I worked as an in-house translator for 2 years between 2009 and 2011 before turning freelance. I’m glad that I worked in-house before freelancing, and here are 3 reasons why:
A senior translator checked my work all the time. In the beginning, she changed almost everything I translated. To me these changes seemed stylistic and it irritated me greatly. But after a year or so, I saw how skillfully she conveyed the concept of the piece and in comparison how I was translating too blandly. Looking back, she gave me the foundation to work as a professional freelance translator.
The team I worked in consisted of several translators, an editor, a project manager, some cross-checkers and a few administrative workers. I got along with the foreigners or gaijin of the group, but I initially struggled to get along with the Japanese cross-checkers who always seemed to be nagging about small things that I thought were negligible in the English language. But dealing with these Japanese cross-checkers taught me that cooperating with Japanese natives is an important part of the production process.
After finishing a set amount of translations, we formatted the documents into publishable format. This was nothing complex like desktop publishing, but it consisted of adjusting the page margins, checking for cut off text at the end of pages, correcting extra spaces, typos, inconsistent fonts, etc. At the end of the process, I felt joy when having the finished work in my hands. As a team, we saw the raw Japanese text transform into translated English text and then into a published book.
In-Housing Before Freelancing?
To translation students aspiring to become professionals in the future, I totally recommend in-housing before freelancing. But, for those who don’t have that opportunity, I suggest the following three points: 1) To join a translation organization and find a mentor; 2) To work for an agency that treats you as part of their team; 3) To look at the finalized/published version of your translation when available.