jobs for japanese speakers

6 Diverse Jobs for Japanese Speakers with Different Career Interests

So you’ve studied Japanese awhile, taken the JLPT and totally perfected your language skills.

You’re finally ready to put yourself to the test and snatch up your dream job in a Japanese-language office. Congratulations!

Well—that’s one way to apply your Japanese skills. However, it isn’t always that simple.

Jobs that use or require Japanese aren’t the easiest to find if you’re not living in Japan. But not everyone with an interest in Japanese wants to pack up and move across the world. Luckily, you don’t have to move far, far away.

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to dig a little deeper and research what’s available in your area, you’ll discover a surprisingly wide array of jobs and careers available for Japanese speakers. (And, no, I’m not just talking about translation gigs.)

But first, let’s take a quick look at the advantages of incorporating Japanese in your work life.
 


 
Learn a foreign language with videos

The Benefits of a Career That Employs Japanese Skills

Getting Daily Practice

Languages aren’t like riding a bicycle. If you don’t practice Japanese on a daily or near-daily basis, you’re going to start forgetting fundamental vocabulary, grammar structures and communicative strategies. This is precisely why a lot of people working full-time jobs find it difficult to incorporate their love of language learning into their everyday lives.

But a career that uses Japanese can easily 一石二鳥 (いっせき にちょう — kill two birds with one stone)!

Not only will it be interesting and fun (you obviously love Japanese if you’re trying to use it in your work life), but it’ll also be intellectually stimulating. A Japanese job guarantees essential daily practice without having to set aside additional study time.

If you treat your job as an immersive learning tool, you’ll improve your written Japanese as well as your 敬語 (けいご – honorifics). Such an environment is the closest anyone can get to working in Japan without actually having to move there. So, let your fluency skyrocket!

Expanding Your Network and Connections

In this day and age, acquiring a job is all about having connections. And what better way to discover Japanese job opportunities than to get to know people in the industry?

If you score an interview or (better yet) a job, ask questions about the company’s clientele and business connections. Figure out which companies have working relationships with each other and what kinds of non-native Japanese speakers they employ.

Mingle with professionals and you’ll expose yourself to a whole new world of Japanese connections—and maybe secure a reference or two!

Bridging the Cultural Divide

Okay, okay, this statement might sound broad, but let’s be honest: Speaking a foreign language really does bring two worlds together. And if your work requires any form of translation or interpretation, you’ll understand how indispensable your position is.

As an employee with bilingual talent, you’re the one coworkers and superiors turn to for assistance and clarity. You’re the one offering aid equally to English and Japanese speakers.

Your skills are not commonplace, so take pride in your role as a mediator. Without you, the system would fall apart!

How to Find Japanese Jobs

Now we get to the “hard” part. Once you’ve decided to give it your all and locate that dream job of yours, it’s time to get up (or should I say sit down?) and start searching.

Here are some of the easiest-to-use resources when it comes to job hunting.

(Job) Search Engines and Websites

It sounds simple because it is!

Just hop online and start Googling the titles of jobs you’re interested in + your location.

If Google isn’t narrowing it down enough, job search engines, such as Monster, Indeed and SimplyHired, offer routine updates in job listings and convenient digital application forms. You don’t need an account to skim their jobs either.

Another site called Japanese Jobs has similar services but specifically targets the Japanese-English bilingual crowd.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you create a profile on LinkedIn. Sometimes just showing that you’re a Japanese speaker will entice employers to contact you. If you want to get really serious about this, then take the leap and create a Japanese-language profile on LinkedIn to accompany your English one.

Japanese Companies

We’ve all heard of Toyota, Nintendo and Toshiba. But did you know some of these big name companies have branches abroad, possibly where you live?

The best way to find out more is by visiting Japanese companies’ websites and noting which ones have job openings and local offices.

Although many Japanese companies don’t require employees to be fluent in Japanese, your ability to understand two of the company’s primary languages (Japanese and English) will set you apart from other applicants and potentially make you eligible for more lucrative positions.

Career Fairs

They’re not just for college kids, I promise.

Check local campuses for flyers and information about upcoming career fairs or mixers geared toward budding professionals.

If you’re too busy to get out and explore on your own, go online and search for your location + “career fair.” Find out what events are specifically advertising job openings with Japanese companies or for bilingual people.

Oh, and don’t forget to print several copies of your resume/C.V. to pass out to employers, too!

Japanese Consulate or Embassy

If you’re living in or near a large city, consider paying a visit to the nearest Japan Consulate or Embassy for advice about careers and internships. The consulate itself might have job openings, so don’t be afraid to get in there and ask!

Proving Your Japanese Ability Is Sufficient for Work

Now that you know how to find a Japanese job, you need to decide how you’re going to demonstrate your Japanese ability.

Here are some common ways to prove your language skills are up to par.

Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test, or JLPT, is the most well-known and well-respected Japanese language test. It has five levels (N5 to N1, with N1 being the most difficult). Most employers prefer candidates with N2 or N1 certification, so if you haven’t made it to the big leagues yet, better get studying!

The JLPT is offered once or twice a year in the summer and/or winter depending on your country of residence and is usually administered at universities and testing centers in large cities. You can apply online through your nearest test center’s website.

Professional Certification

Aside from the JLPT, there are numerous other tests and accreditation courses you can take to back up your Japanese level.

In the United States, the American Translators Association (ATA) offers translation certificates to those who’ve applied for membership, paid a fee and passed an intense three-hour exam.

Similarly, Australia’s National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) offers accreditation courses for various languages and levels.

Most countries have equivalent translators’ or accreditation associations, which you can find by Googling your country of residence + “Japanese certificate” or “translation certificate.”

Experience Abroad

Have you ever been to Japan?

Worked in it?

If you answered yes to these two questions, then you’ve already got a leg up on landing that Japanese job.

Although experience in Japan isn’t usually a prerequisite, stressing how much you learned while abroad certainly won’t hurt your chances.

Discuss your first-hand travels and play up the positive impacts Japan had on your Japanese skills. For example, did you pass the JLPT while living in Japan? Did you communicate with coworkers entirely in Japanese? Did you give speeches in Japanese?

Give your answers to questions like these to iterate how your previous experiences have shaped the capable candidate you are today.

Education

Like the previous point, this isn’t a necessity—many people study languages independently or long after graduating.

But if you’re one of those people with an advanced degree in Japanese or a related field of study, you’ve got a better shot at successfully starting a Japanese-oriented career.

Make sure your resume/C.V. stresses your educational background and how it correlates with your Japanese ability. Generally speaking, you should prepare yourself for the following assumptions: A bachelor’s degree = intermediate comprehension, and a master’s degree or doctorate = fluent.

Japanese Interview

Perhaps the easiest way to prove your Japanese ability is via a Japanese interview.

Some companies claim to conduct their interviews in English, but if Japanese is required for the job, you should expect some on-the-spot Japanese testing. It’s a good idea to prepare a self-introduction as well as answers to basic questions in Japanese.

Even better, offer to do the entire interview in Japanese if the position demands high-level competence. Confidence is key!

6 Jobs for Japanese Speakers

So we’ve covered the basics of job hunting and how to prove you’re as good at Japanese as you say you are.

Let’s take a look at what kinds of jobs you’re eligible for—and which ones might be the perfect fit for you.

1. Translator/Interpreter

I’m sure this one surprised you, right?

All jokes aside, translation and interpretation are two of the most popular fields of work for Japanese speakers.

Before we discuss details, let’s make sure you know the difference between “translator” and “interpreter.” A translator is someone who takes written materials and translates them into a different language. (It’s advisable to translate into your native tongue, or, in this case, from Japanese to English.) An interpreter, on the other hand, is someone who mediates and translates speech between speakers of two different languages.

You can work as both a translator and interpreter or one of the two. But a lot of the time, the positions come hand in hand, so expect a combination of the two.

There are many types of translation, including literary, medical and technical translation. Your chosen field mainly depends on your background and previous work experience. If you’re entering technical translation, for instance, you must demonstrate a thorough comprehension of Japanese and English technical terminology.

Interpreters also work in a similar range of environments, from hospitals to conferences, and function as mediators between businesses and clients.

When it comes to how you want to work, there are two basic options. You can work at a company as an in-house translator/interpreter or work by yourself as a freelancer. Budding freelancers can try their hand by signing up and working for translation websites such as Gengo or Translate.com.

How much you work depends on your skill set and job type; some translators/interpreters are part-time, only going in when translation/interpretation is required. Others work full-time as company employees or as contracted freelancers for several companies at once.

Recommended Skills and Prerequisites

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in Japanese or related field of study
  • JLPT N1 certification (occasionally N2 is sufficient)
  • Previous translation/interpretation experience
  • Translation certificate or other equivalent certification

2. Teacher/Professor

Another incredible surprise! (Okay, I promise I’ll stop.)

Teaching is a fun and stimulating career that not only keeps your own language skills sharp, but also inspires future generations of Japanese learners.

Primary and secondary school teachers work with a range of levels, primarily middle school/junior high and high school, whereas professors work solely at the university level. Curricula depend on the school district and school, and most of the time you’ll be required to use popular Japanese textbooks to help guide your classes.

This job is an excellent fit for creative and enthusiastic Japanese speakers bent on keeping up their language skills while helping others improve theirs.

If you’re not quite committed to becoming a full-time teacher, you could also try tutoring Japanese or doing private lessons on the side.

Recommended Skills and Prerequisites

For primary/secondary education teachers:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Japanese or related field of study
  • Previous teaching experience and/or certification
  • Pedagogy exam
  • Japanese language exam
  • Internship

For professors:

  • Some of the above + master’s degree or higher (usually doctorate) in Japanese or related field of study

3. Diplomat

A lot of people shrug when asked what a diplomat is, but don’t write it off your list just yet.

A diplomat is a government worker posted overseas at embassies/consulates. Diplomats have varying responsibilities and work in a diverse number of sectors, such as healthcare, translation and economics. The main purpose of a diplomat is to advance a country’s interests abroad and promote peace.

In the United States, many diplomats are foreign service officers, who must pass the Foreign Service Exam and undergo grueling training consisting of cultural and foreign language learning.

Other countries have similar stringent requirements for becoming a diplomat, so only apply if you’re ready to take on some tough competition.

Although you would technically be a government worker for your home country, Japanese-speaking diplomats work in embassies/consulates across Japan, so you’d have to be willing to relocate for the job.

Recommended Skills and Prerequisites

  • Exam
  • Training
  • Health and security checks
  • Previous overseas experience
  • Japanese ability (no concrete minimum requirement, but the higher your level, the better)

4. Flight Attendant

If you’re a lover of Japanese, I’m guessing you might also be a lover of travel.

Many people shrug off customer service positions as frustrating and underpaid, but being a flight attendant can be a fun and rewarding experience—and an excellent way to hone your spoken Japanese.

International flight attendants generally must speak a minimum of two languages. So if you’re hoping to use Japanese, flights between your country of origin and Japan are what you’ll want to focus on when applying.

Unlike other jobs, flight attendant positions don’t require too many prerequisites (you don’t even need a bachelor’s degree!). Once hired, all of your knowledge comes from intense training.

Oh, and did I mention the perks? Flight attendants get discounts on hotels, cruises and other hospitality services.

Recommended Skills and Prerequisites

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Previous customer service experience
  • Minimum and maximum height requirements
  • Minimum age requirement (usually between 18-21 years old)
  • Health and security checks
  • Training

5. Customer Service Agent/Sales Representative

Duties of a customer service agent or sales representative differ depending on the company but generally consist of communicating with clients, answering telephones, data entry and other administrative tasks.

As a Japanese-speaking customer service representative, you’ll be in charge of communicating with Japanese clients and businesses.

The job is ideal for candidates wanting to improve their business Japanese and 敬語 (けいご – honorifics).

Recommended Skills and Prerequisites

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Previous customer service experience
  • Japanese-English bilingual ability (depends on job but JLPT N2 or higher is a solid benchmark)

6. Employee at a Japanese Company

Becoming an employee at a Japanese company requires different skills depending on the type of company (e.g. automobile vs. video game) and position being offered.

Obviously, duties vary. Entry-level jobs center on basic customer service tasks, such as answering telephones and working reception, whereas managerial positions call for supervision and project oversight.

Usually, these jobs are performed in English and do not require Japanese fluency. But employers often look favorably on bilingual applicants, especially if most employees at the company are Japanese citizens who prefer the ease of a Japanese-speaking environment.

Being based in Japan, a Japanese company also carries with it the possibility of relocation, so don’t overlook the benefits of starting low and working your way up.

Recommended Skills and Prerequisites

  • High school diploma or GED (for entry level)
  • Previous customer service experience
  • Previous office and/or data entry experience
  • Previous management experience
  • Japanese ability (any level is a plus)

This isn’t an exhaustive list of jobs but, at the very least, I hope you now have a better idea of how you can integrate Japanese into your work life.

Remember, a job doesn’t have to be a career in order to be worthwhile, so look into what’s available around you and figure out what best matches your professional goals.

Don’t just dip your toes in the sea of Japanese job opportunities—grab your resume and dive in!


Hannah Muniz is a freelance writer and translator in the greater Houston area.
 


 

And One More Thing…

To make the process of achieving fluency even easier, you can use FluentU! As noted earlier, FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons..

You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through all kinds of video content here.

Learn Japanese with Anime on FluentU

Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.

Learn Japanese with Anime via FluentU

Tap on any word to look it up instantly.

You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your running vocab list for later review.

Learn Japanese Through Anime on FluentU

And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson and gets you to actively practice your newly-learned language.

Learn Japanese with Videos on FluentU

Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app for iOS or for Android!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.

Experience Japanese immersion online!

Comments are closed.
[LANGUAGE]
[LANGUAGE]