This month, I wrapped on my first two transcription projects: a 34-page transcript for AnimeFeminist’s podcast Chatty AF, and a 37-page, 14k+ word transcript for Okazu Yuri.
And I have to tell you: I really, really loved transcribing!
(And yes, I’m going to be getting myself a treat or two because… hey, I did a lot of really, really good work! I think I’ll be going with a new visual novel for my Switch and maybe some ice cream.)
This wasn’t my first rodeo: actually, I first learned how to transcribe in undergrad when I took an Oral History class. I later used my skills during my graduate work. While I was bit by the transcription bug -and at one time, wanted to use use that in a museum setting- I have to admit… I never thought I’d actually be able to use those skills again.
But here I am, having two recent transcriptions under my belt: I’ll be doing more transcribing too, as part of my work with AniFem, and hopefully, with Okazu Yuri too. (In fact, I’ve already started on my second document for the former!)
One of the things I’ve struggled with over the past few months is the question of, “What next?” I’ve spent countless evenings and nights and early, early mornings wondering what I’m going to roll all my skills into.
My work as an ALT was my first adult job: while I was paid for my work in graduate school, it’s hard to count that as a job since it felt much more like a work-study position than an outright job.
Working as an ALT has been a wonderfully eye-opening experience: I’ve become an incredibly competent individual, armed with a lot of knowledge that I’m eager to pass on to anyone who I can. But it’s also been an odd job: it’s set a weird bar for me. After all, not a lot of people can say, “My first job involved me working for the Japanese Government as an Assistnat Language Teacher and Cultural Ambassador in Japan for four years.”
If I were the person I used to be, I’d be looking towards how to top this role: I’d be quivering with anxiety about the fact that I haven’t thought about the Next Best Thing yet. But since I’m not that person, I’m not worrying about trying to overachieve on myself.
Instead, I want to find work that’s sustainable for my overall health, but work that also helps me feel useful and good. (And uses my current skills, Japanese included: I’d really hate to lose all my linguist skills.)
So… what next?
Well… during the month it took me to transcribe for both AniFem and Okazu, I realized a few critical things: I actually really, really like transcription. I don’t know if I’d say love yet: it’s still a really developing feeling.
What I can say is that I really like the work, and I like how soothing it is. I like how I can see the fruits of my labor instantly on the page, and I really like how I know it’ll help make media -especially fandom and queer media- much, much more accessible.
I also like that it’s remote: over the past four years, I’ve been in an open office setup, which isn’t unusual for Japanese teacher’s rooms. Really, after four years of work, I’ve found that I don’t like offices much at all: I’m glad that there’s work I can do from a space that’s much more suitable to me.
So as I wrapped earlier this month, I found myself wondering when I’d get to do this again. I was hungry for more, hungry to listen and write and detail scripts. I was excited for the next project. And then it hit me: of course, I could.
I absolutely can be a freelance transcriptionist.
Transcription is something I can do in my home office: when COVID-19 eases up and public spaces are more safely moderated in a year or two, it’s something I could do at a cafe or at the library, or somewhere like that. I could even -hypothetically- rent a space, though… that feels too ambitious at this stage. Honestly, I’d much rather section my office off into work space and creative space, especially since I think it’s big enough to handle both.
(Note: the theme of my office is going to be this weird vaporwave, mushroomcore aethetic, so… I wanna work in that place, please and thank you.)
Plus, it’s something that I’m actually good at: my initial feedback for my first document was glowing praise and really, helpful critique. I genuinely think I knocked some socks off, especially since I didn’t provide any prior samples. My second has been received equally as well, enough that I’m now using the script for captions on a Youtube video.
Safe to say I’ve got a solid start.
My birthday is coming up in September, and due to everything happening in the world and in my life… I haven’t given much thought to celebrating it. It’s just such a strange time for… well, everything. But I think this year, I might ask for some things that can help me: maybe a nice, clicky keyboard and a laptop stand. Maybe some nice headphones so I can listen comfortably. Maybe a nice mug and some good tea: basically, some things that can help me set up a nice space in my new office.
I think I’m really going to embrace transcribing as part of the work I want to do: I think I’m really going to ask others who care about me to do the same.
Now, you might be wondering, “But Mercedez, don’t you want to be a translator?” The answer to that is still yes: that’s still my main goal. However, it’s not an instant goal: hence transcription. It’s solid work that’ll help me sustain myself while I work on moving from “aspiring” to actual, capable professional translator.
I think -if I’m being realistic- I’ll probably debut as a translator in Fall/Winter 2021, or -even more realistically- Winter 2022. And honestly… I’m okay with that. There’s a lot I need to learn: a lot I want to learn, all so that when that day comes and I finally, finally see my ambitions realized, I’ll hopefully be in a place where I can do good by the work I take on.
(That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop translating or talking about it publicly: in fact, I’d really like to return to doing JP-EN video game news translation, and probably will be putting out for that in a month or two.)
If anything, working in transcription should hopefully provide me a pretty solid base, once I can get my footing. In the interim, I’ll suppliment with a few other things -reviews, articles, transcribing for AniFem- and pick up a project here or there. Plus, it’ll actually help my translations a lot: a bit part of being a good translator in both your L2/learned language and your L1/primary language is consuming media. For me, that’s reading and listening: both are tools in my toolbox that help me understand and recall the right phrase for a translation.
Basically, all this to say that while I know it won’t all come together overnight, I finally feel like it’s coming together in a general sense. And that feels really good, especially as I start to feel Change pulling on me all over again.