What is a Japanese Interpreter?

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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2019
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A Japanese interpreter is a person whose job is to convert spoken words from another language into Japanese or from Japanese into another language. Japanese interpreters know at least one secondary language and often, but not always, are native speakers of Japanese. Interpreters not only translate spoken words between languages, they also translate the sense, tone and subtleties of each language. Successful interpreters have expert understanding of Japanese culture and the cultures of the other languages in which they work. Interpreters sometimes are confused with translators, who work with written language.

Japanese interpreters might use two methods to interpret: consecutive and simultaneous. Consecutive interpreting generally is the most common method and involves the interpreter converting the language after the other party has finished speaking a few sentences and come to a logical break. Simultaneous interpreters speak at the same time that the people whose words are being translated are speaking, often anticipating what they will say. This form of interpreting is especially tiring because of the high degree of concentration needed, and Japanese interpreters in this setting often work in pairs.

Consecutive interpreters work in courtrooms to help deliver the testimonies of witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants. They work in healthcare settings helping ensure that patients and medical personnel understand each other. They do voiceovers for films and provide interpretation services for people traveling to foreign countries. Simultaneous interpreters often work at international business conferences and might work in other settings.


Some Japanese interpreters are freelance, or self-employed, workers. Others work for language translation service companies. Still other Japanese interpreters are employed directly by the hospitals, businesses or other organizations for which they interpret.

A Japanese interpreter often works in person, such as in a courtroom setting, where he or she sits next to the person being assisted. At international conferences, the Japanese interpreter often will sit off to the side of the main presenting area as he or she interprets the words of the conference speakers. A Japanese interpreter also might translate over the telephone in conference calls or videoconferencing meetings, interpreting for one or more parties.

There is no single path one takes to work as a Japanese interpreter. Many interpreters were raised bilingually, but that is not a requirement. There are interpreting programs available through colleges and specialty training programs. Some Japanese interpreters have college degrees in the fields in which they interpret, such as business technology or medical areas, to help enhance their understanding of the field.



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