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  • Writer's pictureJason Khoh

Tough Love


I recently on-boarded a new Japanese translator with over twenty years of experience to help with a large project. I was impressed with her speed and proactive manner. However, after I had to revise a couple of careless errors that caught my attention, I knew I had to investigate further.


I checked the first couple of paragraphs of one of her pending translations and noticed quite a few basic errors like failing to check for official translations, and complete mistranslations after failing to grasp the context of the text. The absence of any translator’s notes was definitely another yellow flag for me.


So, I documented all the errors and listed all my suggestions in a track-changed word document with comments. I attached this to an email and explained why I thought her translation was subpar. I had no qualms about paying her (ie, it’s never about punishing people), and I made sure I told her about her above-mentioned positives, too. But she did need to know what my expectations are, and I wasn’t afraid to put myself in an uncomfortable situation where I needed to tell another professional to pull their proverbial socks the hell up!


To her credit, without any delay she accepted full responsibility - agreeing to immediately rectify the situation as per my instructions. She actually told me it was many years since she was last held accountable for her translations - but she did also really appreciate the fact I did. It just goes to show even seasoned veterans can develop bad habits over time if left unchecked! The value of working in a team should never be underestimated – especially when it comes to translation.


Everyone deserves a second chance, which is why I took the time and effort to point out where she could and should improve. In today’s fast-paced disposable society, many would much rather avoid such difficult conversations, preferring to just quietly kick people to the curb – being a mentor seems like such a chore.


But as someone who deeply cares about our industry, and as someone who understands there’s a process behind building a strong team of talented, trustworthy, and resilient professionals, I will not hesitate to show tough love in order to bring the best out of those around me.


What are your thoughts on tough love? If you were in my situation, would you have handled it any differently?


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