Chigusa Suzuki was featured in the Freelance Style section of the October 2006 issue of the Director’s Magazine.
Tell us what you do.
I research for, write, edit and translate articles for magazines, websites and books. I am getting more translation projects in recent years and that’s the direction I’d like to take my career. So, when someone asks me what I do, I often say that I’m a translator these days. I also work as an interpreter on occasions.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
There wasn’t a particular inspiration per se. I can tell you the reasons, however. As I started thinking about what I wanted to do for a living during my senior year of college, I thought it would be great to meet people – all walks of life – through my work. That thought led me to become a journalist who goes out to talk to people and writes about their stories. Since I preferred the writing style of magazines to newspapers, I decided to work for a magazine publisher. I never minded writing as a student, but I came to like writing only after I started working as a writer.
As for the translation side of my career, I took a part-time job as an English-Japanese translator while in college because I was studying English. However, my command of languages did not reach the professional level until I worked as a writer and editor and eventually lived in the U.S.
When did you resolve to become a freelance?
I had never resolved to become a freelance. I might have had a vague thought in the back of my mind that I would one day become one, but I never thought it through realistically. Ten years into my career, however, when the company I was working for went under, it just felt that becoming a freelance was my natural next move. Looking back, I think it was great timing for me in terms of my connections, skills and confidence. If I wasn’t pushed by the circumstances, I wouldn’t have been courageous enough to take this route voluntarily. I found a blessing in disguise in such a negative experience as losing my job. I am very grateful.
How has your income changed since you became a freelance?
Thankfully, projects have increased and so has my income every year. I haven’t had a chance to analyze the reasons. Perhaps it’s simply because of the general economy, but I would like to believe that my hard work is bringing me the good fortune.
What is your secret for finding new clients?
I don’t think I have any secrets. I meet deadlines and produce the best output I can under any given circumstances. I firmly believe that focusing on the current project will lead me to the next project.
What’s the best part of your job?
It may sound quite ordinary, but it’s fulfilling that I can be of use to others with my skills. Also, I love the process of crafting a piece of writing. I genuinely enjoy the time thinking about what words to pick, how to put them in a sentence and how to get the messages across in the best possible way.
What’s the part of your job that you least enjoy?
Nothing, really, but if I were to ask for something I don’t have right now, I would love to have more comrades in the same profession with whom I could learn and improve.
What made you to come to the U.S.?
I first came to the U.S. as an exchange student from my college. I studied at a university in Massachusetts for ten months. I went back to the Japanese college and upon graduation I started working for a Japanese company, but I always wanted to come back to live here – not as a student, but as a professional.
What is your goal?
Among the most important skills I possess is the ability to communicate through writing. I started my career as an editor of a magazine, which later developed into writing and translation. This career path trained me to pay attention to how a piece of writing will eventually be presented to the reader and how the reader will understand the content, even when I am just assigned to produce a simple article or translation.
To articulate a little more, I think it is important to structure the logic of the writing in a way that the intended reader can easily understand, or to compose a translation that accurately conveys the author’s meaning in Japanese – not the word-to-word translation typically taught in schools. As a writer I try to think what effect each word chosen for a sentence can create on the reader, while as a translator I strive to capture the author’s thoughts behind each of his or her word choices.
I believe any work – regardless of the field – should not be complacent. It is meaningless if it cannot communicate both facts and intentions when the final product is presented to its recipients. So, my goal is to improve my skills continuously to convey intentions accurately, whether as a translator, writer or editor. I also would like to share with and spread to my colleagues the importance of this perspective.
Tell us about your dream.
I would be happy if I could continue working till my last day in a place that abounds in beautiful scenery.
WIP Japan Corporation, the leading language-service provider in Japan, honored Chigusa Suzuki with its “MVT of 2003: Translator of the Year” award. The annual award recognizes the translator who has received the highest accolades from clients during the year.
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