No Excuses. Climb Higher. How I decided to become a translator and manage family life at the same time.

Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

I feel everyone is looking at me. Curious. “How could a mom of 5 children possibly be a good translator?” They whisper to each other. “She doesn’t seem to have the same qualifications as the rest of us.” “How does she manage it?”

That’s what I think other translators are thinking when they see my qualifications.

So, I want to tell my story. I think it’s pretty unique. I haven’t yet met any other translators who are like me. So I gather my courage and write my first post on the Open Mic. After all, writing a blog post landed me a translation job in 2013.

As a high school student, I remember flipping pages of Translator’s magazine at the library, wishing I had the same magical skills as the translators that were featured in the articles. I chose to study abroad, with the intention of studying Linguistics. After graduating from college in the States, I applied to several universities which had Linguistics programs. When I was visiting a campus, my friend’s friend who was attending the school asked me how many languages I spoke. He seemed to be surprised to find I only spoke English other than Japanese, which wasn’t very good.

The feeling of an inadequacy and embarrassment never left me since then. I felt a huge gap between my skills and those of English native speakers. Fast forward to 2013, now married to a Canadian husband, and blessed with 5 children, I wrote a guest blog post about raising bilingual children in Canada.

My youngest was only 1 year old then, and although I was reading up on translation study books, I didn’t think I could work as a translator. What I didn’t know was I had what the client was looking for. The blogpost was the foot in the door. (As I said, I wasn’t planning to work as a translator when I was writing the guest post.) The more I learned about the translation industry, the more I studied to gain the skills that a translator needs. This time, I wasn’t going to let anyone get in my way of being the successful translator I once dreamed of becoming.

It’s been 2 years. I’ve made every effort to close the gap, to add value to my translation. What I lacked before, I took time to learn. As a translator who translates between Japanese and English, it may not be necessary to study other languages, but the understanding of other languages and linguistics definitely has helped me to be a better translator.

For the first year and a half, I took on all the projects that are sent on my way. I realized it wasn’t sustainable, (I wish I were a super mom, but I have my limitations) so I learned to pace myself.

Unlike many translators who are starting out as a translator after graduating from their studies, I already had experiences as a small business owner. My husband and I owned and managed 2 rental properties. I also gained organizational skills and leadership skills from numerous volunteering experiences.

I’ve learned from meeting translators all over the world, that each of us are unique. Instead of hiding behind inadequacy, it’s better to open up and try. No one is judging. If you feel like they are, try to be more honest and transparent, just like I did.

How could someone with 5 kids translate? That’s a good question. For my case, it’s my passion for learning, curiosity for languages, desire to leave a legacy, and to bridge the gap. I have a long-term goal, and my eyes are fixed on it.

So, when you feel like others have more experiences and are so much further ahead of you, think of what you were able to do before you got where you are now. Accentuate the positive experiences you’ve already accumulated in your life.

I truly believe if you are trying your hardest, others will see it and will help you along the way to become the translator you want to become. No more excuses. Climb higher.



Kozue Macmichael

About Kozue Macmichael

Native Japanese speaker, educated in North America. Canadian citizen. 3 years of experience in Medical/Market research audio translation (JP>ENG), Subtitling (ENG>JP) and Proofreading (JP)

22 thoughts on “No Excuses. Climb Higher. How I decided to become a translator and manage family life at the same time.

  1. I am so happy to see this post this morning Kozue! The juggling act that is being a working mum is no easy task but it is possible and it is so important to let others know that. You are right, we all have our own stories and different routes into translation and I thoroughly enjoyed reading yours!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this personal and heart-felt story, Kozue! I absolutely love your passion and your commitment to learning and becoming a better version of yourself. This is how it’s done. Just by being a dedicated, hard-working professional. And thank you so much that you shared it here, on The Open Mic. This really makes me proud and overwhelmed when I think how much good we can bring to this industry by sharing stories like this. I’m going to make it our #PostOfTheDay on all platforms and feature it on our homepage!

    Thanks again for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Dmitry! It’s a great feeling to know I can give back to the industry in this way. Thank you so much for the great work you do to prepare such a place where we can share our experiences and stories!

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  3. Hi Kozue!
    What a great read I just had.
    I felt inspired for one of my next articles which will be about guess what , climbing higher . I have a great story to share and still have to find the guts to share the best parts with everyone.
    Ayway, I’ll choose another title, promise.

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    1. Hi Ana! Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll look forward to reading your next articles, especially about climbing higher!

      When I feel down, I tell myself to look up and climb higher… When I want to hide, I tell myself to make no excuses. So that’s where the inspiration for my title comes from 🙂

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  4. Great post, Kozue! I think someone with 5 children needs outstanding time management skills and a very structured approach. Those are valuable traits for translators 🙂
    I look forward to reading more about your journey.

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    1. Thank you for this comment, Else! My time management skills have definitely improved since I started translating. I’ve also gained a deeper understanding for those who work from home with or without children.
      I wasn’t sure how this would be received because I didn’t really get into how I’m actually managing it. I hope to share what I’ve learned in future posts in a way that is not too personal, but would be helpful to others.

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    1. Thank you for reading Enrico! Your blog post about specialization really inspired me too! I’ll go with the flow and keep moving forward steadily! Looking forward to reading your future posts! (It felt great to see the “Thank you for posting” page after posting it!)

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  5. ​Great story, Kozue! In the end, all translator are people with families and personal lives. As in any profession, it takes passion and good time management skills to succeed. It’s high time to change the way other people imagine freelance translators (home alone and isolated from others). It’s not 4th century and we should not be working as St Jerome in the cave :)​ I’m sure you’ll succeed in all your endeavors!

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    1. Thank you Olga for this comment. It’s so true, when I was just worrying about my skills, I couldn’t possibly imagine to open up to others. I would have been ok just hiding in the cave. It took me for a long time to build up the strengths come to this point, but this week, I feel very welcomed, and I’ve gotten to know other translators beyond simple exchanges. The experiences they have shared with me are priceless, and I feel grateful for that.

      Today I feel saddened by the news of the terrible attack in Paris. I know some translators whose second home is France. My heart goes out to those who are affected. I mourn with them.
      I was thankful when my friends reached out to me when they heard the news of the earthquake and disaster in March 2011.

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  6. Hi Kozue 🙂
    What a wonderful story you share. I enjoyed the read so much and admire your determination to become a better translator no matter what circumstances you are living. My last weeks were very busy to do exactly the same… becoming a skilled translator is hard but also rewarding work. I am so happy to be surrounded by professionals like you who inspire so much, and am look forward to read much more of your posts. 🙂

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