16 fairies and 16 skills of an interpreter



Hi, I’m Erika. I’m a Japanese-English interpreter based in Tokyo. 


If I tell you that I have fairies living in my head, what would you say? You may think I’m out of my mind or talking about something happened in my dream while I was asleep. But the truth is, they actually exist and live in my mind. They are the ones who make my interpretation possible and my precious partners.


It was my fourth or fifth month of interpreting training when I first recognized these girls. One day when I was translating something, a picture came up in my mind. In which there were “little Erikas,” the fairies, and each one of them had a skill related to translation. They worked so closely with each other just like the way in a manufacturing factory, and a perfect combination of their works was making my interpretation process possible.


The followings are the skills that these fairies are in charge of;


1. Listen



4.Search for vocabularies

5.Search for expressions

6.Search for pieces of relevant knowledge

7. Recall the memorized messages

8. Make sentences in the output language

9. Read it out loud


In addition to these girls who are responsible for the actual translation process, there are some more of them as follows;






14.Ease the panic


16. Just looking


The picture above shows nine fairies who are in charge of actual translation skills.


After I got to know my fairies, I was desperate to draw the picture I saw so that I can see them face to face. But the problem was, I didn’t have any talent for it. I never did good in my art classes in elementary school and Jr. high. At a high school, I was so happy because the art class was not mandatory. So even though I had a vivid image in my mind, I couldn’t draw it in anyways. 


However, I couldn’t give it up either. I went to see one of my best friends, Yuka Tanaka and told her my story. She is a professional illustrator, and we have been close friends since when we were 4th graders. I spent enough years with her to know how talented she was, but I was so surprised to see her draw a rough sketch so fast and I was even more astonished at the fairy she painted looked precisely like the one I saw in my head. Since then she is not only my closest friend but also my personal designer and illustrator.


I offered her to pay for the work, but she declined it. She painted the fairies for my birthday. They are the most incredible birthday gifts I’ve ever received, and I can’t thank her enough for giving lives to my images and letting me see their faces.


Following is a link to Yuka’s website. Though it’s all in Japanese, you can see some of her artworks including my fairies. 


"ppp" by Yuka Tanaka


When she started working on my fairies’ illustrations, she gave me an assignment. I was asked to identify each fairy with her personality and an item unique to her skill. This task was a big, big, BIG blast! Characterizing each one of the girls meant analyzing the translation competence of my own. Skills that fairies had problems with were the ones that I had issues with. By knowing which phases I wasn’t confident of, I could make effective study plans for my interpreting training. It was such a precious opportunity that Yuka and my fairies gave me.


From my next English article, I will introduce my lovely fairies, one by one. I hope you will get to know what is happening in an interpreter’s mind during her job. 


Thank you.


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