No Excuses (part 2) How did a mom of 5 manage to be a translator?

Greater than 7 minutes, my friend!

After I posted my first post on the Open Mic, I soon realized I would have to write a sequel to my story. I only expressed what motivates me, but I left out the “how” of how I’m managing family life and work. I was just so excited to read what others were posting. I knew the longer I waited, the more nervous I would become, so I dove into the Open Mic stage. Thank you for those who sent me messages, and shared my story! It made me realize what kind of impact I could have when I share my experiences. So, I’m here again to share what helped me to reach the point where I am now.


I don’t consider myself unique just because I have 5 kids. My husband comes from a big family, and I’m surrounded by high-achieving women and men. If I have developed  great time management skills, I give credit to those who have shown me how to be a mother and an excellent homemaker.

I have a husband who works hard to provide for the family, and has a great support system of loving in-laws who live in the same city. My oldest son just turned 13 this month, and I no longer have a pre-schooler at home. My children participate in different extra-curricular activities, and I’m right there with them as they learn from the experts of the field of music, sports, art and education.

I don’t have special training in Medicine, but my father-in-law is a physician. When I started translating, it was easy for me to imagine for whom I would be translating, what kind of association they might belong to, and what kind of work related news they would read.


I was a language student before I got a job as a translator. In 2008, I became a Canadian citizen and that motivated me to take a 12-week accent reduction course. I also took distance learning courses in English writing. I started learning linguistics through an online course, and that’s when I felt like I was finally getting the necessary tools to become a better communicator in English. Taking language courses has helped me to solidify the understanding of languages, grammar, and the terminology in English needed to be a good proofreader. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m a better proofreader of Japanese text because of my training I’m committed to learning other languages everyday. It enables me to analyse texts and communicate my evaluation with colleagues and clients who may not be familiar with Japanese. This is the process that I’m most excited to learn more about.

Business Training

I was a stay-at-home mom when I stumbled upon a tweet from Marta Stelmaszak of Business School for Translators, whose tweet was about a hyperpolyglot, Timothy Doner. I replied saying, “I want to be his Japanese tutor!” That was one of the first interactions that I had on Twitter. I started following her on Twitter and her blog.

After that, I was offered a translation job. I asked Marta if someone like me could take the Business School of Translators course. She said there was another translator who didn’t have a degree in translation, but she took the course and she was doing really well. So, I filled the 2nd last spot of the course only 2 days before the course started. As I recall, I must have encountered other mentors offering great courses on freelancing, but I worked with people in the UK, so that’s why I chose to take her course.

I’ve followed what was taught in the course since then. In the same year I took the course, I had the chance to travel back to see my family in Japan. I planned my visit so that I could visit places where my potential clients work. It happened to be that one of those places is located right next to my old high school, (I’d never set foot in the national hospital before) and I gained a lot of insight from that visit which I have been able to use in my work.

I’ve not only worked for an agency and a direct client but also with the TED talk Japanese translation team (we communicated in Japanese) and on the church translation project (in English) as a volunteer. I have one TED-Ed talk translation published in which my name is credited as a translator. For the church project, I got to interact with the project manager, and since I have more experience in translation than other volunteers, I was assigned to another role in which I was able to see the process of translation.

During my first year of working as a translator, I also researched many translation courses and degree programs. One of which was the Master’s program which I was accepted to with a scholarship. (I ended up not pursuing that program, but keep looking for the best match for me.) For the other program which was already in progress, I purchased a textbook so that I could study what was covered in the course on my own.

CPD and Professional Associations

The CPD courses that I have taken so far for the last 2 years have been great. I’ve taken many of them from translator’s time management to medical terminology to subtitles. As for professional associations, I joined JTF (Japan Translation Federation) first since I had the opportunity to go visit the office while I was on the trip. I then joined ATA. I wish I had joined ATA earlier and have gone to the 2014 conference in Chicago. It was a lot closer than Florida or California. I took the certification test (Medical/Pharmaceutical, Japanese into English) which is offered by JTF in 2014. Although I studied past exam samples to familiarize myself with the format, I didn’t study specifically for the test. I took the test in the middle of the night the day before my trip to Japan due to the time difference between Japan and in Canada. I didn’t pass to get certified, but my confidence is not totally crushed. It only means that I can improve.


I think marketing should be a fun experience if you are selling what you love! For example, at the beginning, I felt pretty nervous every time I tweeted about translation. I didn’t want to be discovered (!) for what a newbie translator I was. However, I consider myself pretty skilled in paper craft. So, it was easier for me to testdrive my marketing skills in my mother tongue, and in the area I know so well. I blogged, created a Facebook page, Google plus page, and I even went to meet an origami artist in January and joined an organization which promotes origami! (It’s an experience which is the equivalent of meeting a translation industry giant!) I wouldn’t have been able to approach translators without feeling intimidated, but I have practiced in somewhat less intimidating settings (because I’m comfortable discussing about Origami than medical translation).

Time Management

The homemaking skills that I’ve learned over the years have helped me keep on top of things at home. (I wasn’t always able to, if you have little children at home, you understand.)  The tools I found useful for me as a translator are Hootsuite and Evernote. I use wireless headphones and an mp3 player while doing housework for my language learning, listening to podcast, and inspirational talks. My volunteer experience at school and church when my kids were young is so valuable; even when I was a stay-at-home mom with young children, I was always involved in something, somewhere where I could use my talent and experience.

Lastly, doing activities to enrich lives of others online or offline.

I’m currently involved in an activity which covers most of what I’m pursuing at the same time – origami. Through this activity, I am volunteering at schools and community groups, learning to get certified as a teacher, and becoming an active member of the world-wide origami community. A local group that I organized just sponsored a community fundraising event along with local businesses by decorating a tree. All of this takes time, but the skills I’m learning when I’m not translating, also applies to everything I do as a translator.

Origami tree



When I stopped making excuses, that’s when it all started. I feel content with using what I have. My education in the States proves to me that I possess a great deal of research skills (which is so important as a translator!) I have successfully negotiated my rates along the way, and I took a break when I thought I had to focus on the family first, more than my professional development. (During that time, I still continued with my language learning, and tutored my friend in Japan who is learning English.) When the timing was right, I got right back to working on translation projects again.

Moving Forward

I’m the first translator in my family, so my biggest difficulty wasn’t a lack of opportunities. It was gaining the respect of family and friends. Why didn’t I have their respect? What could I have done? Well, to solve this problem, I wrote my first post on Open Mic. The warm comments from colleagues in this industry were the treasure I gained, and I feel supported to move forward with more confidence.

Everything is a work in progress. This is the story of how I’ve managed family life and work for the past 2 years. I’m looking forward to climbing higher so that I can have more of the comprehensive view of this industry and contribute in a meaningful way as others do.  Thank you so much for reading!

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)

6 thoughts on “No Excuses (part 2) How did a mom of 5 manage to be a translator?

  1. You’re a true inspiration, Kozue! Next time I feel like complaining about not having enough time I’ll just go back and read your posts. Because you obviously mastered the art of multitasking. And I love your “No Excuses” approach to business. This is how it’s done. Hard work always pays off and I’m really excited to read more about your journey in this amazing industry.

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    1. Thank you so much Dmitry! It means a lot to me to read such a nice comment. I was just at school this morning volunteering to help with the breakfast program, and I like being there with the students (from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8) because they inspire me to work hard and study hard.

      Another thing I learned from organizing the local group was something like sponsoring a tree get me in the spot where I could easily meet other local businesses (the event was also sponsored by the chamber of commerce!) in a relaxed setting. I missed the opening event which was solely for that purpose—networking, but I’m already in the process of meeting people locally who could help me with my business. I’m so excited!

      Thank you so much for creating the space like this, I’ve learned so much from the other colleagues I met on the Open Mic in such a short time!

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  2. What an amazing, strong woman you are, Kozue! I really admire your grit and commitment to self-improvement. You are setting a great example for your children! I chuckled at the part where you said you “didn’t want to get discovered” on social media because of your “newbie status.” I felt the exact same way, and I’m so proud of you for overcoming your fear. “No excuses” is what I am going to tell myself the next time I start flinching from a challenge. 🙂 And yay, I finally got to see the fabled origami-donned Christmas tree you decorated. It looks amazing!

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    1. Thank you so much Sijin for the comment! Since I wrote this post, I’ve learned how important it is to be more visible online, even though it’s so scary to do so at first. I would love to learn what worked for you too!

      The picture of the tree was in a local paper too! (In the background, but still, publicity is publicity! 🙂 )

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  3. Since writing this post, I found the right balance of critics and friends are important for growth! I’m learning so much from putting myself out there.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov shared this quote on the Open Mic the other day, and I liked this. “Until you cross the bridge of your insecurities, you can’t begin to explore your possibilities. -Tim Fargo

    Thank you for your kind comment, Hüseyin!

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