Staff Interview

September 2017

Staff Interview: Kimberley Morgan

Meet Kim. She studied French, Spanish and Latin at secondary school, Dutch via self-study, took Japanese at university, has started learning Chinese, is thinking about starting Korean... she's a real language geek! At Arc, she's putting to good use her high language skills and her talent at understanding what the customer wants by working as a Translation & Localization Group Project Manager.

We asked her about what led her to join Arc, what she likes about her job, and the challenges she would like to take on in future.

Working as a CIR in Shimane

- Could you tell us a little about your background before you came to Arc Communications ?

I am originally from Liverpool in England and I studied Mathematics and Japanese at the University of Manchester. Ever since I was a child I've loved learning languages, and in secondary school I took lessons in French, Latin and Spanish. I wanted to try my hand at a non-European language, so I decided to take Japanese as part of my university degree. I had taken some evening classes in Japanese back in secondary school too, so that was also one reason why I decided to study it at university.

-- When did you first come to Japan? What was your first job?

I first came to Japan when I was in my third year of university. In the UK, you have to spend your third year abroad if you study a foreign language at university. I spent the year at Hokkaido University, and focused mainly on my Japanese studies. After I had put so much effort into learning Japanese, I decided I'd like to put that to use by working in Japan, and decided to come back after I had graduated university.

Since I wanted a job where I could use my Japanese, I applied to the JET Programme*. Over 90% of the participants of the JET Programme are Assistant Language Teachers (ALT), but I became a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR)--a position where you work in local government that requires a high level of Japanese. I worked for two years as a CIR in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture.

*JET Programme: short for The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. It is administered through the collaboration of Japan's local government authorities, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR). It was founded with the aim of promoting globalization from a local level by inviting youth from overseas to work in international exchange in local government and in language teaching.

Just as the name Coordinator for International Relations might suggest, my work involved all sorts of things that come under the broad umbrella of "international relations." I spent my time introducing the UK to the local community, and doing a variety of translation and interpreting for Hamada City. Hamada also has a friendship agreement with Bhutan, so I did a lot of translating and interpreting related to that--I even got to go to Bhutan. In my last year, Japan started having a real boom in inbound tourism, so I made English language pamphlets and guides from scratch. Hamada didn't have much in the way of English language tourism materials up until that point.

-- What kind of contributions did you make as a CIR? Do you have any memorable anecdotes or experiences?

I feel like the biggest contribution I made was being able to introduce Hamada to the world in English, something there had not been a lot of. For example, the region around Hamada has a traditional performing art called Iwami Kagura, and I provided English interpretations of the meanings behind the performances. I even got to go to Gion Matsuri in Kyoto to introduce Iwami Kagura.

That's not to say everything always went according to plan --I once made a pretty embarrassing mistake when I was interpreting. It was a welcome reception for some trainees that had come to Hamada from Bhutan, and when one of them was asked about his thoughts about Hamada, he replied, "It's like heaven." When it came to interpret, I seemed to have a temporary mental lapse and accidentally said, "It's like hell"! (Laughs) I immediately realized my mistake and corrected myself--to raucous laughter--but it's definitely not a moment I'm going to forget any time soon. (Laughs)

My contract finished in August 2016, so I applied to Arc and managed to get a job here.

Speedy and Thorough Support from a Native Project Manager

- Please give us a brief outline of the work you're doing at the moment.

I'm working as a translation project manager. I coordinate the entire translation process--from the moment the client inquires, right down to the delivery of the final product. When I receive a new project from a client, I firstly think about who the intended audience for the finished translation is going to be, assign an appropriate translator, and then manage the quality of the finished translation. If I notice that the translation contains some unnatural phrasing, or if the quirks of the source text seem to be coming through, I go over it with the translator and try and come to a more natural rewording. I don't deliver a translation to the client until I myself am satisfied with it.

Sometimes I get questions from the client about the English. I usually get the translator to answer, but if I feel that their answer needs a little extra explanation then I add some myself. I feel like that's the kind of support you can only get from a native speaker. And if I can't get in contact with the translator, I'm usually able to answer the client's questions myself, so I can provide really speedy support.

- What kind of things do you find interesting and fulfilling about your job?

A lot of our clients are developing internationally, so I'm really excited to be able to contribute to their activities. I'm also really happy to have this opportunity to learn about all the different kinds of business these companies are doing.

My favorite types of projects are when the client requests that we translate with flair, making the English natural and appealing, and don't rigidly stick to the Japanese. I'm really glad to have the chance to work with extremely skilled translators on these kind of projects-you certainly need a lot of talent for them . Sometimes you get the chance to read very high-level translations that have been worked to the extent that it can be difficult to work out which bit corresponds to which bit of the source text. I'm always so impressed by this type of copywriting-esque translation.

Languages, Languages, Languages!

- What are your hobbies?

Languages. (Laughs)
I'm currently learning Chinese, and recently I've been going to Chinese classes on weekday evenings. Since this month, I've also been going to a French conversation club. That group also holds Korean classes on weekends, so I'm thinking of joining that too.

I also like traveling. Domestically, I still haven't been to the Tohoku or Hokuriku regions, so I'd like to visit sometime. Overseas, I'm actually planning a trip to Myanmar . I'd also like to visit Cambodia, Laos and India someday.

I'm also a huge craft beer fan, and enjoy visiting all the craft beer bars Tokyo has to offer. My favorite Japanese beer is Minoh Beer from Osaka, in particular their W-IPA . It's a bit expensive though... (Laughs)

- How would you like to develop your skills in future?

Since I'm in Japan, I want to further improve my Japanese ability. For example, my vocabulary related to historical and religious topics is currently quite limited, so I would like to learn more cultural vocabulary like this. By doing this, I'll be deepening my understanding of Japanese culture as well as improving my Japanese along the way.

- What kind of work do you want to do in future?

I want to work to increase the number of translators we have registered. This isn't just to increase our capacity; at the end of the day, this will lead to an improvement in the quality of the translation we provide. So recently I'm really making an effort to assign work to newly registered translators. We interview translators who are about to register with us, and recently I've been the one doing the interviews. It's a great opportunity to hear about the translators' strengths and goals, and it means that I can assign them work they're suited to. This also leads to the kind of high-quality translation the client will be satisfied with. I hope that my hard work will help me continue to please my clients.


Kimberley Morgan
Born in 1991. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, she spent two years in Shimane after graduating from Manchester University and joined Arc in 2016. Her hobbies include learning, travel and craft beer.

My favorite movie

Mean Girls (2004), America, directed by Mark Waters, starring Lindsay Lohan
A comedy set in an American high school. I enjoy the way it paints social hierarchies and relationships. I may or may not quote it on the daily... "She doesn't even go here!"