Frequently Asked Questions

These questions have been answered by the President of Japan Communication Consultants LLC, Mariko Numaguchi. Ms. Numaguchi was born in Japan, and raised in both Japan and the U.S. She is a graduate of Smith College, holds an M.B.A. from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, and has had extensive experience as a management consultant, in addition to having worked for several years as an interpreter and translator. She is accredited by the American Translators Association as an English-Japanese translator and has been the head of JCC since May of 1998.

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General Information

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General Information

How long have you been in business?

Our company began as Japan Editorial Track in January 1980 under Ms. Sumiko Morikawa. We have actively served the private and public sector U.S.-Japan community ever since. The name of the company was changed to the present Japan Communication Consultants, LLC in 1998 to better reflect the broadening scope of our business. I personally worked in the field as a freelance interpreter and translator, very often for Japan Editorial Track, in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

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What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

A translator is someone who takes a document in one language and rewrites it into another language. Because it is generally easier to learn to read in a foreign language than to write in it correctly, translators are usually more comfortable translating material into their native language.

An interpreter is someone who listens to words spoken in one language and restates them in another language. Generally speaking, an interpreter must be able to interpret in either direction -- English to Japanese and Japanese to English in our case -- because conversation is normally a two-way communication process.

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How many in-house translators and interpreters do you have?

All of our language service professionals are independent contractors. That's just the way the language service industry is structured in the U.S.; especially so in a difficult and high-demand language like Japanese. As is true in most other literary professions, the best and most experienced people tend to be free-lancers. This does not mean, however, that all free-lancers are good. That's why working with an experienced agency like JCC that knows the depth and strengths of these professionals is a wise thing to do. You gain access to the people who are best-suited for your project, through a company who knows them and has worked with them in the past. We have over 200 interpreters and translators we work with on a regular basis in our database, which allows us to respond to your project's requirements with great flexibility.

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Who are your clients?

Our clients are Japanese and American, large global corporations and small businesses, private sector companies and public sector organizations, and include: commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies and other financial services institutions, law firms, manufacturers, retailers, accounting firms, advertising agencies, publishers, website developers, computer software and hardware companies, real-estate firms, utilities, travel agencies, universities, museums, galleries, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. For a list of some of the companies and organizations who've come to us for their Japanese language needs, please take a look at the list of our major clients.

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Why is Japanese more expensive than other languages?

Just like anything else in the market place, Japanese services are more expensive because of the balance between supply and demand. First of all, it's important to understand that Japanese is extremely different from English in its basic structure. Japanese uses three different sets of "alphabets" simultaneously (including literally thousands of pictographic characters), has sentences that run in the opposite direction from English with the verb at the very end, allows the subject of a sentence to be omitted, has no plurals, has many different levels of honor and politeness, etc. If you thought learning French or Spanish was difficult, well... an American linguist once told me that in the time it took him to learn basic Japanese he could have learned at least three new European languages. It is really a very different mode of human communication from the English language.

JCC works very hard in this environment to deliver the highest quality product at a very reasonable price. In fact, because we specialize entirely in Japanese and English projects, we can do better work at a lower price than the big multi-language houses, and provide more personal, responsive, and flexible service as well. However, because it is so difficult to learn both languages and to bridge the differences between English and Japanese communication modes reliably, there are just very few people who can really do it well. So there is a low supply of capable professionals. Since the volume of transactions between the U.S. and Japan -- the world's two largest economies -- generates a great need for language services, there is a high demand. Hence, the overall market price becomes higher than that for other languages.

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Why don't you handle other languages?

This really comes down to a quality issue. I personally manage the quality of the services we provide at JCC by interviewing and testing each language professional before including them on our roster, coaching and overseeing their professional skills development, and checking and evaluating their work. I can only do this, of course, in languages in which I am personally fluent. So I'm not about to do it in French or Spanish because I took a few years of college courses in them. I just wouldn't feel confident about the quality of our product. Language is an important and tricky thing, and the potential pitfalls of working with it should not be taken lightly.

We are indeed "the Japanese language experts", and intend to remain just that. JCC does, however, have people who can work in other languages in combination with Japanese, so if you have one of the rare projects like this please let us know.

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Is JCC certified? Do you have certified interpreters? Can I get a certified translation?

These are some of the trickiest questions we deal with here at JCC since many professional and trade organizations, foreign governments, and even branches of U.S. federal, state, and local governments, will demand "officially certified" interpreters or translators, or ask us for our company's "official certification", in ignorance of the fact that there are no laws regulating language services in the U.S. There is simply no such thing as "official certification" for language service companies in the U.S., and any U.S. company that claims they are a "certified" translation or interpretation firm is just plain not telling the whole truth.

A few states have programs to certify individual court interpreters, but almost none of these programs include Japanese (a notable exception being California). The U.S. State Department has a program to certify and classify the interpreters it uses, but it is very limited in scope, and in practice only Washington D.C. area interpreters would be likely to have this certification. JCC has several interpreters with these types of certifications, but in reality they mean very little outside of their very specific contexts. These are the only "certifications" for interpreters that we know of in the U.S., and we've found our own well-informed judgment of a person's language and personal skills to be much better in predicting competence as an interpreter.

The American Translators Association, our trade organization, has a accreditation program for translators, but in our experience this doesn't really mean all that much in practice. We have plenty of ATA-accredited translators on our roster (including myself), but many of our very best translators have never bothered with the ATA. (JCC is a full corporate member of the ATA in good standing.) What we normally do for our clients who request a "certified translation" (usually lawyers, courts, government agencies and those dealing with them) is to provide them with a signed and notarized Certificate of Faithful Translation stating that the document was translated by a qualified translator working for our company to the best of his/her abilities. This is as good as it gets in the translation industry, and it has been good enough for all of our clients.

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