Finally, something I can point to

One of my disappointments as a commercial translator is that I seldom see my own work in its final form. I’ve been translating for over 20 years, and I’ve seen my own work in print only two times that I can think of. The overwhelming majority of my work has been consumed internally within one company, or distributed to a very limited audience.

These days, some amount of stuff that I’ve translated is also made available online, and I’ve had occasion to see some of it in its finished form a few times, which brings me to another disappointment (which may be particular to Japanese-English translation): seeing how my work gets butchered. I’ve done hundreds of press releases for a large Japanese electronics company. I do them for an intermediary company, which then passes them back to the end-client. I try to do a good job on these, and my direct client is happy with my work, but somebody at the end-client is not: they routinely rewrite my translations to be literal, awkward renderings of the Japanese.

So it is a rare pleasure when I get to see something that I’ve done and also can take pride in pointing to it and saying “I did that.” In this case, it’s one of the meatiest and most gratifying jobs I’ve done in a long time, a guide for developing Firefox addons. (Here’s the Japanese original. The English version has been updated for Firefox 3 since I translated it.) Working on the job was a pleasure: it was well-written source material on a subject that I understood in depth. I felt like I had the latitude to do the best job possible, as opposed to the best job the client would let me get away with.