In order to increase students’ readiness for Japan-related careers after graduation, The Ohio State University’s East Asian Studies Center (EASC), with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI NRC grant and in partnership with local industry, has developed a portfolio of professionalization programs for students studying the Japanese language. From career talks to conferences, from demonstrations to job shadowing, and from internships to skill-based coursework, these initiatives are aimed at preparing students to succeed in the workforce, particularly in the area of interpretation. “Following a year-long focus and series of events on the topic in 2016-17, including a week-long interpretation workshop and the 28th International Japanese-English Translation Conference hosted at OSU, we identified an interest in interpretation among our students, a strong demand for these skills in industry, and great expertise in our community,” said EASC Director Etsuyo Yuasa.
Indeed, in Ohio, where Japan is the top foreign investor, the demand for Japanese-English interpreters is high, with 484 Japanese facilities, including Honda of America Mfg., Inc., creating more than 77,000 jobs, 98% of which are held by Ohioans, according to the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit’s “2017 Japanese Direct Investment Survey.” EASC has worked with many of these facilities, including Honda R&D Americas, Inc., which in 2018 delivered a “Japanese Interpretation Demonstration” at OSU and later hosted students on-site to observe interpretation in practice; THK Manufacturing of America, Inc. which offered a panel discussion on campus on the topic of “Working for a Japanese Company: How to Prepare? What to Expect?” and also hosted groups of OSU students studying Japanese at their manufacturing facility in Ohio as well as in Japan; and Nissen Chemitec America which launched a job shadowing day for OSU students interested in interpretation; among others.
Based on the relationships formed with local companies and the momentum created on campus and in the community, in Spring 2019, EASC launched its first course on Japanese interpretation. Taught by Allyson Larimer, a professional conference interpreter with eight years of experience working in the Japanese automotive industry in Ohio, the course was designed to expose advanced-level Japanese learners to the theories and techniques of interpreting and provide rigorous hands-on training in consecutive and simultaneous interpretation bidirectionally between Japanese and English. Students, from the undergraduate to doctoral level, completed a survey at the end of the course which found that 100% were extremely satisfied with the course and would recommend it to others, and 78% said they were extremely likely, and 22% somewhat likely, to use the knowledge/skills they gained in the course in their future profession. Students reported that it was an “extremely practical course which incorporates theory into actual practice, and gives tools to further study interpretation and develop skills” and that it provided a “sure foundation for developing our skills and towards applying them in a career.” Based on the success of the course, EASC plans to offer it again in 2020. EASC Director Etsuyo Yuasa also shared the idea and lessons learned with other Japanese language educators at the American Association of Teachers of Japanese conference in March 2019 in her presentation, “Community-based Course Development: Professional Japanese Interpretation.”
These events and the Professional Japanese Interpretation course were sponsored in part by a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center (NRC) grant to the The Ohio State University's East Asian Studies Center.