Karen Miyashiro: A Culturally Aware English Translator

By Mika Hanazawa

Mrs. Karen Miyashiro, an American translator, is an appealing and wise person. My classmates and I interviewed her at her house in Miyoshi City on July 21st. The interview with her was very pleasant and valuable for us. She not only talked to us about her work and life in Japan, but also gave us some advice for our future jobs. Let me share what l learned from this interview.

So, what brought her to be a translator? Surprisingly, Mrs. Miyashiro actually did not intend to be one. She originally came to Japan to learn Japanese about 20 years ago and then, she met her husband who is Japanese and ended up staying in Japan. After she came to Japan, she translated more and more, and in consequence, she became a translator even without knowing it. She worked for a car parts manufacture company for 21 years and now basically works at home as a translator if the company needs her. She also translates for Miyoshi City and a few other small companies. What she likes about translating is that it is like solving puzzles, and she can learn lots of interesting things she would not know, or be interested in.

American-born translator Karen Miyashiro

Mrs. Miyashiro gave me a wake-up call when she said “If Japanese and Americans get together, they make a good combination.” She likes and admires the cultural emphasis on getting along with each other. On the other hand, she does not like that Americans are sometimes too strong about their opinions and do not listen to the other people. However, she wishes she could have more stimulating conversations with Japanese because she thinks that Japanese avoid conflict too much. She also stated that Japanese are good at planning and bad at free action while Americans are the opposite. When I studied abroad in America, I really felt these two differences between Japan and America, so I totally agree with her opinion.

Mrs. Miyashiro also gave us some advice on how to handle our future jobs. She said that it is very important to learn how to get along with many different kinds of people because if we get a job, it involves people. I guess what most young people lack are communication skills because of the widespread use of the Internet, so this advice could be very valuable for us. She also mentioned “Go after what you like.” as the most important thing for job hunting. She said that there is no job where everything is good, and I know that, but I realized that we should not forget what we like and to go after it. If we do that, we might be able to work through difficulties.

Mrs. Miyashiro is a wonderful translator even in her personality. She is like a Japanese American because she knows both Japan and America well and has the spirit of each of these countries in her personality. She even motivates us to pursue our dreams. I also could tell her sweetness from a sweet chocolate pound cake that she made for us. I could describe her as an American-like Japanese who has the spirit of “omotenashi.” I have found not only her excellence in her job and personality, but also learned features about Japan and America through this interview.