What Does It Take To Work At A Localization Studio In Japan?

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Like development studios, every localization studio has its own processes and pipelines for projects, to ensure they’re of good quality and as efficient as possible. For instance, Active Gaming Media translate games from Japanese to English, but also French, Italian, German and Spanish, which is far larger in scope than a one-way translation.


So, what does it take to be able to work at a localization studio with the scope of Active Gaming Media?


“The ability to carry out your day-to-day with at least an intermediate level of Japanese is definitely a requirement,” localization project manager, Justin Potts, tells us, “though you don’t necessarily need to be a ‘master’ of the language.”


That doesn’t mean the job automatically becomes easier, though.


“In this job, if you’re a translator, you’re also an editor.  You have to be able to pick apart your own work, as well as that of others,” he warns. “We’re all only human, so we do our very best to make sure that a translator’s work is seen by as many eyes as possible before being submitted, but time constraints can be severe, and with everyone often simultaneously working on multiple projects, you can’t necessarily rely on being able to get “X” number of proofreads or checks prior to submission.”


Translating games also requires a certain level of stamina to ensure that you can plod your way through the more monotonous parts of the job without losing steam or creativity, and it’s up to each member of the team to bring themselves up to scratch.


“A far as qualifications go, Japanese language ability is a given, as is writing ability,” Potts reveals.  “In addition, organization and management skills are crucial, as well as the ability to work rapidly and efficiently for long periods of time.” 


He continued: “This really just requires a lot of ‘training’.  Much in the same way a marathon runner would train over time in order to develop speed and endurance for long distance runs, a good translator has to essentially ‘build up’ to being able to process thousands of words/characters a day while maintaining focus and creativity.”


“This is much more difficult than it may sound, particularly when you’re dealing in your second (or third) language,” he warned. “The work can be pretty taxing at times and the responsibility of producing a quality localization is very much that of the translator and/or project manager handling each particular project.”

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Image of Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.