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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 2004-12-01, 02:15   Link #21
Sylf
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With the option 1, I take it as translating everything literally, word for word. I tend to cringe on that idea.

While I see NoSanninWa's point being valid, there are other instances where things will make either no sense, or mis-lead the viewer if a line is translated word for word.

Let's take couple Japanese idioms.
豪にいらるば豪に従え (Gou ni iraruba gou ni shitagae)
Translating this word for word would be [I]Once you are in a country, do as the countrymen do[/]. It should be pretty obvious to English speaker that this is When in Rome, do as Romans do. Translating this literally doesn't hurt too much. But if it's that obvious, why not use the standard English phrase? A keen viewer will notice that the character never mentioned "Roma" in the conversation, but it shouldn't bother the viewer too terribly.

二束のわらじをはいた (Nisoku no waraji wo haita)
Translating this word for word would be wearing two pairs of sandals. But the real meaning of this phrase is actually posessing two distinct talents (such as being a great athlete and a musician). I'm not sure the literal translation of this can get the point across, without the prior knowledge of that particular phrase. And what's the chance of that?

If we consider all these as still being "literal", then I would lean further into #1.

==========

I do have more problem with more common, short phrases....
"Itadakimasu" "Gochisousama" "Ittekimasu" "Itterasshai"
I constantly wonder how literal I want to be with phrase like those.

==========

Then there are times when the original phrase are ambiguous by design.
First, there are times when the character doesn't speak out the full sentence. As Japanese grammer puts the verb at the end of the sentence, where it comes right after the subject in English, it creates great challenge for translators to compensate for it. Should some verb be made up, and leave off some words, or should the character just utter out all the words spoken by the original character?
Second, I curse other difference of the language differences, such as lack of gender-specific words, or lack of singular/plural distinction in Japanese. For example, toward the end of FMA, the homuncli often talked about "ano kata" (that person). It's very ambiguous if that person is male or female. In natural English language, such phrase should be translated either him or her. But that completely negates that intended ambiguity. But translating that as that person just makes me cringe. I just can't get a happy medium. (There are times when my editors will come up with very clever alternatives, and I'm very grateful for them.)
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Old 2004-12-01, 02:28   Link #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sylf
Then there are times when the original phrase are ambiguous by design.
First, there are times when the character doesn't speak out the full sentence. As Japanese grammer puts the verb at the end of the sentence, where it comes right after the subject in English, it creates great challenge for translators to compensate for it. Should some verb be made up, and leave off some words, or should the character just utter out all the words spoken by the original character?
Second, I curse other difference of the language differences, such as lack of gender-specific words, or lack of singular/plural distinction in Japanese. For example, toward the end of FMA, the homuncli often talked about "ano kata" (that person). It's very ambiguous if that person is male or female. In natural English language, such phrase should be translated either him or her. But that completely negates that intended ambiguity. But translating that as that person just makes me cringe. I just can't get a happy medium. (There are times when my editors will come up with very clever alternatives, and I'm very grateful for them.)
The whole thing about pronouns absolutely having to have a gender in English really pisses me off when I'm translating stuff from Japanese. It's cool to finally find out that a much talked about person is a man or a woman, but it's not so cool when the translation just reveals that detail w/o even getting up to the point in the story where it should be revealed.
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Old 2004-12-01, 02:36   Link #23
NoSanninWa
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Originally Posted by Sylf
With the option 1, I take it as translating everything literally, word for word. I tend to cringe on that idea.

While I see NoSanninWa's point being valid, there are other instances where things will make either no sense, or mis-lead the viewer if a line is translated word for word.
The option is "as close as possible to a literal translation" not an exact literal translation. Nobody ever suggested a word-for-word exactitude. There are times that you need to make some changes to be comprehensible. I understand that. The example that was quoted didn't need those changes.

Often translaters go farther than necessary.
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Old 2004-12-01, 02:43   Link #24
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Boo! Boo! NoSanninWa is stealing all my lines, booo! Yeah, I voted for option 1 as well. Every translation inevitably involves some interpretation, but I think the best translations translate as much as possible the original text/dialogue and meaning, and when I say translate, I mean translate, not just "what's the essence of this line? Okay, let me put it like this, it's practically the same." NO. Translate. I want to know what the writer actually said, as much as possible. Naturally the grammar and sentence structure will have to change to accomodate English patterns, no "him I like" but in terms of content, I prefer it to stick as closely to the original as possible.

EDIT: It says 17+36+4 voters, but at the bottom it says 46 votes. Is it that my math is just bad or is something fishy going on?
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Old 2004-12-01, 03:00   Link #25
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Originally Posted by Dorfl
EDIT: It says 17+36+4 voters, but at the bottom it says 46 votes. Is it that my math is just bad or is something fishy going on?
Something fishy is going on. The poll allows people to vote for more than 1 options. Blame the poll maker.
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Old 2004-12-01, 03:22   Link #26
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Originally Posted by NoSanninWa
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.
I agree. I assume the original line was said in a humorous context. (But how should I know, right?) With that said, I think the "reborn as chocolate" part is what makes the line somewhat funny. Translating it for another viewpoint loses part of the humor and merely makes it something that any English-speaking person could've said in a non-humorous fashion.

On another note, I've seen the opposite actually happen. In The Twelve Kingdoms by Anime Works for example, the translator left the word "Daigaku" untranslated and assumed that it was a proper noun--a name, in other words. It just really made me wonder if that was the original intention of the Japanese script. Other glaring things--albeit minor in their own right--can also be noted. But these involve editing more than anything else.

Personally, I prefer that the translator go for the literal if he or she is terribly unsure of how to transliterate a particular line into an English-speaking context. Translation notes are always welcome anyway. I think that's a safe way of doing things.

I know I'm no translator, but I would at least like to give my opinion as a 100% bilingual caught between two languages which arguably have so little in common with each other.

Translating can be a headache sometimes. And for me, it's really a struggle between literal translation and cultural transliteration.

Last edited by kujoe; 2004-12-01 at 03:33.
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Old 2004-12-01, 04:25   Link #27
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Let's take couple Japanese idioms.
豪にいらるば豪に従え (Gou ni iraruba gou ni shitagae)
二束のわらじをはいた (Nisoku no waraji wo haita)
actually, in this case, i would prefer if these were to be translated literally, and then the appropriate context explained in a translation note. heh guess I'm the kind of person who likes to know exactly what is being said, and takes delight in learning new stuff about the language (oooh so they have such a saying ). And I find translation notes to be a really useful tool that is sadly rarely used in fansubs.
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Old 2004-12-01, 06:07   Link #28
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I found a really good solution to this problem - learn Japanese. And stop translating, if you're a translator.

I find it amusingly sad that there are people who have watched anime for many years and still don't understand anything.
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Old 2004-12-01, 07:10   Link #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K_R
I found a really good solution to this problem - learn Japanese.
I've been meaning to do that for most of my life, and I still haven't got round to it!

Quote:
A literal translation was something like "I like chocolate so much I hope I am reborn as a chocolate!"
I agree completely with NoSanninWa; there's absolutely nothing wrong with this line, and it should not have been re-phrased.
I think a line should be re-phrased if there's going to be any confusement in the fast-reading of it (keeping in mind that subtitles are on the screen for seconds), or is leaving it literal will create any ambiguity.
Whenever I've been editing recently, I've been crazy about keeping any details and meaning; but then again, there's the odd times when a line just DOESN'T work, and one can't think of a good way to re-phrase it and keep the meaning completely. And in situations like that, well... it could be worse ^^
It's generally similar to my theory in encoding: smoothing detail to keep blocking down, VS not smoothing detail and introducing blocking...
One probably won't know how much detail there originally was, but a block can be indentified as an error: it's the same with editing.
Changing the meaning a little bit and making sure it works 100% in good English won't be indentified as an error, while "keeping it real" (:P) and using a literal might kick the English a bit.

That's some of my 2 cents on it, anyway...
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Old 2004-12-01, 09:48   Link #30
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I've gone with option 2 and I'd like to express why, as well as what I mean exactly by this choice.
Back when I was in my first years of university, we did lots of translation exercises in english class, and this is probably where my conceptions of what a good translation is comes from.
So what should a good translation do in my optinion (I don't really make a distinction between translating a book or an anime which may be wrong ) :

- All the inforamtion contained in the original text should be present in the translation.

- However, if some information is deemed to hard to understand for the average viewer because of cultural differences, a note should be made. (I much prefer this method to altering the content which is IMO a blasphemy )

- One should try to convey the style of the sentance, but it's structure however is of no importance.

- Ideally the translator should watch the whole serie (read the whole book) and make style choices based on all that information. These choices should be concistent throughout the translation.


Now I know point 3 and 4 poses some problem in fansubs. Point 3, because when certain sentances' world order are changed you get to hear something that has nothing to do with the text you're reading which can be disturbing for people who understand a little japanese but not enough. As for point 4, it's obviously a problem because many groups translate the series on the fly, however, to make an accurate translation it really is necessary.

edit : typo
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Last edited by Baba; 2004-12-01 at 15:20.
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Old 2004-12-01, 12:44   Link #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirCanealot
I've been meaning to do that for most of my life, and I still haven't got round to it!



I agree completely with NoSanninWa; there's absolutely nothing wrong with this line, and it should not have been re-phrased.
I think a line should be re-phrased if there's going to be any confusement in the fast-reading of it (keeping in mind that subtitles are on the screen for seconds), or is leaving it literal will create any ambiguity.
Whenever I've been editing recently, I've been crazy about keeping any details and meaning; but then again, there's the odd times when a line just DOESN'T work, and one can't think of a good way to re-phrase it and keep the meaning completely. And in situations like that, well... it could be worse ^^
It's generally similar to my theory in encoding: smoothing detail to keep blocking down, VS not smoothing detail and introducing blocking...
One probably won't know how much detail there originally was, but a block can be indentified as an error: it's the same with editing.
Changing the meaning a little bit and making sure it works 100% in good English won't be indentified as an error, while "keeping it real" (:P) and using a literal might kick the English a bit.

That's some of my 2 cents on it, anyway...
I'm glad this got some response, I figured it would be controversial. Let add one thing, the show this is taken from is (as might be obvious to some people) is "Pretty Cure", a show designed for young girls and aired early mornings. Indeed, had the intended audience been older people I would have left it unchanged. But my thought process goes like this: Would a 11 year old american girl (the corresponding american audience) understand what is meant by the original phrase? Not neccesarily. In an anime designed for more mature viewers, cultural references like this should be left in.
Now this begs the question: "Isn't the audience of fansub viewers (the subject of this poll) destinctly DIFFERENT then the audience of the original Japanese anime?" And should the translator take that into account? I feel to keep the overall intent of the show as being aimed at young people more important than the (perhaps unfortunate fact) that fansubs are primarily watched by 15-25 year old males.

(Actually I had an internal debate about this one, and I'm still not sure I made the right decision, but this is a good place to hear opinions so I'm happy to discuss).
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Old 2004-12-01, 15:53   Link #32
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I think everyone who's responded so far and has brilliant points, but when I go about translation, I'm afraid, as most of you seem to not like so much, go with 1. When Japanese idioms come up, then I will try and translate them into some English equivalent, but if I can't figure out one, I'll put a translation note explaining what the idiom means. I think 2 can really go too far at times. Right now I'm watching Viz' Hana Yori Dango and the amount of simplification and re-wording things is unbelievable. They go as far as mistranslating episode titles completely and lines completely with maybe a little bit of the true meaning left behind it. I assume they do this because there's an American audience but doing something like that in my opinion, really insults the creators and scriptwriters for the series.

For example, Episode 29 is called "Aitsu no Nukumori" which literally means "His Warmth" in the case of the episode. However, Viz decided to translate this as, "His Body Against Mine" or something alone those lines. Yes, this action can be seen in the episode, sure, but it isn't the correct translation, and just because it happens in the episode doesn't mean you want to destroy a title translation because of such. Also if you know anything about the series, they pretty much don't translate any of Doumyouji's word-jokes at all. Let me explain for those who don't know much about the series. The other characters explain somethings, normally complex, and Doumyouji doesn't know the word and mishears and thinks its something else and normally questions about it which is actually pretty funny at times. However, in their translation, this is completely lost.

When I see fansubs doing something along the same lines, I'm disgusted. When I see fansubs do this for even one line, I'm disgusted. So keeping this in mind, in my own translations, I work as much as possible to keep what the scriptwriter's had in mind and keep to the true meaning. My two cents.
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Old 2004-12-01, 17:54   Link #33
SirCanealot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quarkboy
But my thought process goes like this: Would a 11 year old american girl (the corresponding american audience) understand what is meant by the original phrase? Not neccesarily. In an anime designed for more mature viewers, cultural references like this should be left in.
Now this begs the question: "Isn't the audience of fansub viewers (the subject of this poll) destinctly DIFFERENT then the audience of the original Japanese anime?" And should the translator take that into account?
I'll note first of all one thing I find amusing: you have a show which is aimed at 10 year olds in Japan, but people go mad about fansubbing it for 15-25 year old geeks? Something to consider...

And, I'd have to say that an 11 year old "american" girl is NOT the corisponding audience for a fansub.
I think the audience most fansubs apply to is starkly different to what the original audience is. It wouldn't suprise me if there wasn't a single 11 year old american girl who didn't watch that fansub.
Anime is something that is taken COMPLETELY out of a difference culture. We've seen it with Dragon Ball Z censorship (among others): when an anime series is taken to fit a "corresponding" audience, major changes must be made, because the of the sheer difference in society across Japan and the west.
Infact, looking at it from that point of view, the motivations you have changed that line on, could be considered a form of censorship. Although, that is of course NOT what I'm saying, it's just something that popped into my head, heh.

Anyway, I'm starting to ramble...
In my opinion, things like that should be discussed with editors (assuming of course, that you have access to good ones; and, it sounds like that's what you did anyhow). The concept of "rebirth" as "something else" is something I'd never say would be lost on an 11 year old. Reincarnation is a very commonly thought of thing, and from day 1 most of us have religion drilled into us: Jesus sacrificed himself, but was reborn, etc; so, in a way, it's a concept that should fall under basic logic to anyone of that age. But then again, we are saying "American", aren't we? :P

Anyway, to summerise simply, I'd have gone against your descision, although I understand where you are coming from.

Dragosmore: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Extensive paraphrasing is always gay...
I'm kinda happy I don't know when it's being done 99.99% of the time, haha.
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Old 2004-12-01, 21:37   Link #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirCanealot
And, I'd have to say that an 11 year old "american" girl is NOT the corisponding audience for a fansub.
...
In my opinion, things like that should be discussed with editors (assuming of course, that you have access to good ones; and, it sounds like that's what you did anyhow).
First, what I meant by "Corresponding audience" was whom the creators of the show would feel their show was intended for, even outside Japan. In this case, I think it is clear that they would see the show as designed for children even in America. Secondly, _I_ am the editor, however I work with the translator directly (i.e. in the same room) to produce the scripts, and happen to have about 3 years of japanese. Actually I kind of wish my translator was more opinionated like all of you; frankly he just agrees with anything I say.

If I end up editing (or even translating) another anime in the future, I think I might take a more literal approach. In the end, it might be doing more harm then good to overanalyse these sorts of things. It's almost a federalism type argument: should the translator trust in the viewer's ability to properly understand the cultural aspects of the translated text, or should he (or she) take it upon himself to determine how much to rephrase those concepts into english versions to best suit the intended audience.
Obviously either extreme spells failure.
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Old 2004-12-01, 21:59   Link #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quarkboy
Secondly, _I_ am the editor, however I work with the translator directly (i.e. in the same room) to produce the scripts.......
Heh, that's one of the reasons I like working with several editors: it usually means a diverse set of opinions on any one issue. And if you've got 3 of you, you can ever take votes on things
And rofl, trust me. My being "opinionated" swings both ways
But, I agree. I'd rather argue my head off over something rather than have the guy just say "Fine, you da boss!" or something. Even if you argue, and you settle to be wrong, at least it seems like the guy kinda cares/knows what he's talking about that way :P

And on the audience aspect, I feel that one CANNOT give audience to anime outside of Japan. At least, not very effectively. Anime is still a niche thing outside of Japan. Even if it's managed to go somewhat mainstream with things like Spirited Away etc, there's still only the generic anime, who can vary greatly in age, and will frequantly watch things aimed at all age groups, heh.

I mean, I can see the depth this can be discussed into...
Anyone else have any input on "audience"? ^_^
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Old 2004-12-01, 23:08   Link #36
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Originally Posted by SirCanealot
I mean, I can see the depth this can be discussed into...
Anyone else have any input on "audience"? ^_^
I believe that it's dangerous to try to "guess the demographic". Not really the job of fansubbers, we just need to get the dialogue across. I would caution against catering a show's dialogue for a younger audience. You'll find very few younger children that can or would read subtitles, particularly at the speed they come and go in anime at times.
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Old 2004-12-01, 23:37   Link #37
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Originally Posted by Quarkboy
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.
I agree that a "good translation" must take into account the target audience and make appropriate adjustments to the original in order to have it deliver the "punch" like it is supposed to. However, due to the fact that in most forms of entertainment (from French novels to Italian operas to American films, etc. etc.), there is a significant variation among the so-called "target audience" that, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to create a single translation that will be very well-received by all the different people with very diverging views and values who are reading the translation. It is therefore quite impossible to make the "one good translation to please them all", and how "good" a translation is depends just as much on the audience as it depends on the translators.

However, I think that while it is good to see translators keeping the interest of their particular preconceived target audience in mind, it is equally (if not more) important to keep the interest of the original author's intention in mind, and in particular, the significance of the diction of the original text. This, I think, is one of the two greatest challenges in translation (the other being finding a stylistically similar way of conveying the same message in the language the work is being tranlsated into).

Personally, I am more critical about how faithful the translation holds up to the original message (or at least what I perceive as the original message), especially if it has thematic significance. I am not trying to nitpick, but I think there is a substantial difference between the original text and your translation in your example.

"I love chocolate so much I wish I could be reborn as chocolate" is fundamentally different from "I like chocolate so much I hope that heaven is made of chocolate!"

The love of chocolate in "having a heaven made of chocolate" is not only the love of the chocolate itself, but also necessarily the love of the consumption of chocolate, that is, love to eat chocolate.

The love of chocolate so intense as to wish for "rebirth as a chocolate" instead conveys an almost narcissistic love for the subject chocolate and the concept of "being a chocolate" as ideal. That is, the qualities of chocolate is anthropomorphized to some degree into human qualities (or vice versa). The wish for "rebirth as a chocolate" also invites some reintepretation of a wish for "being eaten", which may spawn a whole slew of weird subtext that may or may not have been intended by the author, but is certainly viable in the original text, which is however lost in the translation.

The translators' judgment of how important the subtext is to the original work and their subsequent decisions to keep or cut the subtext is one area I look for when I think about if a translation is "good" or not (to me, for I have no intention to speak for others). One example I will use is the opening line of Shinkai Makoto's "Hoshi no Koe" and the American dub.

The original version says, quite literally, "There is a word called 'World.'" My personal intepretation is that this line, with less than ten syllables, is echoed throughout the film and is ultimately the "anchor" for all the themes and perhaps the bottom of the message by the original author. The confirmation of a word called 'World', without the support from any human character, speaks for the validity and solidity of the statement.

There is a WORLD out there, but how much people know about this vast world, whether from "the limits of the radiowaves" or literally to the edges of the solar system and beyond, is up to they themselves and each other. The female protagonist of the film and her journey, can then be viewed as something much greater than her own personal travails, but as a concentrate of the travails of Humanity and its longing for friendship, for communication, for understanding, in a seemingly barren universe where nobody else can be reached.

All these intepretations can only be held up by the sweeping and (I think) stoically poetic statement, "There is a word called 'World.'" Which immediately expands the arena of action from a simple girl's life in space to the entire World, or perhaps even the entire Universe.

Which is why I was extremely disappointed when I heard the dub "Somebody told me, that if you call them, they will hear you." This is, no doubt, a much more concrete opening statement. And looking in terms of the specific plot details of the film (something about an intergalactic romance sustained only on cell phone text messages), the translation is quite fitting, and without the awkwardness of a literal translation.

However, by basing the claim on an unidentified speaker, and magnifying the statement to very strictly interpersonal communication, the translation immediately limits the scope of the film to what is essentially a very ordinary anime romance set in space, that runs for only half an hour or so. A single line drastically changes the significance and impact of the entire film.

To me, that is sloppy intepretation of the original, and bad translation. However, should I have not been able to have access to the "original" text, my blame would be on the anime. I would say, "this is a pretty ordinary, uninspired film." I think that is why translation should only be used as a tool to navigate the vast numbers of works in a foreign language. The most unbiased reading of a text is done in its original language.

But, I think it is interesting to note that the construction of a "target audience" itself lends insight into the translators - and perhaps in turn an insight into the collected culture's view of the "foreign materials" and what they seek to find in these imports. Perhaps we can know more about how "American Culture" sees and thinks about anime from how the translators treated their work and the reconstruction of the "target audience" in the process of translation.
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Old 2004-12-01, 23:57   Link #38
NoSanninWa
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To summarize that wonderful post The Yellow Dwarf just made, since too many people zoned out midway through it.

Poetry should not be simplified. Many of these metaphors are beautifully poetic. By making a translation that explains them instead of translating them you loose many of their meanings.

I couldn't agree more.
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Old 2004-12-02, 00:17   Link #39
Quarkboy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Yellow Dwarf
The love of chocolate so intense as to wish for "rebirth as a chocolate" instead conveys an almost narcissistic love for the subject chocolate and the concept of "being a chocolate" as ideal. That is, the qualities of chocolate is anthropomorphized to some degree into human qualities (or vice versa). The wish for "rebirth as a chocolate" also invites some reintepretation of a wish for "being eaten", which may spawn a whole slew of weird subtext that may or may not have been intended by the author, but is certainly viable in the original text, which is however lost in the translation.
Ah, but here you have lost something important in your analysis... context and speaker. Now, I can't blame you since I didn't explain them, however this line is spoken by Nagisa, the main character, who is a relatively stupid middle school student. In fact, her general ignorance and shallow perception is a common theme in the show. In my opinion this subtext is in fact NOT part of the author's intent, and having Nagisa say something which sounds poetic would be out of character. To a native speaker, would any of this subtext you say be apparent? No, because it has nothing to do with the story. The only intended meaning was her great love of eating chocolate. One can argue whether that is better portrayed in the literal translation, but as for your claim that the non-literal loses fundamental poetic properties, I say the line never had them in the first place.

So to summarize, poetry should be kept as such, but remember that sometimes what is simple in one language is poetic in another.
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Old 2004-12-02, 00:25   Link #40
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What's so hard to understand about a Buddhist concept? It's not like Buddhist concepts are so foreign to the English speaking public that they wouldn't understand. I'm sure an eleven year old girl has heard of such terms as karma and reincarnation by then, whatever religion she is.

Btw... Japan is largely Shinto/Buddhist
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