A look back on 2016, the year of translations and connections (コネ)

By | January 1, 2017

Since the year is almost over, I thought I would do a quick look back about what I did and learned in 2016 related to Japanese.

More than anything else, 2016 was the first year where I got really into doing translations from Japanese to English, as  both a hobby and as a side job at Gengo. My focused work at Gengo only lasted around three months, though I came back to it once in awhile after that. One of my most memorable jobs there was doing a short translation for a certain popular Fantasy game.

My hobby translations, which actually began in December 2015 with a small portion of a Candy Candy novel, eventually began taking a large chunk of my free time. In September, I finished my longest single hobby translation project yet, a light novel of 11 chapters. Just a little over a month ago in November, I started another massive (50+ chapter) project which has gotten a lot of attention from the community (at least more than my other stuff). I can’t predict when I will finish it, but I’ve learned a great deal so far from it, and all the other projects I’ve done.

However, after some more consideration, I think something I’ve started picking up this year which is equally important is a few connections. By that, I mean people who read my blog and asked me a question or two over email, or those I’ve reached out to for some reason or other. One way to describe this sort of connection in Japanese is コネ (‘kone’, a loanword which comes form ‘connection’), and another is 人脈 (‘jinmyaku’).

While it is just a handful of people, it is a diverse set including someone who works in the literature industry (who has worked on some surprisingly hit books), a professional translator (who was nice enough to let me interview him), the creator of another site about studying Japanese, and the Japanese author of a published book. Of course, there are all those who have communicated with me via comments on this blog.

I’ve also talked several other Japanese authors of web/light novels over email, and in several cases got feedback on my translations and/or answers to my questions about their novels or short stories. Not to mention how I’ve been able to gradually improve my Japanese email writing abilities through these exchanges.

I am sure that for some people, making contacts is a pretty obvious thing, but until recently I wasn’t really active at all in this area (I don’t even have a business card).

To be sure, I am not trying to collect a massive number of email addresses like some people try to do with social site friends, but I am hoping to build up a small circle of dependable contacts so that if I ever try to make more active career moves into translation (or some other related area) then I may be able to get a little extra help. Even if I never use these connections to land a job, I still value their friendship and any information I have exchanged with them.

Maybe the biggest lesson I learned is that it’s actually easier to make and maintain these types of contacts then I previously thought. It just takes some courage to make the initial contact (or respond to their initial message), honesty in communication, and consideration about what each side of the relationship is looking for (something that surely applies to all human relationships).

Just for the heck of it, a few days ago I decided on writing a certain Japanese publisher the other day about a potential mistake in a book I was reading. Depending on their response, maybe I’ll even ask them if I can translate something from one of their books. Who knows where it might go…

Anyway, I’ll close this article by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s make 2017 the best yet!

I am always open to hearing from new people, so feel free to email me at selftaughtjapanese (at) gmail.com.



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