Hello everyone,

Today I received feedback on my Pro-level test submission, telling me that I had failed. The reviewer was kind enough to identify two specific errors in addition to offering some positive feedback on other areas of my submission. Despite the discomfort of having to acknowledge the gap between where I am and where I would like to be, the whole thing was handled in a refreshingly constructive way by the Senior Translator and Gengo.

That said,... one of the two points is something I definitely should have spotted myself, but the other — a Japanese phrase that had seemed somewhat ambiguous — has left me wondering how to move forward. I checked the phrase with several reference sources when I prepared my test submission, as it was something I had been unsure about at the time. None of them offered the clarity with which the phrase was later explained by the Senior Translator in their feedback. I have also, since receiving that feedback, looked for other resources in the hope of finding something that could have allowed me to complete the translation correctly and accurately... but without success.

It is likely that I will now remember this specific phrase, but I'm sure there are many others that I need to learn. I am wondering where I should look to learn about such problem phrases I may not yet even be aware of. It would be excellent to get more similar feedback from the Senior Translators, but I can only attempt the Pro test three times. There are probably more than three phrases I do not fully understand. I could continue working on Standard translations, but I may end up translating other less familiar phrases incorrectly. Perhaps the Senior Translators will happen across some of them and tell me, but that could take a long time for all involved. Meanwhile the customer will be paying for incorrect translations.

Are there any reliable resources (online, or books) I could use to learn more without either giving up or inflicting this unsatisfactory situation on everyone?

Many thanks,



1 comment

  • 0
    Vox Nipponica

    Hello, V,


    I started compiling a series of reference materials for a range of different categories (legal, architecture, technology, et cetera), but, on looking at all of them, I realized that they don't cater to the subjective quality of the issue you mention. Idiomatic expressions largely have to be learned by exposure. There are two techniques you can use:


    1. Jim Breen's WWWJDIC dictionary has a surprisingly large amount of 慣用句 (idiomatic expressions) in its database. You can search a full sentence that sounds like an idiom and you will be surprised to find that many of these are fixed phrases with English equivalents.

    2. Failing that, and this is the key -- use search engines to "reverse engineer" your search. Simply paste the mystery phrase into, e.g., Google and enclose it in quotation marks. This will search for hits that match that exact phrase. Next, read through those links and think about the surrounding context. In almost all cases, the context will clue you in to what this phrase means and how it is used. In the isolation of a single job a few lines long, it may be difficult to discern, but when you have multiple hits at your fingertips, you can triangulate how this phrase is meant to be used. Better, yet, you are bound to get a hit for someone asking about a phrase like this on Oshiete Goo, where there is a dedicated forum for these kinds of questions, and they are publically indexed by search engines. Many of these questions are by native Japanese speakers trying to understand the finer points of a phrase they think they understand. Oshiete Goo is also used by non-native learners of Japanese to get some context on a phrase. With the wealth of data online, you will rarely need to go beyond some deep searching, but these kinds of resources are also available to you if you want to make a post.


    Here's another idea -- if all of the above fails, come to the forums to ask your peers. People have asked similar questions before.

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