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Old 2006-01-16, 22:42   Link #1
anonymous_coward
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How to be a Japanese to English translator

This article used to be known as DIY: How to be a J2E anime fansub translator.

Learning Japanese is not easy, and takes years to be proficient. I hope that this guide is useful to those who aspires to be a translator, or perhaps to those of you who are learning the language by your own or in class. Good luck.


Hiragana and Katakana
The Japanese written language is made up of three scripts; Hiragana and Katakana being the simplest among them. Before anything else, learn those two.


Vocabulary
Reading is the best way to improve your vocabulary. Start by picking up simple ones: picture books, children books or even manga; especially the ones with furigana. Try the vocabulary list, linked below, memorize them and see how they're used in real life. Look out for those words when you read, watch, listen anything Japanese. Look up the lyrics for your favorite Japanese songs or watch your favorite anime series and keep crib sheets of the words you don't know.

Unlike English, learning the Chinese characters is part of building up your vocabulary, and while it's possible to learn as many words as possible, without Kanji you won't go far. This is probably the biggest literary barrier between the gaijin and the Japanese natives. My advice -- read, and keep those radical dictionaries handy.


Grammar
Japanese grammar can be divided into few layers: colloquial, polite, normal and formal -- Japanese language is that complex . Many language guides are written in polite and normal language while the formal ones are probably introduced in the intermediate-advance level and business Japanese. You can easily pick up colloquial ones by wading through Japanese message boards, anime, video games, etc.

Pay attention to the particles and conjunctions, their nuances and their usage. Oh, and pay very close attention to o/ga and ni/de as those are the biggest headache most Japanese learners will encounter.


Listening
Refer to my post below.


Untranslatable words
Yet another headache for the non-natives. It's hard to translate, if not impossible without a lengthy explanation, culture-related words and nuances. How do you translate "itadakimasu"? "Bon appetite"? How about the angry nuance of a simple word -- "wakatta"?

It will probably take a lot of experience, and lots of handholding with fellow translators to deal with this issue.


List of links
Hiragana: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiragana
Katanana: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katakana

Vocabulary/Kanji list:
http://www.geocities.jp/anonymous_cow/4-00All.pdf (JLPT level 4, beginner level)
http://www.geocities.jp/anonymous_cow/3-00All.pdf (JLPT level 3, beginner-intermediate level)
http://www.geocities.jp/anonymous_cow/2-00All.pdf (JLPT level 2, intermediate level)

Grammar:
http://www.jgram.org
http://nihongoresources.com
http://u-biq.org

Dictionary list: http://www.cjas.org/~zalas/AIR/moin....aneseResources

Misc links:
http://www.nicovideo.jp
www.asagaku.com
http://www.google.co.jp/webhp
http://www.japanesepod101.com

Spoiler for 1st edition:


Change log:
Edit #1: Added links for the kanji and vocabulary list.
Edit #2: Major revamp of the article.

Last edited by anonymous_coward; 2007-11-07 at 09:15.
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Old 2006-01-17, 00:57   Link #2
Soluzar
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All of your http://www.geocities.jp/anonymous_cow/ links are dead, dude. I was hoping to improve my skills somewhat, too.
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Old 2006-01-17, 01:01   Link #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soluzar
All of your http://www.geocities.jp/anonymous_cow/ links are dead, dude. I was hoping to improve my skills somewhat, too.
It seems that it just doesn't like direct links. Simply go to the home page, and then copy-paste the URL into the address bar, and you're all set. Thanks to the poster for some very interesting resources.
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Old 2006-01-17, 01:15   Link #4
JediNight
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2 months is fairly long to learn hiragana/katakana, most classes teach it to you in like 2 WEEKS But I suppose if you are self-taught it might take longer.

Honestly though people, while you can teach yourself, I would really really recommend taking actual classes. Your pronunciation will suffer greatly and there won't be anyone to ask questions to. And really it's a bad idea to skimp on learning how to read/write the language as well. Besides the fact of how are you going to read the materials to learn them, its just not a good idea to only learn half the language basically. Think about how it would be if you couldn't read/write your primary language

A good set of books I recommend getting are the Genki series:
http://www.varsitybooks.com/(hwgcge4...i&PageNumber=1

We use those books at my university, and the main campus in the state use them as well. (They are rated among the top Japanese majors in the country) CA state universities also use them I know, and that state has a lot of Japanese American population too.

In my personal experience, to do a GOOD job translating you should have a minimum of 3 years (6 semesters) of college-level Japanese. Time spent living in Japan would accelerate this of course, but thats not an option for most people obviously.
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Old 2006-01-17, 01:15   Link #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymous_coward
Introduction:
Simply put, J2E (Japanese to English) fansub translators are hard to find and their numbers are dwindling by the month and it seems to be getting worse. Many translators have come and go, with many established ones retired to move on with their real lives. I hope that this guide will be a great help to aspiring fansub translator and to those who wants to learn the great, beautiful language called Japanese. I'm posting this under another nick and want to remain anonymous to avoid karma whoring.
...
Very nice list of resources...

As someone else who has traveled this path you laid out (currently in step 6 somewhere... )
I might add that it's quite possible to translate many easier series before one has memorized all 1000 JLPT 2 kanji (probably the most daunting task in your list), and maybe beneficial, only because it takes a lot of practice no matter what level to get proficient at aurally translating. Practice makes perfect, or so they say. So I'd recommend starting to try and translate something on your own as soon as you feel like you can. Even better if you can work WITH someone more proficient than you that can help explain parts that are confusing or beyond your current level.

A few more comments: Studying for the JLPT and getting good at anime translation are not the same thing. Quite a lot of upper level JLPT grammer deals with written japanese and is rarely heard in anime, and quite a lot of slang is heard all the time in anime and does not appear on the JLPT. The only effective way to deal with slang is practice and/or real life experience (living in japan).

The Koujien is your friend. Also keep handy a dictionary of japanese idioms (such as "Basic Dictionary of Japanese idioms" by kodansha). Not sure if something is a word? Can't find it in a dictionary but still think it's correct? Use google.

I also agree that 3 years of college japanese is needed to translate well, and that only applies to easy-medium difficulty series.
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Old 2006-01-17, 01:31   Link #6
Soluzar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by relentlessflame
It seems that it just doesn't like direct links. Simply go to the home page, and then copy-paste the URL into the address bar, and you're all set. Thanks to the poster for some very interesting resources.
Thanks for that, it worked. Thanks also to the thread creator, since I work primarily with written materials, this helps me even more than it would help a fansub translator. To avoid causing confusion, it should be noted that "worK" is an approximate term. My own studies are strictly for fun.
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Old 2006-01-17, 12:45   Link #7
anonymous_coward
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Many thanks to all for the comments and criticism.

It seems that there's this mentality where if someone studies Japanese for three years he/she can translate well - this is not (always) true. A professional J2E translator can be a good Japanese teacher, but the vise versa is not always true. You need to consider that a translator is a linguist and to a certain extent, an art.

Personally, I don't recommend people to start translating as soon as possible when they feel they're capable of doing it because in my opinion it promotes premature learning (they'll be spending more time translating and be tempted to translate more instead of studying).

As a translator you'll be doing lots of research (depending on the anime series) while translating and you need to wade through the official website, Japanese websites for explanation on the jargons used, etc. - and that requires reasonable proficiency in kanjis and grammar (around JLPT 2 and up).

Granted that each and everyone of us have different learning style and approaches, this guide is just that - a guide and not the silver bullet. And no, just because you self-study your pronunciation will not be bad as long as you study the higarana/katakana properly (you need to take note that pronunciation is way easier in Japanese compared to English).

This guide is still not complete and as someone have mentioned, it lacks reading/listening resources. I'm currently compiling a list of resources and I'll update the guide in a few days when I'm done.
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Old 2006-01-17, 15:21   Link #8
Quarkboy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymous_coward
Personally, I don't recommend people to start translating as soon as possible when they feel they're capable of doing it because in my opinion it promotes premature learning (they'll be spending more time translating and be tempted to translate more instead of studying).

As a translator you'll be doing lots of research (depending on the anime series) while translating and you need to wade through the official website, Japanese websites for explanation on the jargons used, etc. - and that requires reasonable proficiency in kanjis and grammar (around JLPT 2 and up).
Personally, I started translating about.... 2.66 years of japanese (3rd quarter 3rd year). However, 1. It was a really easy series I was intimitly familiar with (Pretty Cure). and 2. For the past year I had worked with a native speaker translator IN THE SAME ROOM translating the show. Basically he'd translate, I'd edit immediately, rinse and repeat . Doing things this way really taught me quickly the fundamentals of translating, sort of like immersion. Often if something wasn't clear to me I'd stop and ask him questions, sometimes correcting his translations or clarifying some grammer I didn't know, etc...

As for the second point, I agree about the research being an important part of translating. Although kanji isn't really a problem on the web since it's trivial to copy and paste web pages into a program that will look up kanji for you .

And I think anonymous coward made this point in part, but it really takes both intelligence and creativity to be an excellent translator. Dummies and Dullies need not apply. Oh, and having excellent hearing is a plus too . You wouldn't know how many times _I_ had to correct my native speaking friend when he misheard things in episodes. The guy needed a hearing aid or something.
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Old 2006-01-17, 16:08   Link #9
JediNight
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Quote:
And no, just because you self-study your pronunciation will not be bad as long as you study the higarana/katakana properly (you need to take note that pronunciation is way easier in Japanese compared to English).
I should clarify what I meant then -- there is a difference between pronunciating correctly and pronunciating fluently. Easiest example is 好き -- saying "soo-ki" is a technically correct pronunciation, but a native speaker is going to pronounce it "ski"
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Old 2006-01-18, 01:12   Link #10
runpsicat
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymous_coward
Links:
Translation resouces at akraze's forum
http://anime-kraze.org/forums/viewto...2d2b55b793210b
Check this page out even if you don't know any Japanese. Contains links to free, great Japanese dictionaries accessible from the internet.
I'm glad you found those links useful, but they are actually somewhat outdated. I decided to compile links on another site that has other translators contributing links. Not much is being done with the project at the moment since we stumbled once we were at the "er, how shall we organize/maintain all these links?" step, but it contains more links than the one you listed, so.
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Old 2006-01-18, 01:42   Link #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runpsicat
I decided to compile links on another site that has other translators contributing links.
You can include this site in your list of specialized dictionary list - the dictionary of oceanic terms.
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Old 2006-01-18, 01:56   Link #12
runpsicat
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Roger that, Commander - I'll add it after I get home .

It's not "my" list, though! It's the translators' list . You should sign up and post stuff too.
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Old 2006-01-18, 03:51   Link #13
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What do ya know... It's a wiki >.<
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Old 2006-01-29, 14:50   Link #14
Syaoran
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Sounds interesting ^^

Unfortunately for me, I ignored my talents for languages and studied informatics...
I've come to a point that I really regret it.

Oh well... I started to learn Japanese at home now using the Japantimes Genki books. Ever since I've been there last year, it's the only thing that really motivated me ^^

Maybe some day in the future, I might reach a decent level of knowledge.
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Old 2007-10-17, 00:19   Link #15
anonymous_coward
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Sorry that I've gone MIA since my last post, but hey, I need to make a living somehow.

I hope this thread is useful to improve your Japanese language at the very least, and if not, well I guess I failed. And I hope that the current supply/demand for translators is not as dire as it was, which prompted to create this thread.

If there was one thing most translator have problem with is hearing comprehension. It's not really an issue in anime, compared to real-life Japanese -- and yes there's a huge difference, but it's a very important skill so that you don't guess-late (guessing instead of translating). I've been searching for many ways to improve this skill, and I found this thread in a Japanese language forum: http://www.jpalc.com/bbs/viewtopic.php?t=44 (second post).

I've translated the important ones which are as follow:
Everyday, listen to the news in Japanese for one minute, and write down what you have heard.

Listen to the news for ten minutes. If there is any word you don't know, listen to the news again until you grasp its meaning.

Read a Japanese literature aloud, record it, and see if you've read them eloquently. Bad pronunciation will affect your listening comprehension.

Think in Japanese.


Many time is wasted relistening, and relistening, and relistening yet again while translating. I guess this is it for now. I will update the first post in the next weeks, not next year, I hope.
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Old 2007-10-17, 16:17   Link #16
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This is a great thread (I've been on a similar path of my own for two years now).

And yes, *listening* to japanese regularly for comprehension is vital --- because the average japanese dialog isn't slowly and carefully pronounced. Its lively and sloppy.

Thanks for the links -- I've got a whole bookshelf of resources but any new way of looking at things is always appreciated.

At present, I can read japanese (with dictionaries at hand) slowly. I can write japanese (but limited subjects and still way too much kana). I'm probably a "second grader" using the japanese system. My biggest weakness is in generating my own conversation... which I'm trying to correct over the next semester or two.
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Old 2007-11-07, 08:34   Link #17
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I've rewritten the whole article. Will update the post again with translation tips later. Have fun.
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Old 2007-11-07, 08:59   Link #18
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While I'm no where near being able to translate J2E (only started this year), this is a very intereseting thread. Many thanks for the links. It's bound to be useful to me!
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Old 2007-11-14, 18:22   Link #19
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Step 1: Learn Japanese
Step 2: ...
Step 3: profit!
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Old 2007-11-15, 06:00   Link #20
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To me, if anyone wanted to study Japanese, they really gotta put continuous effort in it by joining a fansub group to apply his knowledge of the Japanese he/she has while studying at the same time.
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