The greatest translator in the world!
Okay, a while back (maybe a year or two), you broke into the industry. One of the anime or manga companies paid you for a translation and after you finished, they gave you more work. Then your work was nationally distributed, and you can go into any mall in the country and find the thing you did on the shelf. You should remember that day fondly because it was the day you turned in your apprentice brown belt and exchanged it for a journeyman's black belt (1st degree).
That was, as I said, one or two years back, and now a new event is upon you! The company you do translations for has just offered you... (wait for it) ...an A-list title!!! Yes, a jury of the most powerful editors in the industry has promoted you to the level of "a great translator" with the duty and responsibility of working on their most sacred titles. (This is subjective reality, obviously. What really happened is the Editor-in-Chief probably went to the managing editor and talked about how this new title needed staff, and was there anybody free? The managing editor, for whatever reason, thought of you, hadn't heard any major complaints about you yet, and suggested that you got your work generally in on time, and that you had an opening in your schedule. With that the Editor-in-Chief replied, "Never heard of 'em, but whatever you want." You wouldn't believe how many assignments got chosen that way. The ones where they assign project based on talent are only for those freelancers who have worked for the company for more than 5 years and still haven't flaked out in some way.) But, as I was saying at the beginning of that digression, you believe that it was their studied approval of your fabulous work that prompted them to bestow on you the honor of this important A-list title.
And with that, your head gets larger than the world it exists in. Yes, you know the right translation! You can argue with translators who have five times the experience you have because you are an A-list translator! You know that the sound effect the other guy translated wasn't SLISS but SLITCH! You know that the character Itou-san cannot possibly be spelled Itoh-san no matter that it says Itoh on his shirt in the story. It's just wrong! You have stepped up to become the GREATEST TRANSLATOR IN THE WORLD! All of your translations are right. Every other person's translation has mistakes that you would never have made!
Okay, as you may have guessed, I was in this mindset for a little while, and worse, I've had to deal with people in this mindset. One of my early editors -- a frustrated translator turned editor -- would send me a list of what he considered "mistakes" in my translation (nearly all of them were interpretation choices, but he was convinced they were mistakes). Another I went up to at a convention to shake hands with him because he was working on an anime version of a work I had did previously, and his attitude was that I had "ruined" the work by naming the character in a way he didn't like. (The "Itoh" example above was based on this guy.) I was a little surprised that a courtesy handshake would result in a criticism of my translation. Still I calmly tried to explain what went into the decision-making process, but he would hear none of it. He told me that maybe some people (meaning me) didn't care about the work, but he certainly did. I wasn't surprised to learn that the anime was his first big professional translation.
I'm sure that eventually just surviving in the industry will bring translators to the other side of this period, but for me, it was one distinct moment in time. I was assigned a project that was way over my head. I watched the anime and couldn't follow it (lots of political jargon). At the same time, I was dressed down by a client for turning in a work with a couple of obvious mistakes. I had seen names of minor characters and used a name dictionary to find probable pronunciations for them. It turned out that they were historical names (which matched with the theme of the work), and I should have done research on them. So my self confidence crashed, and I went looking for a Japanese translation partner to help me out. That was the best move I ever made. It also got me to my 3rd degree black belt where you start to learn when you "don't know what the Japanese means." Knowing that you don't know is one of the most valuable skills for a translator, and it has to be learned the hard way.
Well, this entry went on longer than I expected, but... Nobody's reading this blog yet anyway.