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View Poll Results: What makes a good translation, in your opinion?
Keeping every line as close as possible to a literal translation 38 28.36%
Trying to understand the essence of the original line and finding the best English to capture that 105 78.36%
Thinking of the audience and giving them what they expect or what they feel comfortable with 11 8.21%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 134. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 2004-11-30, 13:28   Link #1
kaerichi
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Question What makes a good translation?

I'm doing a little research to try and figure out what the average watcher of fansubs believes makes a good translation. I have a feeling that we (the online fansub community) judge translations based on different criteria than the professional translators working for official anime licensing companies do.

If you leave a message, please state how long you've been watching anime and how long you've been watching or making fansubs. ^_^
Do you think that your idea of a good translation changed as you gained more experience and knowlege of Japanese culture? If you went through stages, what were they?

I made the poll so that you can choose more than one option, but I still chose only one. I can see that people might have different criteria depending on the situation, though.
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Old 2004-11-30, 13:42   Link #2
Sylf
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That's an interesting question, and I'm very curious what kind of answers will be thrown in, by the viewers, not the translators.

P.S.
How the heck do the average viewers determine if the translations they're listening/reading is strict literal, or interpreted?
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Old 2004-11-30, 13:50   Link #3
hooliganj
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Options 1 and 2 are both legit enough, although I heavily prefer 2, and always have. All too often a literal translation will leave me scratching my head over some reference or phrase that simply did not translate well, and substituting an English language equivalent helps immensely. Also, this is dialogue being translated, and should end up reading like something someone might actually say. Literal translations rarely pull this off. It's not the fault of any translator, it's just the Japanese and English have different ways of saying things, different styles of grammer and jargon, so that a direct translation doesn't sound like it could have originated from English, it will always sound like translated Japanese.

As for option 3, that's for professional subbers to worry about. If a fansubber is using that as their consideration, they need to reevaluate why they do this in the first place.

As for length of time involved, I've been watching for nearly 10 years now, but only recently getting involved with subbing, unless you count small private projects, in which case it's been about 3 years for that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sylf
How the heck do the average viewers determine if the translations they're listening/reading is strict literal, or interpreted?
If you notice that a particular phrasing is something that no English speaking person would ever use, then it's probably literal. Aside from that, no there isn't any way.
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Old 2004-11-30, 13:53   Link #4
Dorfl
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I think it would have to be a mix of the first and the second options. I think it would be good to try and bring across the essence of the line in the best English, but in choosing that best English one would have to stick as closely to original text as possible. Needless to say, one should not throw in expletives where there are none, as I've seen in some subs, and or just guess when you don't know what a line means.

*Not sure what you mean by the 3rd option, it looks more like assuming than translating to me. If the viewers expect Naruto to say -ttebayo every line you just sprinkle ttebayos all over the place?

*Speaking of ttebayo, I'd like to hear what translators have to say about translating such colloquialisms and accents and other things that don't come across too easily in English. And speaking of English, I'd like to hear what people who translate into French/German/other languages have to say about the issue as well. This is an interesting thread, kaerichi.

EDIT: Define "average viewers" Sylf, so we know what you have in mind.
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Old 2004-11-30, 14:09   Link #5
Sylf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorfl
EDIT: Define "average viewers" Sylf, so we know what you have in mind.
I know "average" is very vague term used anywhere. I didn't have any specific definition in my mind, but... say, someone who has little to no formal knowledge of Japanese (someone who will in no-way qualify as a translator), who has been watching fansub for a while. (Maybe you can catch a common phrase here and there...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorfl
*Not sure what you mean by the 3rd option, it looks more like assuming than translating to me. If the viewers expect Naruto to say -ttebayo every line you just sprinkle ttebayos all over the place?

*Speaking of ttebayo, I'd like to hear what translators have to say about translating such colloquialisms and accents and other things that don't come across too easily in English.
This issue was somewhat addressed in Question about ben(dialects) and its translation. There are times when you can do *some* translation/interpolation of it in the sub. But that's about it. (Of course, it is a cause of headache when such dialect / colloquialisms become the subject of the episode, or jokes.)
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Old 2004-11-30, 14:17   Link #6
jonny-mt
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I would have to say it's a mix of the first and second. Although it is simply unavoidable sometimes, it is a translator's job to ensure that no part of the Japanese sentence is ignored if possible--I can't tell you how many times I've seen 'mitai' or 'you da' or 'kamoshirenai' etc. constructs ignored in a t/l when putting them in would be a very simple matter. In this vein, then, a translator must also be aware of Japanese phrases--'yaku ni tatsu', 'kibun wo dasu'--that have a real meaning that doesn't necessarily line up perfectly with the straightforward literal translation ("stand in a role/be useful" and "emit feeling/create an atmosphere [often of seriousness]", respectively). Fansubs that miss things like these are indicative of a bad overall translation.
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Old 2004-11-30, 14:23   Link #7
Enragin_Angel
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I'm for number 2, but for puns that obviously don't translate well into english, a literal translation with a note as to what the pun is would be my preference.
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Old 2004-11-30, 18:14   Link #8
Lina Inverse
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Clearly only this:
[X] Keeping every line as close as possible to a literal translation

Anything else is no translation, but rather an adaption or interpretation of what is said.
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Old 2004-11-30, 19:01   Link #9
Heibi
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A mixture of 1 and 2. Keeping it too literal is sometimes completely incoherent, so you have to use #2 to make it grammatically correct. I sometimes get very literal lines from a translator and you wonder what was just said. I have to go back and ask for a better meaning in that case and a better way to word it. So you can't strictly go with number 1. #3 is right out

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Old 2004-11-30, 19:58   Link #10
Quarkboy
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As someone who edits (and at times, helps translate a bit), I can site a good example of why you really need to keep number 2 in mind at all times.
Take the pharse "shikkari shite!"... in the same episode, I translated it as "get it together", "hang on", and "snap out of it", as it was used in three different contexts. To literally translate would be "be steady", but you have to try and convey the meaning of what's being said, and not the literal word for word translation, otherwise you end up losing information, not gaining it.

As far as I'm concerned, the "perfect" translation is the one that conveys the exact same "information content" as the original, including any "subtextual" information contained in phrasing choice or speach level.
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Old 2004-11-30, 20:11   Link #11
Quarkboy
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sorry for the double post, but I thought I'd defend three, to a point:

It IS important to keep the audience in mind when translating, specifically any predudices they might have, so that you don't add unintended meaning to what's being said. Again, I site an example:

A literal translation was something like "I like chocolate so much I hope I am reborn as a chocolate!"

The notion of reincarnation is prevalent and common in eastern culture, but in western culture (the primary audience for english fansubs) it is often viewed as somewhat odd, and that statement probably would seem like a really dumb thing to say (even more so than to a japanese person).

I chose to translate it as: "I like chocolate so much I hope that heaven is made of chocolate!"

Completely nonliteral, but I feel it conveys the intended meaning (that she really really really loves chocolate) to the intended audience (namely, westerners) better than the literal translation.
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Old 2004-11-30, 20:44   Link #12
DaFool
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I think I can qualify as Sylf's definition of "average viewer". I've been watching anime regularly for four and a half years now. I like option number 1 because:

the "professional" licensing company translators perform option number 2 and 3 mostly from a script. A literal translation from someone actually translating while watching is more trusted, in my opinion, to get the core essence of what is being said, even if what is said is culturally or idiomatically alien to the audience (hence the need for liner notes.)

I've gotten so used to Japanese honorifics and "Yoda-speak", for example

%*@(%U@ Kaoru-sama %@(@%*&@) atashi suki.

(this is just a made-up sentence)

I'd rather have something like,

"Because Kaoru-sama is nice, him I like"

rather than the more "professional" such as

"I like Kaoru because he is nice."

That's because I hear Kaoru-sama so my mind is troubled when I only hear Kaoru . Also, I hear the word suki and atashi at the end of the sentence, so I want to have the translations for those words appearing exactly around when those words were said in the sentence, not before nor after.
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Old 2004-11-30, 21:27   Link #13
Dagger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaFool
"Because Kaoru-sama is nice, him I like"

rather than the more "professional" such as

"I like Kaoru because he is nice."

That's because I hear Kaoru-sama so my mind is troubled when I only hear Kaoru . Also, I hear the word suki and atashi at the end of the sentence, so I want to have the translations for those words appearing exactly around when those words were said in the sentence, not before nor after.
But then what's the point of translating anything? English isn't meant to follow Japanese sentence structures (as is evidenced by the extremely awkward-sounding sentence you provided--that's the type of thing I expect to see in HK bootlegs, not fansubs). Moreover, while forcing English subtitles to precisely follow Japanese patterns of speech might sometimes produce reasonable results, most of the time it's going to sound silly or just end up being a jumbled mess.

If you understand Japanese to the point that seeing subtitles "out of order" bothers you, it seems to me that spending a couple of years learning the language (and meanwhile watching stuff raw) might behoove you more than simply disliking the way the vast majority of fansubbers/professionals do things.
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Old 2004-11-30, 22:25   Link #14
DaFool
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Originally Posted by Magus IX
But then what's the point of translating anything? English isn't meant to follow Japanese sentence structures (as is evidenced by the extremely awkward-sounding sentence you provided--that's the type of thing I expect to see in HK bootlegs, not fansubs). Moreover, while forcing English subtitles to precisely follow Japanese patterns of speech might sometimes produce reasonable results, most of the time it's going to sound silly or just end up being a jumbled mess.

If you understand Japanese to the point that seeing subtitles "out of order" bothers you, it seems to me that spending a couple of years learning the language (and meanwhile watching stuff raw) might behoove you more than simply disliking the way the vast majority of fansubbers/professionals do things.
I was actually addressing two issues which fansubbers may do differently from professionals. The first issue, the honorifics or other name attachments, fansubbers have been more faithful, but that is changing.

The second issue, the english sentence being put in reverse order to match the dialogue, does not have to sound awkward to anyone who is familiar with more languages than english--some feature similar sentence structures. It sure cannot pass as standard english, but the viewer's brain is more than capable of doing the ironing by itself. Dubtitles look just as bad, and it just puts my mind at ease if "x number of syllables spoken" is within the equivalent range of "y numbers of syllables in translated text"
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Old 2004-11-30, 22:40   Link #15
ChoBaka
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I find honorifics to be annoying...which is why I'll often just leave them out of a translation (unless adding a Mister/Misses or Master would be necessary in a certain situation). Then the editors always add them in. So, in a sense, it doesn't matter whether I translate them, leave them in, or take them out. They'll find their way into the final script.



I lean heavily towards 2, sometimes 3, but rarely 1.

I don't think most casual viewers notice. They just download whatever and watch it, as long as the subtitles make sense and they can get a clear sense of the story (or not, even).
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Old 2004-11-30, 23:16   Link #16
microlith
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Quote:
Keeping every line as close as possible to a literal translation
This is used for subs. Note this includes COMPLETE translations, no random words left in Japanese and no suffixes that only exist in Japanese left in the translation.

Quote:
Trying to understand the essence of the original line and finding the best English to capture that
This is what the people at dub studios do. They have to cause sometimes what's said in subtitles doesn't read well out loud, and they have to try to match the animation or it'll look funny (like the old Godzilla films.)

Three is iffy, since giving people what they're comfortable with works for some things and not others. Puns and cultural jokes might make more sense when changed up, or sometimes they won't. This is a call the translator and editor have to make.
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Old 2004-11-30, 23:55   Link #17
Somedude
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChoBaka
I find honorifics to be annoying...which is why I'll often just leave them out of a translation (unless adding a Mister/Misses or Master would be necessary in a certain situation). Then the editors always add them in. So, in a sense, it doesn't matter whether I translate them, leave them in, or take them out. They'll find their way into the final script.
As an editor, I've never liked leaving honorifics in. I've always preferred to drop it or use the English equivalent if the situation warranted. The use of honorifics is just not something that is understood by the average anime fan. As far as the above average fan, they'll probably just hear it in the dialogue. Besides, if you're going to leave that in, where do you draw the line? Should you leave in Oniisan/Oneesan or any number of other addresses? It's a slippery slope, and you'd have a hard time justifying leaving some honorifics in and not others or leaving in things that "people should already understand".

I try to keep things simple, and make sure that things could be understood by all level of fan, and honestly, that precludes leaving honorifics in.
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Old 2004-11-30, 23:58   Link #18
Enragin_Angel
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I think if the setting is in Japan or presumed to be in Japan, then leave the honorifics in. If it is set somewhere else...leave them out or change the honorifics accordingly.
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Old 2004-12-01, 01:01   Link #19
K_R
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Go for option 2. A translation needs to be understandable by the audience.

As far as honourifics, I agree with angel. Especially if the show is set in a very Japanese setting. People who actively go out to find fansubs have an active interest in Japanese and should understand honourifics.
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Old 2004-12-01, 01:44   Link #20
NoSanninWa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quarkboy
sorry for the double post, but I thought I'd defend three, to a point:

It IS important to keep the audience in mind when translating, specifically any predudices they might have, so that you don't add unintended meaning to what's being said. Again, I site an example:

A literal translation was something like "I like chocolate so much I hope I am reborn as a chocolate!"

The notion of reincarnation is prevalent and common in eastern culture, but in western culture (the primary audience for english fansubs) it is often viewed as somewhat odd, and that statement probably would seem like a really dumb thing to say (even more so than to a japanese person).

I chose to translate it as: "I like chocolate so much I hope that heaven is made of chocolate!"

Completely nonliteral, but I feel it conveys the intended meaning (that she really really really loves chocolate) to the intended audience (namely, westerners) better than the literal translation.
This is a perfect example of what I don't like!

I find that the original metaphor to be completely comprehensible. Everyone who saw "I like chocolate so much I hope I am reborn as a chocolate!" would understand it and probably get a chuckle out of it. It is just as clear and comprehensible as what you changed it to since everyone knows what reincarnation is even if they don't believe in it. I also like that it adds the flavor of the culture from which it came. (If I wanted to see a completely American viewpoint I'd watch the Cartoon Network.) By changing it, you removed all cultural context and made the joke much less amusing.

Thank you for explaining so clearly why I chose option 1.
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