In the two decades that have been the go-to person for all things English at Hakuhodo the company’s international offices have more than quadrupled and my work has been transformed by digitalization and IT—it’s hard to imagine today that I used to have to work with paper dictionaries and without access to the company’s array of databases, “Saint” Google and the Encyclopedia Internetica, but there you have it.
My personal philosophy is to do everything I can to enable the company to put its best face forward when communicating in written English. Translating executive letters, press releases, and documents for our overseas partners; writing for our internal newsletter; working with copywriters to produce annual reports and research reports. These are my bread and butter. But some of the most rewarding jobs over the past two decades have come when wearing one of my other hats.
With my Tagline Adjudicator hat on, I sometimes have to weigh the choice between the “perfect” English phrasing and something less snappy that will be easier for, say, a Japanese audience to understand. Creativity is needed to come up with something that everyone can agree on. And sometimes great tact as well, especially if a client has its heart set on something that doesn’t work so well in English. Even if my ideas have not found favor every time, I have saved many a client from the potential long-term embarrassment of a tagline that doesn’t mean what they thought it did.
As Product Naming Guru, the fission between my Japanese colleagues’ English language ideas and my drive to find more natural-sounding alternatives sometimes delivers an answer neither side would have come up with on their own. One such light-bulb moment came in the 1990s when naming a certain batteryless watch that’s still in production today.
An advertising and communications company is a hive of creativity and wild ideas. The work of a translator at first glance might seem to be its antithesis. But really interesting things happen when the two worlds collide and that’s a win for our clients and the people interested in their products and services.