recommended their work to be submitted, they will be mentioned in the announcement post on this blog.

Funding: The prize money is coming out of my own pocket, but in the future I may see if I can find alternate funding to increase the prize amount.

Periodicity: If this goes well I am hoping to make this yearly, or possibly even more frequent.

Judging: The judges have not been fully decided yet. At minimum I will be judging although I am looking for other people with translation and/or editing experience to help out. If you are interested, please email me. (Note: those who have submitted an entry will be prohibited from assisting with judging).

Judging criteria:

  • The translation should match the meaning of the original text as close as possible
  • Natural English should be used (at least as natural as the original text)
    • There should be no awkward phrasing or word choice that you would not typically find in works originally created in English
  • The translation should be properly edited, including proper spelling, punctuation, etc.
    • I will assume American English, but if you want to use some other style (ex: British English) please let me know
    • I highly recommend having a friend or colleague review your translation before submission
    • Depending on your editing skills, you may also want to consider running the English text through Grammarly
  • The passage should be interesting and/or memorable
    • There is a subjective element here, but as you have the option to choose the work being translated, use this opportunity to pick a passage that really touches you emotionally (or some other way) and make sure that same feeling is reflected in the translation
  • Pay particular attention to the title, as first impression is very important
    • The title is one area where there is more leeway to use a non-literal translation for effect/marketability

Promotion: Feel free to promote this contest on social media, blogs, or other places. If I get enough participants, I may create additional prizes and/or increase the amount of the first prize.

Questions: Please email any questions or comments about this contest to “selftaughtjapanese.contests [at] gmail.com”.






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2 thoughts on “Japanese Translation Contest Announced: Promising Translators 2018

  1. Michael

    Sounds interesting. The hardest part will be to find a short story thats really interesting but i guess i will try.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be a short story, it can be a full length novel (there are many on sites like Kakuyomu).

      In the case where it is a longer work, I don’t expect to be blown away by the first few pages (though that would be a plus), as long as the readers attention is caught sufficiently.

      Or you can pick a key scene from a longer work that can be appreciated on its own, if for the beauty of the original text if nothing else.


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