ATA 2017 JLD Session Review
Getting “Gung Ho!”: Japanese Interpreting and Translating in the
North America Automotive Sector
Presenters: Denise Fisher, Mary Goudreau, Paul Koehler, Shizuka Matsunaga, and James
Review by Allyson Larimer
This group of panelists held a wealth of experience in the Japanese automotive industry. James and Denise both had long careers with Honda R&D in Ohio and later transitioned to freelance interpreting. Paul works as a contractor to Honda R&D in Los Angeles. Shizuka
and Mary both work at major Honda suppliers, with experience both translating and interpreting, and managing other translators.
Each presenter gave an overview of what their work load was like in an average day. Most do a mix of translating and interpreting each day. Some were expected to work primarily into their A language, while others did a both. However, in most of the companies the panelists represent, there were people on staff who specialized in one discipline (either translation or interpretation). They pointed out that this kind of specialized position was more common in larger companies. Smaller suppliers were more likely to seek someone who could both translate and interpret in both directions. They also discussed the fact that Honda had more language support staff, whereas Toyota, Nissan, and other Japanese companies tend to rely more on contractors.
The panel discussed some of the benefits of working in-house in the automotive sector. All presenters emphasized the appeal of working on a long term project that ends in the creation of a new car that goes into the market. Shizuka mentioned the flow of work; getting to follow a problem from its discovery to its resolution. Jim mentioned the benefit of having engineers around who can explain the technology to you. Because of the benefit of getting to work one-on-one with engineers and other translators, all panelists recommended working in-house at some point in one’s career, particularly for those who are just getting started or want to build a new specialty.