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Words of Truth and Wisdom: Translation Notes


The other day we were lamenting the fact that translations mainly seem to get noticed in reviews when people think there's something wrong with them. This makes sense, because most people can't really tell how good or bad a translation is, because not only would they have to know both languages involved, but they'd have to have a copy of the original plus the translation to compare them.

Of course, they could probably tell how good or bad the writing of the translation is based on whether or not it sounds like natural English, or if the characters have unique voices, etc. But in most cases the reviewers tend to focus on the story, the art, and maybe whether or not there are a ton of translation notes. Then, as I said earlier, if the translation does get mentioned, it tends to be something like, “I wish they'd left that title in Japanese and given a note instead of translating it,” or, “I can't believe they used a Southern accent again!”

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Archaic2273d ago

Got to say...I strongly, strongly, disagree with their approach to translations. I would much prefer to see a literal translation than an attempt to modify a line to fit in with the translator's preconceived world view, which leads to ethnocentric translations and the dreaded "Americanization". It's these kinds of assumptions which leads to situations where references are removed and/or replaced because "non-Japanese won't possibly get this".

Reibooi2273d ago

Knowing a few friends who work in the anime industry I can tell you a literal translation is nearly impossible as it would make next to no sense(think something along the lines of Google Translate for a Japanese site)

That said a good translation will never lose the meaning or reference from the original unless that is the goal in the first place(which for most anime companies not named 4kids isn't the point). Most real anime companies(i.e not fan subs) will do everything they can to keep the meaning of the original as intact as possible. There are of course times when this needs to be changed because of licensing issues(for example a character directly referencing another show licensed under a different company which is why people thought Lucky Star might be Americanized because of all the jokes related to other Japanese shows and games luckily it wasn't).

When it comes to the official releases people have to keep in mind that the translations companies like Funimation or Sentai Filmworks do need to be approved by the Japanese creators so they really can't change much unless the Japanese creators WANT stuff to be changed which is very very rare.

Archaic2272d ago

I'll grant you that a perfectly literal translation won't work based on grammar alone. Having said that, there are certainly degrees of literalness in meaning in translation. Japanese as a language often leaves a number of things unsaid and implicitly understood. I'd much prefer to see those things staying unsaid and implied by context, rather than translators doing what I feel is basically inserting words into the character's mouth. I've seen cases where a sentence of 3 words became a subtitle that went the width of the screen, it's just ridiculous.

On your second point, you're quite correct, however one fact bears noting there. Many of these Japanese companies tend to assume that those in the west just won't get references, won't get cultural things, etc. Acting on these assumptions, they have on a number of occasions pushed the changes through themselves. In other cases, they've simply rubber stamped whatever the American company suggested, on the basis that they should be the experts on what their market really wants. 4Kids is a great example of why that just doesn't work. Just like the others, they had to get approval for what they changed.

Xof2272d ago's not really a translation, now is it? The first publication of Azumanga Daioh suffered pretty heavily from Americanization. At best, "Japanese" was turned into "Spanish," and there were references to popular athletes Americans would be more likely to "get" than who was originally in the next. At worst, entire comics were drastically altered because the joke/punchline/gag/humor/whate ver was deemed "too Japanese."

One of the key arguments I seldom see in regards to anime/manga piracy is that fan-translated works typically avoid "americanization," and often the officially-licensed products have just as many misspellings.

Honestly, I don't think I own a single volume of (English) manga that doesn't have at least one blank panel, at least 1 misspelling, at least 1 glaringly conspicuous grammatical error and at least 1 obvious americanization. And then they do crap like cutting off the edges of the images to fit onto smaller sheets of paper, printing on low-quality paper where the image one one side can be seen on the other, and what I hate MOST--printing beautiful color illustrations in grayscale.

But the only argument I always see is the cost: translated manga costs more, so people pirate. I pirate because the QUALITY is better.

Archaic2272d ago

Is that argument seldom seen now? It used to be amongst the most common arguments raised by some in scanlation. Of course, that's going back 6-7 years now, but cost was even more of a factor then. If cost is the main reason people give now, it really says a lot about how the scanlation community has shifted away from the "ethical scanlators" to the rippers. I expect the online reader sites had a lot to do with that, hopefully we'll start to see a shift backwards to the old attitudes now that they're dead.

The manga industry's certainly changed a lot since those old days, and translation quality of official works is getting a lot better. Having said that, from what I've seen I still have to agree in general with the quality argument. As a rule, I no longer pirate like I did when I was younger, but the lower apparent quality of the offical English language releases has in numerous instances compelled me to go and download a copy of the scanlation after I've already purchased the manga (either in Japanese or in English). Where possible and appropriate, I've also picked up manga released by licensors in Singapore, which seem to actually have a higher level of translation quality in many cases, simply from the lack of Americanisation.

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