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Interview with Izumi Mihashi from GV Lingua Japanese

Izumi Mihashi has been a profilic member of the Japanese Lingua team since early 2009 and currently splits editor duties with Hanako Tokita. With “Japan: a case of an exposed online pseudonym”, she published her first English post on Global Voices this September. Izumi tweets in English at @en_izumi.

In this interview, we learn about Izumi, her success in leading recruitment and team building at Lingua Japanese, its next steps, and thoughts on the Internet landscape in Japan.

Global Voices (GV): Please tell us about yourself!

Izumi Mihashi (IM): I recently quit my job of two years at a major electronic manufacturing company, which I had started after getting my master’s in mathematical engineering. I plan to go back to school next April to research the world of human perception.

Izumi Mihashi

Izumi Mihashi

GV: How did you get involved with GV?

IM: I graduated from university in September but had a bit of time until I started my job in April. I was working on a translation job for a book on mathematics, but was looking for another project. I saw an entry on the Uncategorizable Blog [a popular Japanese blog by GV contributor Taku Nakajima] that introduced Global Voices, and was attracted by its concept.

GV: What is your current role?

IM: I used to be in charge of the communication with new volunteers [Note: The Lingua Japanese team has a trial process to screen for quality.], but I’ve passed that role to someone else now. I guess you could call me a cheerleader for our team now!

I have a lot of ideas for improving operations for the Lingua Japanese team, but haven’t had a lot of time to execute them. So that’s what I’m working on right now – implementing the improvements.

GV: Can you share some of your reform ideas?

IM: I have lots of ideas! They can be split into two categories: promotion and sharing tasks.

We’re not very good at promotion at the moment, and I think we’re missing out on readership even though the content is compelling. For example, it’s a bit difficult to tell on the Lingua sites that Global Voices is amplifying voices that are not picked up by traditional media… maybe it looks like a translation site for foreign media sources? I’m always thinking about how we can improve the presentation so that we can effectively communicate GV’s concept.

I also feel that the content can be a bit “distance” from our Japanese audience. In the Japanese blogosphere, there are a lot of articles concerning accessible topics that heavily feature the author’s opinion. GV is the opposite, in that the author is neutral and introduces many facets of the discussion. Also, many of the happenings covered in GV articles occur in a place that’s physically distant from Japan. I believe that Lingua translators can play a bigger role in bridging Global Voices and our Japanese audience.

Last but not least is how to split tasks within the team. We tweaked our messaging to bring the call for volunteers upfront and as a result, our team welcomed a sharp increase in numbers. Management becomes more complicated though, so the Japanese Lingua team is testing out new processes.

A recent meetup in Tokyo

GV: What do you enjoy most about GV?

IM: What makes me happiest is for the members of Lingua Japanese to enjoy translating articles! Recently, we started doing translation reviews on the internal mailing list. In the beginning, people were more interested in translating than reviewing, but now we have a good rhythm. Everyone can follow the communication between the translator and review on the mailing list, and I think people have started to enjoy this part of the work as well.

In September, I made my author debut on GV and look forward to exploring this road, too.

GV: Here’s a crazy question for you – if GV Lingua won the lottery, what would you do?

IM: Hmmm, actually I don’t think that the Lingua project and money really go well together. I’m especially against financial aspects having a place in the translation work itself.

It might be nice to have a bit of cash and have someone handle the administrative work such as responding to inquiries, tending to Facebook, starting a newsletter etc. but that’s not really an issue of money. I’m also interested in doing a comparison analysis of GV and other media to explore future opportunities for Lingua Japanese but this is also more a matter of time!

There’s something I’d love to do with the web in general, though.

Japan is an affluent country, at least in terms of materialistic wealth. Even if someone can’t afford Internet access at home, they can get it for free at the public library. The Internet can be a saving grace if you’re isolated in your school or workplace. On the other hand, it can be a dangerous place, with flame wars and personal information leakage.

I believe that we can change many lives by creating a safe place for people with lower Internet literacy skills to get together online. The system would need to be designed to preempt problems and have community managers that can intervene and facilitate. It’s a very complex problem to tackle but it would be fantastic if we could accomplish this!

Thank you, Izumi!

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