“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Mark Twain
1972: A levels in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and English.
1978: MA in English Lang and Lit, Oxford University.
1979: Black belt in Aikido, Aikikai Hombu, Tokyo.
1985: Dip RSA, International Language Centre, Tokyo
1986: Interpreter training course, Simul Academy, Tokyo.
1990: Member, Institute of Translation and Interpreting.
My first significant encounter with another world came as a volunteer on a kibbutz in 1973. I ended up spending two years in Israel, working as a nurse in a children's hospital, learning the language and absorbing the culture and politics. Later, in time out from university, I travelled extensively through the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa – gaining a quite different perspective.
But it was the culture of East Asia that really held my attention. After leaving university I went to Japan with a place on the first JET scheme and immersed myself more deeply in the practice of aikido, earning a black belt two years later. I then joined a translation company to study written Japanese and spent the next six years working as a teacher, translator and eventually an interpreter in Tokyo, while travelling as widely as I could in the surrounding countries.
When my Japanese wife and I left Tokyo in 1986, we spent eight months on an extended study trip around China and the US on our way to the UK. Arriving in London at the end of that year we were rich in experience but had barely a penny to our names. It was the motivation I needed to put that experience to use.
In 1987 I was hired by NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, to help co-present a daily Japanese-language news programme based in London, covering world affairs for a Japanese audience on a 24-hour satellite news channel. After two years in front of the camera I formed my own production company, Simon Prentis Associates, and for the next 20 years coordinated bilingual research and local production for more than 250 programmes commissioned by network TV channels in Japan.
These ranged from political documentaries and travel programmes to documercials and game shows, but much of the work involved negotiating and then interpreting at interviews with specialists and other people of interest all over the world, providing a variety I greatly enjoyed. In parallel to this I worked freelance as a technical translator, translating patents for the European Patent Office and other agencies, who also employed me as an expert witness in legal disputes. For three years from 1991 I was the national coordinator for J-Net, the Japanese translators’ network of the UK Institute of Translation and Interpreting, and still contribute regularly to their professional journal.
I have also translated and interpreted widely in the arts world, both for artist clients such as Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Frank Zappa and Stanley Kubrick, and institutions such as the Royal Academy, the National Film Theatre and the RIBA. I have contributed to international conferences on translation and interpreting, and taught and lectured at institutions as diverse as the Oriental Institute at Oxford University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics and the Oriental Society at Eton College. I have also written in depth about the work of Frank Zappa, who I worked with over a period of ten years.
Apple Corps, Baker Botts LLP, Barclays de Zoete Wedd, Bristows, BBC, British Museum, British Telecom, Channel 4, Chatto and Windus, Dentsu, the DTI, European Patent Office, Fuji-Sankei Communications, Hakuhodo, Henry Moore Foundation, Institute of Contemporary Arts, ITV, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), Japanese Embassy, Japan Foundation, LBC Radio, Marconi, Marks & Clerk, Marshall Arts, Mori Building, MPL Communications, National Film Theatre, Nomura Research Institute, NTV, Pia Corp, Royal Academy, Royal Institute of British Architects, RWS Translations, Saatchi & Saatchi, Sheridans, Simmons & Simmons, Takarazuka, Toei Inc, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Travers Smith, TV Asahi, TV Tokyo, TV Man Union
Gerry Adams, Tadao Ando, Sir Matthew Bourne, Prince Charles, Eric Clapton, Sir Terence Conran, The Lord Desai, Hiroyuki Eihara, Uri Geller, Philip Glass, Dame Jane Goodall, Peter Greenaway, Katherine Hamnett, George & Olivia Harrison, Chrissy Hynde, Ken Kaiko, Kaoru Kanetaka, Takeshi Kitano, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, Stanley Kubrick, Tetsuya Kumakawa, Sean Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney, Issey Miyake, Amon Miyamoto, Minoru Mori, Desmond Morris, Shido Nakamura, Yukio Ninagawa, Yuji Oda, Takeshi Okada, Yoko Ono, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Richard Rogers, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sir Nic Serota, SMAP, Sir Georg Solti, Sir Ringo Starr, Sting, Seijun Suzuki, Soichiro Tahara, Go Takamine, Masaharu Takasaki, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Jann Wenner, Frank Zappa