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Introducing Quality Control - Translations

+ posted by njt in Quality Control on Apr 14, 2009 16:56

Having been in the online translation scene for the past 5 years, I've seen many, many translations, and since the start of MangaHelpers, I've seen the incredibly rapid birth and growth of speed translations and speed scanlations.

As a result of manga becoming easily obtainable, and more schools taking up Japanese in their curriculum, there have been quite a few translators out there with a year of Japanese under their belt who believed they have sufficient skills to, well, translate.

Aside from not having enough experience with the language to translate it properly, a lot of translators (myself included) tend to have problems with English. Grammar being wrong, punctuation horrible, and sentences not sounding fluid at all.

From what was sparked in a channel called #Translators in irchighway by a member stating how he hates MH, to me contacting a friend at Nihongoresources (who I've talked to, on and off, about the type of translations that come out of MangaHelpers), I've decided MH needs to play a more active role in the process of scanlations from translations to the finished product: the scans. And considering the size and the amount of translations that are posted here daily, it can only be done with your help!

So I'd like to start this off with an article (beware, it's quite a bit long. But I really want to stress that ALL Translators and Scanlators read it. Members and Leechers should read it, too, if you want to help improve the quality of what you're reading now~). For those who don't have time to read it, we'll be going over several
parts of this article in the next few weeks, so stay tuned :).

With that said, here's Pomax's article on "The Art of Translation" originally posted at http://pomax.livejournal.com



Much as anime fansubbing underwent a shift from fans working for fans (ye olde VHS days), to fans working for fun (the rm, asf and vivo days), to fans resisting the commercialisation (the speedsubbing and DVD ripping days), to fans not getting in the way of commercial release (the present), the manga translation scene seems to be going through the same progression. Of course, the phases overlap a little, so it's hard to say exactly where we are, but the prolific releasing and the associated quality seems to suggest we're in an interesting combination of the last three phases.

With scanlation having moved away from tankoubon ('anthologies' or 'collections') to individual chapters from the syndicating monthlies or biweeklies, the speed scanlation groups have started moving in, sacrificing quality for quantity, and doing something probably no one had realised was possible: shaped the expectations of the audience, not just for scanlations, but for official licensed products too.

Hopefully as someone with an understanding of Japanese, as well as language in general, my arguments will carry a bit more weight than a random user complaining on a manga forum, but it's time an uncomfortable truth was discussed: the kind of English used in modern scanlations is, on average, not English in the slightest. With the emergence of speed scanners the quality of translation has gone down so much that we're seeing this nonsense English back in actual official, licensed, English speaking country distributed products that we are charged money for to own - made possible because we're collectively responsible for indoctrinating the scanlation audience with nonsense English, breeding an expectation that is preventing the medium from being taken serious. After all, if you can't bother to translate something to real English, clearly it's not worth paying attention to.


Essentially, it's going wrong with enthusiast manga translators not translating from Japanese to English. Allow me to explain.

It is relatively easy to translate words. If we don't know how to translate certain words, we rely on dictionaries or native speakers to help us find alternative meanings that we might use in order to translate them within the setting of a sentence, and we'll typically end up with a coherent sentence.

But the story in a manga isn't composed of individual sentences. No running text is. Instead, it consists of sentences linked by what is known as discourse, and translating is about preserving discourse. You cannot translate any other way without doing a bad job at translating.

"Discourse" is the collection of underlying thoughts and intentions that motivated someone to write a text in the first place. Discourse is what makes a collection of sentences feel like "a text", instead of loose sentences. Put concisely, discourse is what an author "wanted to say", rather than what the words that he or she used to say it. Crucially, it is the presence or absence of identifiable discourse that determines whether or not a translator did a good job, or simply isn't a translator.

And here we hit a snag.


Continuous use of certain practices sets up a 'common ground' for contributors and consumers in a particular setting. That sounds complicated, but what it really means is that if for instance a group of people says "desu" at the end of every sentence, after a while people stop noticing how odd it is, people in the group stop questioning it, and when people outside the group remark on it, it's defended as a group-defining aspect. Americans have this with gun ownership, Canadians have it with using "eh", and the scanlation scene has it with completely nonsensical English...

If you consider the English used in scanlation to be just fine and you're wondering at this point what the actual problem is, allow me to go into more detail. In the scanlation world, translation started out as a hackjob: people wanted to be able to read manga, so suboptimal translations were just fine, people just wanted to be able to enjoy manga a little, and poor English was accepted as long as the reader could roughly understand what was going on.

And that was fine.

However, these days manga translation is big business. There are plenty of scanlation groups that will point out they are 'better' than other groups, and that they take pride in the quality of their work, and it is at this point that things become a problem: if you start to take pride in your work enough to assert that you are better than others, perhaps it is time to let go of the argument that "it's good enough for the audience" and actually start doing what you're pretending you're doing, and start translating Japanese to English.

Examples of nonsensical English are legion. Read any chapter of translated manga and you're likely to run into anything ranging from minor harassments of the English language to full blown rape homicide, leaving behind a trail of bleeding interpunction and a chalk outline of what was once language.


Actually, in many places. There are a number of things that a translator has to keep in mind, and try to avoid at all cost:

- Idiomatic constructions should not be translated literally
- Sentences should not be translated "per bubble", since the bubbles work for how Japanese sentences are chopped up, not how English sentences are chopped up.
- Words that are already entailed by translated words in a sentence should be left out.
- Verb mood, tense and even polarity may need to be changed to express the same grammatical construction.

Japanese and English are two different languages. This sounds elementary, but all too often people do not seem to realise this when they translate every word in a Japanese sentence and consider the translation done, even though this leaves the English translation with too many words; a sentence such as "even if by doing so we succeed, it will become difficult" is not an unusual sentence in a translated manga, even if it's not an English sentence at all.

This might sound weird to some people. Even if you don't read scanlations at all, you might be wondering how that statement could be true - after all, it uses English words, and you can figure out what it means.

However -- and this is a big however -- proper English does not need "figuring out". Real, natural English sentences are understood exactly because they are natural language. They don't have to be figured out before you know what they mean, because the way the words are arranged immediately reveals how you should interpret them. Arranging them differently, because the original phrase was not in English, just makes for unnatural and potentially highly convoluted sentences; the entire book "Everything is Illuminated" by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002) used the idea of writing out a non-English speaker's thoughts and sayings using English words and it was a mind-splitting pain to read.

Now, in the world of novels, this work could succeed because editors demand high quality English. You're not going to get a lemon fanfic or blog post published purely on "what the author has to say", he or she better damn well have some writing skills, being able to instill a sense of discourse in the reader. This also means that when a novel is intentionally written in broken English, this has to be done for a good reason, and Jonathan Safran Foer found one such reason.

In scanlation, it seems things are exactly the opposite; the quality demand by group leaders for their translators seems to be 'as low as still allows figuring out by the reader', and reasons to actually produce good translations are few and far between.


Let us look at that earlier sentence, "even if by doing so we succeed, it will become difficult", in more detail. We can pretend it is a translation for the Japanese phrase しても難しくなるぜ. The English sentence would be a near literal translation of this, but a good translator doesn't actually translate the sentence, he or she translates what the sentence means, and he or she translates them by using words and constructions in the target language that make sense in that language, not ones that map closest to the source language.

In general, an English sentence isn't English because it uses English words, it is an English sentence because it uses the right words and the right grammatical constructions, where "right" is a subjective term, but comes close to "what a professional editor would not consider wrong". So in this particular case, we can identify at least four problems with the aforementioned sentence "even if by doing so we succeed, it will become difficult":

1) it has too many words,
2) the words are in the wrong order,
3) a pronoun is used where it shouldn't be, and
4) the wrong verb tense is used.

In proper English, the sentence should have actually been: "Even if we succeed, things will be difficult".

Why? Because the act of 'succeeding' entails performing an action in English. We don't need to, and in fact shouldn't, add "by doing so" to the sentence. Second, "even if by doing so, we succeed" is simply the wrong word order. In Japanese the operative information comes later in the sentence, in English it comes earlier in the sentence: "we succeed by doing so" is natural, "by doing so, we succeed" is far less so. Now, mind, that is not to say you cannot use "by doing so, we succeed", but placing operative information later in the sentence is formal English. Unless the material you're translating is formal Japanese, carrying the ordering over to the translation is being a bad translator. That could simply be because no one ever told you, but that doesn't excuse the end result. It just means you can learn and improve.

Third, the pronoun 'it'... the dreaded pronoun 'it'. There's of course nothing wrong with this pronoun itself, but translators abuse the hell out of it. In English, we use 'it' for contextual back reference, and then only if we do not have an idiomatic expression to fall back on - in this case, we use "things" instead of "it", because that's what we use. Context in Japanese doesn't warrant using 'it' in English at every turn. Think before you commit to a translation.

The same goes for the last mistake. While the Japanese sentence used a verb form that translates to "will become", the English "will be" entails becoming, so using "things will be difficult" is perfect; "things will become difficult" on the other hand uses a double future tense.


I can understand you may read this and wondered why it would be worth to analyse every sentence in this way, when the meaning is sort of there in the original sentence, but the point is not that you - as a reader - can figure it out, the point concerns translators - my problem is with translators who don't bother to learn how to translate. A proper translator learns to think about translations by analysing what he or she produces:

Is what I translated English, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?

- Did I put in words that are already entailed by others, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?
- Did I leave off words that are required by idiomatic expressions, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?
- Are my words in the right order, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?
- Should I use a pronoun, or should I use actual nouns for contextual omissions, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?
- Am I using verb mood, tense and polarity correctly in English, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?
- Does this sentence link up to the previous sentence, or are they unconnected, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?

The quintessential requirement here is "if I ignore what the Japanese line read". A good translator will produce a text that stands on its own, without needing to be justified with "I know it sounds quirky, but otherwise it wouldn't say what the Japanese line said". A translation takes an idea from one language, and expresses it in another language. If the idea cannot be expressed in the target language, and this happens, then deal with it by coming up with an alternative text, expressing the same idea, rather than using unnatural constructions just to mimic a language that the audience doesn't understand.

Of course, you can rely on an editor or a proofer (technically these are different things, an editor checking whether discourse isn't broken, and a proofer making sure there are no typographical mistakes), but the problem starts at the translator. A good editor can turn a bad translation into a good English story, but it won't be a translation anymore. The best editor in the world cannot turn a bad translation into a good translation. They can only turn bad English into good English, so as a translator it is your responsibility to make sure that your translation is as good an English text as you can get it in the first place. Editors aren't there to catch your mistakes, that's what other translators are for.


I know many people will go "we're only doing this for fun, why are you harping on doing it right", to which I have only one reply really... just because you're doing it for fun, doesn't mean you're not f*cking it up for everyone else.

That's right, I said it.

Don't get me wrong, doing something "just for fun" is fine, as long as you don't pretend that once you get a real translation job, you'll change your method of work - because you won't.

There are, certainly, good translators out there, and there have been good scanlation translators who've gone on to get a job in the translation field, and deliver good work there, too. I salute these people, they do their profession justice. But, and this is a universal truth not just for translators, but any artist: they didn't become good translators after getting a real job, they were good translators to begin with.

Just like musicians become good at their music before the industry lets them on board, and visual artists must become good at their art before being able to sell their art, if you're a bad artist -- regardless the subject -- then getting paid for your art doesn't magically make you put all the things you know good artists do into practice. You'll still be a bad artist. Only now you're getting paid for it, even though you don't deserve it, and that means that suddenly you won't listen to critique anymore because the paycheck validates the quality of your work.

It does not.

In fact, and this is the really sad part, people tend to use their paycheck as a justification for delivering poor quality. Rather than working towards getting as good as possible at their art, they now only work towards keeping that paycheck, no longer being interested in improving or not, as long as they get paid.

And this is the reality of the situation: bad scanlation translators who find their way to a real manga translation company such as Viz or Dark Horse will end up creating just as bad translations as they did before, and guess what? Those translations make it to print. Yes, even commercial manga translators can produce nonsense translations, because they were bad translators before they got hired, and they didn't improve after they got hired because no one tells them to.

The convoluted part of this writing is that these people can be hired because the standard of the audience has been primed to be low. Scanlation has made the readers accept that nonsense English is not just acceptable, but is the golden standard, and licensed manga translators are hired at this competency level - because scanlations primed the audience to expect low quality, companies can get away with hiring people on the basis that "the audience won't mind, they're used to this anyway".

So the bottom line is that because we're translating "just for fun", we've shaped an industry where mediocrity is rewarded by us, with our own money.


Translation is an art. You can do it just for fun, or you can do it to make a living, but either do it right or don't do it for an audience. The internet certainly allows you to publish anything you think others might like, but while art critiquing in general on the internet has become mostly a standard (image boards are prolific, youtube is filled with performers learning from their audience's comments), for translation this seems to not have taken off (hopefully, yet).

It's easy to spot a hand that looks unnatural in a drawing, or spot a series of chords that "sound wrong" in a song, but reading a translation, comparing it to the original, is a lot of work - the unfortunate reality of the matter is that just because no one comments on how bad your translation is, that doesn't mean they didn't notice. It just means you, and everyone before you, bred an audience that just doesn't care anymore. You are, essentially, not taken serious, because "it doesn't matter".

So please, be self-critical. Listen to anyone who points out mistakes in your translations, because that is the only way you're going to learn from your mistakes. Unlike physical activities, you don't get better at translating by just doing it a lot, you need that feedback to know what you're doing wrong, or you'll just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Without correction, every repeated bad translation will make you more likely to use that same translation a next time, entrenching the mistakes. Seek out corrections, because waiting for people to comment on them isn't going to help you improve.

Read. Read English and Japanese books, know what sounds right in English, and what sounds right in Japanese, and most crucially, realise where the differences are. Both are just languages to express similar ideas, so how can you best express these ideas? Just because one language uses an "if" construction doesn't mean you need to find an "if" construction in the other language when the thought behind the expression isn't actually a true conditional - translation is an art for a reason: it's hard.

As parting words I suppose there's not much left to say... Mangahelpers.com is a great start, offering a place for translators to get feedback on their translation, and working with publishers towards a situation where scanlation and licensed publishing can coexist, but you need to put in the effort yourself.

Do we really consider manga to be so uninteresting a product that we simply don't care about the quality we, and by extension the industry, delivers? Keep expectations low, and anything mediocre is considered good?


Thank you for reading.
- Mike "Pomax" Kamermans, of nihongoresources.com

And again, a thanks for reading all of this from me too! Quite long, but very important if you ask me! And thanks Pomax for taking the time to write this ;).

Just in case you're wondering who Pomax is, well you can read about his achievements here. Or just know from me, that he's a guy that's constantly helping people understand Japanese with his site not to mention writing a 285 page book on Japanese language, grammar and syntax... for fun 0.o.

Have you shown your appreciation today? Click the thanks button or write your appreciation below!

0 members and 15 guests have thanked njt for this news
#1. by Loserbait ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
I'm completely for this effort and I'll try my best to help those out there who actively want their translations proofed for grammar and punctuation (and maybe fluidity).

But, yeah, I agree with you, Pomax. I really do.

"Just like musicians become good at their music before the industry lets them on board, and visual artists must become good at their art before being able to sell their art, if you're a bad artist -- regardless the subject -- then getting paid for your art doesn't magically make you put all the things you know good artists do into practice. You'll still be a bad artist. Only now you're getting payed for it, even though you don't deserve it, and that means that suddenly you won't listen to critique anymore because the paycheck validates the quality of your work."
Should be "paid". Also, ex. Kanye West.
#2. by Solwiggin ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
it doesn't help too much that even Pomax's essay is riddled with typos and grammatical errors.

Alas, i felt this should be edited so i don't get flamed, but we all make mistakes. I really appreciate what everyone does at this site, and I don't contribute much (I've been around since the birth of the site and I'm still a "beginner user"). All I really meant by my comment is that we all are going to make mistakes. Especially when you're group specifically waits until 4am EST for the chapter to be released to be scanned IMMEDIATELY. I don't mind bad quality in "speedlations." When SleepyFans makes errors I don't cry myself to sleep. I sit around very happy that some individual out there cared enough to wait up to give me my fix.

With all that said. I would LOVE for japanese to be fluently communicated to me in english (This'll never happen since it's impossible to take kanji and force ONE english word upon it.)

Forgive any typos or punctuation mistakes I've made, as this message is entirely candid and not proofread.
#3. by njt (Last Boss ♪~( ̄。 ̄))
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Ack :p see-- we can start with this article right here! >.> now, what needs changing? :333
#4. by MaggeuS ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Thank you for this reading, and thanks Pomax a lot.
I am, personnally, an international translator, translating from english to french, and I tend to follow these advices normally.
I almost always translate while watching the pictures of the scan, since translation must always never be litterally, but depends much of the person who translates. That's the beauty of translation, IMO.
And I learned some new things... Like the 285 page book !! *__* But not only, heh.

Furthermore, there's something I wanted to say : I am someone who does not translate for fame, nor "only" for fun, but to improve myself...
That's why I've returned to mangahelpers.
#5. by  ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Thank you. This is the very reason why I'm practically called a grammar nazi in my scanlation group (if only for the part in changing a translation into proper English). This is also why I've always strived to do MQ/HQ scanlations despite the growing number of leechers who don't seem to care about quality. I'm always so grateful to the groups who put in the effort to put out HQ scans.

A lot of appreciation too to Pomax-sama (and yes, I use that suffix intentionally) for all his hard work on nihongoresources and his ever continuing generosity in helping others with learning Japanese.
#6. by shrimpy ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Okay, I read it. I want my 30 minutes back!

Points I agree with:
>Sentences should not be translated "per bubble"
>people do not seem to realize this when they translate every word in Japanese...this leaves the English translation with too many words
>Context in Japanese doesn't warrant using 'it' in English at every turn

In summary:
Translation is an art. Either do it right or don't do it for an audience.

And the take-home message:
"you don't get better at translating by just doing it a lot, you need that feedback to know what you're doing wrong, or you'll just keep making the same mistakes over and over again"

YES. EXACTLY. Now if someone would actually bother to correct my translations, or the thousands of other ones on this site, we'd get somewhere. Clearly this is what njt is trying to start. The question is, will we really have adequate manpower for this (and adequately qualified people at that), with the motivation to keep doing this?

I for one readily admit we all need to go back and learn english. But I just don't have the time. Time, I think, is the greatest enemy here.
#7. by Solwiggin ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
I"d also like to build on shrimpy's comment by adding that each translation is the work of the translator. If that person felt they adequately communicated the message in their work then any change might destroy the beauty of that particular translation. (of course I'm speaking about changing context issues etc, not the simple grammar stuff.)
#8. by  ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
shrimpy, I don't think the point is that it needs to be in perfect English, but it still shouldn't be something that other people can't understand when reading it.

I am a proofer for a few (I think 5) groups and you have no idea how many translations I get where there's at least 2-3 lines that make absolute no sense to me no matter how many times I read it and it doesn't have a translator comment or anything to even elaborate what it means because the translator thinks they communicated it properly.
#9. by Imitorar ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Yep, I think Pomex nailed it. While a lot of the manga I read have good translators who know both English and Japanese and are good at expressing content (or as Pomex called it, discourse) from one in the other, a lot of the manga that I read require me to translate the text into proper English as I read it. And the thought of that leaking to official licensing companies fills me with horror, because a large part of the draw of official translations is that the English is (theoretically) more polished than that of a fan translator, many of whom are only in high school or early college and don't have so much experience.

I think this is what you tried to fix with the "proofreader" project, isn't it, NJT? But I don't think that that project ever took off, because, like Shrimpy said, people didn't have or want to take the time. Time is the problem here. I'm guessing that you wanna institute some sort of review system on every translation that's posted here, as one of the options on the page. I think that it's a great idea, but it would still depend on us, the members, to actually use it and proofread the translations. Ultimately, we need to take action for ourselves and look over the translators' work just as much as they need to work to translate into proper English. Proper translations require a good knowledge of English and Japanese, as well as interaction between fans with a good grasp of English and translators, who hopefully have a good grasp of both.

That was the original goal of MangaHelpers, wasn't it? But it's moved away from that goal. Like it or not, MangaHelpers has never really been the hub of translation-checking that I think you meant it to be, NJT. It's more or less become a central database for hosting RAWs, translations, and scanlations. Which is fine, and immensely useful, but it doesn't cover quality control. If what you plan to institute is a feature or a project that will make MangaHelpers serve its original purpose of providing a place where people can get together and work to provide the most accurate translations possible, then the potential of MangaHelpers will begin to be realized. What better place, since the translations are usually hosted here anyway.
#10. by Solwiggin ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Not to bring politics in this either, but I'm very conscious of mangahelper's "level of control." Not that I think ANYONE here is planning to do this: If we continually allow the moderators of this site to dictate what is "acceptable" then I feel we'll simply find ourselves a few years down the road looking at another narutofan or similar site.

Once again I'd like to say that I don't think anyone intends for this to happen, or that it necessarily HAS to happen. At this point I'm just skeptical because I'm unsure of exactly what type of system we're anticipating to implement.
#11. by ryzvonusef ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
I have an Idea if you would like to read it.

Make two categories for all submissions, "quick-and-dirty", and "clean-and-proper". All submissions start in the "quick-and-dirty" section, and will last there until the next issue of the manga comes, after which they will be deleted. However, mods will swoop in and rescue the ones that can go into the "clean-and-proper" section, which will the ones that will remain.

This will allow anybody to post, but they will realise that they will have to improve their quality if the want to last more than a week/month. Also, it will rid us of multiple scans of the same chapter, since the mods will only save one scan per language. This force groups to look to other manga in order to ensure that their name keeps appearing permanently.

Hope this helps.
#12. by MaggeuS ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
ryzvonusef, while the work for this shouldn't be too hard, how would you do this for international translation ?
No one knows how to speak French or German properly, y'know.
Or maybe attribute one for a native French or German, in my example.

Perhaps... It's a nice solution.
Still, how could to decide if a translation is clean, or not ? :/
#13. by Tsuchikage ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
When I do speed translations, I'm conscious of the fact that I don't have the time to really produce high quality translations. Unfortunately, as both Hisshou and cnet have noted, unless you're really really good, your translations don't see the light of day unless they're the first out there.

In regards to translations in which I do strive to produce high quality, I find myself conflicted as to how much of the Japanese I'd like to preserve and how much fluidity I'd like to add to the English. Of course, I completely agree with the proper grammar and not translating per bubble. But I dislike it when a lot of the nuances in Japanese are lost in the transfer to English.


I agree that it would be a great way to encourage translators to produce higher quality work, but I also appreciate how MH functions as a site to hold portfolios. It makes it easier to just reference the website.
#14. by njt (Last Boss ♪~( ̄。 ̄))
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
When I do speed translations, I'm conscious of the fact that I don't have the time to really produce high quality translations. Unfortunately, as both Hisshou and cnet have noted, unless you're really really good, your translations don't see the light of day unless they're the first out there.

Right, which means we have the chance to change this now. If the scanlators read this and choose to use translations that have proper english (or at least proof read) then we'll slowly start improving things :3.
#15. by zerocharisma ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Thanks for this! I don't translate but I am a connisseur of translations and languages in general. This was eye opening. I learned a lot. Again, thanks.

The only argument I would offer is that reading direct translations has taught me much about the language structure and the thought structure of Japanese. I've learned how a language with primarily noun-first-verb-later structures shape conversation flow. I've also learned and enjoyed idioms, honorifics and turns of phrase I wouldn't have encountered if all the translations had followed the rules of this article. True, I would learn this if I took a course or read Pomax's book. I'd love to do that when I've finished many higher priority projects in my life. Until then I savor grammatical tidbits while grazing on literally-translated editions, especially those produced by earnest beginning translators.

Maybe, rather than squashing the efforts of beginning translators, you can have a sort of grading system. People like njt and Gold Knight could be classified as Certified Translators, and Translation Academy folk can be denoted as such.

Just a thought,

#16. by Pasqual ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
I couldn't agree more. I stopped buying Dark Horse's Trigun releases because the English was so awful.

In speed scans a certain amount of gibberish is expected (if hardly desirable), but intolerable in commercial releases. I hadn't considered any connection between the two until now.
#17. by emer ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
This man speeks ze thruth.

I'm glad that I made sure to get some good proofreaders before going out with Veritas...

#18. by Hyperworm ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Before I get into my comment: is "しても難しくなるぜ" truly a natural construction? Because (even with an asterisk or two after the opening quote) it only returns one google hit, this article. >_>;;

Anyway. I agree with some parts of this and disagree with others.

Translators have their hands pretty full with interpreting the meaning of the original. You can't realistically, for fan work, expect them to be masters of weaving words in both languages. (A professional translator, I guess you could.)
If they are able to interpret the original well and can tell you (through discussion/questioning) what the original means and implies, that's all a translator really needs to be able to do. The rest doesn't need Japanese comprehension skills, it needs writing skills, and that's pretty different. It's fair enough to ask the translator to produce grammatical English, but it's not necessary that they be a super-talented writer as well; we need to make the most of what we have here ;)
The problem is the assumption that any stuff that comes out of a translator is ready for public consumption (ready for reading by fans for enjoyment in a "translations" section, ready for putting in scanlations, etc...). Anime subs have for a long time had editors and (often multiple) QC passes before the translator's work is exposed to the public. I know a lot of manga scanlation groups do do this too, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out why speed-scanlation groups who grab a translation straight from a translator and edit it straight in don't produce quality. If you're looking for someone to blame for that, it's not the translator. >_>
I do agree that the translator should always strive to produce the highest quality possible in the first place; however, it can be tricky sometimes without another person's input. I have lots of first-hand experience here.

Concerning "A proper translator learns to think about translations by analysing what he or she produces: Is what I translated English, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?" etc.
It's a good point. But don't get too carried away with "ignore what the Japanese line reads". I know you already warned against scanlations which "aren't translations anymore", but I have to heavily emphasize the fact that I think the following is an extremely bad pattern to follow for producing a scanlation.
a. Translator translates.
b. Translation is sent to editor/proofreader.
c. Translation is edited by non-Japanese-speaking editor, "ignoring what the Japanese line reads". If it's natural in English and it came from the translator's original line it's fair game.
d. Scanlation is released.
While a translation must of course stand on its own, there should be a balance. For instance, if the original uses present tense and the edited translation uses past tense, the translation group should ask itself, is it really grammatically necessary that this thing be in past tense, or have we just done it that way and not really thought about it? Did we need to throw away that "if" construction? Just because the translation came from the original and is grammatical after editing, doesn't mean that things haven't gone wrong or couldn't be improved.
IMO, producing a translation should be a back-and-forth process between the translator and an editor, continually looking at the original. You want to produce the best-looking translation you can, while not deviating from the original in pointless ways that don't improve the readability or quality of the translation one jot.
For instance, I often feel that the "soul" has been sucked out of the original when it's translated. Take this for example. http://koiwai.biz/eng/v7/ch43/43_11120x175_jpg.htm
Top-left bubble, "That's not right.". What do you think the original might have been there? 「ちがうよ。」 perhaps? 「はずれです。」「おまちがいです」? Nope, all wrong. It was 「ちがいまーす」. Where's that long まーす sound gone? It conveys a certain tone, which has been lost. Despite being grammatical, despite being an accurate translation, the feel of the original has been ruined. IMO, that top-left bubble is no longer funny, and it would be far better as "Wro~ng" (no full-stop). But I'd have to discuss that with an editor. ;)

Further, this.
Of course, you can rely on an editor or a proofer (technically these are different things, an editor checking whether discourse isn't broken, and a proofer making sure there are no typographical mistakes), but the problem starts at the translator. A good editor can turn a bad translation into a good English story, but it won't be a translation anymore. The best editor in the world cannot turn a bad translation into a good translation. They can only turn bad English into good English, so as a translator it is your responsibility to make sure that your translation is as good an English text as you can get it in the first place. Editors aren't there to catch your mistakes, that's what other translators are for.Unless I've misunderstood, this says, "editors cannot fix translation; they can fix wording. So, translators, you'd better make your wording as good as possible, even if it impacts on your ability to precisely communicate the meaning of the original!" Um, what? ;)
IMO, if a translator is working with an editor, he should attempt to communicate the nuances and meaning of the original as literally and accurately as possible. The editor can word things nicely, but he can't fill in the gaps if you failed to communicate.

Pretty much I agree with everything else.
Oh, except this one thing.
> - Should I use a pronoun, or should I use actual nouns for contextual omissions, if I ignore what the Japanese line reads?
If you insert nouns (even too-specific pronouns!) where the referent is not absolutely clear in the Japanese, you have to be prepared that you will be horribly betrayed later on. Japanese can switch gender and plurality on you and pull many other nasty tricks. If there's any doubt, do your best to cleverly and elegantly word things in such a way that you do not have to use those "actual nouns" (or pronouns).

This post is intended to further an interesting discussion and not to start arguments. Please reply civilly. ;)
#19. by Chibi-Chibi ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
I just hate it each time i ask another newbie manga fan to help with scan cleaning and than s/he says "Oh but i'd prefer to translate" (note we're "international group"). Sure everybody knows English but sucky word-to-word decrypting is hell of a lot different than sparkly art that is called translating. I quit translating the second i got one single mention of me doing word-to-word translating simply because i hate it and it means i still have a lot to learn about English and my mother language (and than i'd like to be a writer xD) and i will not re-start translationg untill i get some confidance back in my actual translation skils.
It pisses me off each time i see "our" fans saying stuff like "Oh well its all good that it is translated in our language but hack i'm used to English to much by now". But that's just because non of the people translating bothers making what i call brilliant translations. I'll never forget the day when i read the script of my friend for a certain manga with a lot of comedy. I was laughing while reading English version few months ago, but i was laughing out loud when reading the same thing in my language. It makes a big difference having something in your mother language but it makes even bigger difference, as already said in the article, if you can easily read the text written.
#20. by Tsuchikage ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009

Yeah, I found it to be ironic that when translating from Japanese-to-English, I wasn't really improving my Japanese, not my basics at least, but I was improving my English writing skills. The art of translating "well", involves being able to get the meaning from Japanese and phrase it properly in English. Then again, that's why we rely so heavily on QC. It bothered me especially when I first started translating the WSJ mangas, that there's no check done at all. People just assume that the translation is ready for adding to scanlations. I smacked my head a couple times after seeing simple typos that I'd made carry over into the scanlation.
#21. by mangafool ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
While I am a leecher, I also agree with this article, but I hope that this article doesn't scare off new translators from MH just because they believe that readers will be too anal with their translations. I know of translators that have been treated pretty rough for their work when all they have been trying to do is keep the fans updated with their work until a better translator gets onboard. I just hope this article doesn't make them run away.
#22. by squirrellord ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
"A good translator will produce a text that stands on its own, without needing to be justified with "I know it sounds quirky, but otherwise it wouldn't say what the Japanese line said". A translation takes an idea from one language, and expresses it in another language."

I feel like I need to take that to heart.
Good advice, it makes some good points.

And I agree with Shrimpy, it'd be nice to have some kind of strict Nazi-patrol going around and telling us what we've done wrong, so we don't do it again.
(then again, I don't have much room to talk. I was one of those horrible translators who came here with next to no knowledge. I like to think I've gotten at least marginally better since then :P)
#23. by Teishou ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Definitely hits home. I'm a fairly new translator, and this had definitely taught me a lot. I appreciate your posting this article.
#24. by Himemo ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
This is a very good article. Thank you.

I would like to say, though, that I believe it is important to remember that manga is pretty much all dialogue. I've studied literature, creative writing, and theater for years, and the usual rules of grammar do not necessarily apply to dialogue. Or to any creative writing at all.

Manga reminds a lot of theater in that it relies primarily on dialogue and body language. Being a translator is a lot like being a playwright, in that the dialogue is all you have. The dialogue needs to get across characterization, setting, etc. Playwrights and, I'm assuming, manga writers take a lot of time choosing the correct words in order to get those things across.

I think it might be better to focus less on "proper English" and more on "proper characterization." Because the best dialogue writers break every rule of English there is, and then they make up some more rules and break them too. Look at, for instance, Mark Twain. Twain is famous for his dialogue, or dialect, I suppose. He wrote the way people really talked.

Here is some of the first dialogue from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: "Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn' hear sumf'n. Well, I know what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it agin."

That is some really horrible English. Now, if I'm translating that to Japanese, am I going to translate it into grammatically correct Japanese? No. Because it's not grammatically correct English. And it's important that it's not grammatically correct English.

And most people talk in really horrible English. That's just the way it is. People have idiosyncratic speech patterns. Even people with PhDs in English don't always use proper English when they speak. When they write, sure. Speech is whole 'nother ballgame.

Hemingway. Joyce. *Shakespeare*. All wonderful, famous, admired, respected writers. All would make an editor or a grammar teacher cry torrents of tears and bang their head against the wall. Shakespeare, in order to accommodate his iambic pentameter, broke more rules of grammar than anyone ever has or possibly ever will. He puts nouns and verbs in places they should never be. But you know what? It's over 400 years later and he's still the most respected writer in the English language.

So maybe it's less "how do we follow the proper rules of English" and more "how do we appropriately carry over characterization." Because no one follows proper rules of English. No one even really knows what the proper rules of English are. They vary from region to region and they change all the time anyway.

The important thing, I think, is to listen to how people talk. One of the reasons I love manga is because it's written how people talk. Most people don't talk in complete sentences. An important feature of spoken language is filler words. The "ums," the "likes," "ahs" etc. Or the "えと”s, ”なんか”s, etc. Or the "right?"s and "you know?"s. The "でしょう” and...you know, the other ones. See? I just did it. The interjections. The "そういえば"s. That's the kind of crap that is really important in dialogue.

Good writing, and good translation, is less about grammar and more about how it reflects real life and real people. I believe, anyway. Nothing is more boring than a bunch of people talking in grammatically perfect, colorless speech.

A better question may be, "When I translate, does the speech of a 60 year old man and a 16 year old girl sound exactly the same?" Because that's way more important. It can be grammatically horrible as long as they sound like a 60 year old man and a 16 year old girl. As long as they sound like that in original. Maybe the 16 year old girl does sound like a 60 year old man in the original, and that's a very important part of her characterization. Or "Does the speech of person from Tokyo and the speech of a person from Osaka sound exactly the same?" Because they should be different. In an ideal world. Someone who uses the "ます” form all the time should sound different from someone who uses the dictionary form.

Writers take a lot of time coming up with speech patterns for their characters. I think it's important for us as translations to honor that.

#25. by shrimpy ()
Posted on Apr 14, 2009
Few translators actually do attempt to make each character sound different. And to be able to write different speech styles is NOT something any of us are taught. My biggest gripe with my translating right now is:

-english dialects/accents
-english sound effects
-english idioms

I actually am very weak in all three, and i have a hell of a time trying to make characters sound different. The only exposure of this sort of thing that I have is the few literature books required in class and the even fewer american comics i've read. I would love for someone to teach me these.
#26. by shirokuro (永久眠り姫(*゚‐゚)ぼぉー・・)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
kudos to pomax. well said.
i admit that i never proofread, not because i'm too proud (i welcome any criticism) or because i'm rushed by a group (they can rush me all they want, but i am my own person) but to be honest, because i hate doing it.
not only b/c i'm lazy (which i'll admit to, even if it means i'll be shunned by MH) but b/c i don't think proofreading your own work is as effective as it can be to have it proofread by someone else. it's hard to be objective with your own work.
alas, i am all for high quality work, and i'd appreciate anyone who'd be willing to help me and i hope everyone else feels the same way about their stuff. if MH does get some sort of system going, i'd be an advocate!
#27. by Hyperworm ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Good post, Himemo. Of course, it's another layer of complexity on top; it doesn't negate the need for people to pay attention to what they're writing. (I know you know this. ;))
It's very hard to injectively map all the varied different styles of Japanese speech into distinguishable styles of English speech, though. I think you're bound to lose some degree of character in translation.

Also, something else that's a bit unrelated because it seemed to fit in with "characterization" (>_> please forgive me). It's about typesetting.
See that page, it has at least 10 different fonts (or character styles anyway, since some are handwritten) in use.
1. standard font;
2. handwritten out-of-bubble aside font;
3. spiky font with varying widths in bubble 1;
4. cute font (first bubble in panel 2);
5. thick bold rounded font with slightly sharp angles (same panel);
6. rounded font with thick verticals in panel 4;
7. thick rounded thought font in panel 4 (it's different from font 5, see the exclamation marks);
8. horror font in final panel;
9. floaty font for the fu~ sfx in that same panel
10. rounded thin font on the side for character descriptions.
(lots of these are common fonts used in lots of different manga. Wish I knew their names. They turn up repeatedly.)
The point I'm making is: authors of Japanese manga often take special care to do nice typesetting (perhaps that one went too far xD but you see my point). Apart from effects like this, sometimes certain (types of) characters always speak in certain specific fonts, which adds to their characterization. If you're paying no attention to the fonts used when scanlating manga, and replacing all their nice text by one standard comic book font, you are Doing It Wrong (IMO).

Carry on? <_< >_>
#28. by shirokuro (永久眠り姫(*゚‐゚)ぼぉー・・)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
nice point hyperworm!
#29. by Tsuchikage ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
@ Shrimpy

I agree, but I think that in regards to differentiating characters, I hate that the set of available accents in English are quite different from the styles of Japanese. So nothing truly carries over well, and in fact, it really BOTHERS me when somebody uses a southern accent or something for Okinawan or Kansai-ben.

It's especially difficult to differentiate between polite and rude Japanese...

@ Hyperworm

Yeah, a lot of the tone and meaning carries across in the typesetting. It makes it much easier to understand what they're trying to communicate.

That and examining the characters, whether the character has a sweat drop drawn or something else of the like.
#30. by Gecko Moria ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
This why you need proofreaders :p
#31. by Shurou ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009

I'm also very frustrated when I see scanslators totally disregarding all the typesettings and text effects in the original manga - thanks for pointing it out.

"Writers take a lot of time coming up with speech patterns for their characters. I think it's important for us as translations to honor that."

While I'm all for using English that's as compliant to rules as it can be and smooth, natural sounding English translations as well...

Himemo is one after my own heart - translators should make every effort to try to honor the author's intentions, if at all possible. It can get a bit frustrating though, when someone proofreading insists on minor changes that don't really add much to readability anyways yet won't budge from "proper English" without understanding the underlying nuance carried in Japanese that translators try to carry over.

I disagree with some of Pomax's points, but this much is clear - "translation is an art." And what a difficult one it is, even for native speakers of BOTH languages...
#32. by Verbal ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Being born in Japan and raised in Australia, I consider both English and Japanese my 1st language.

While I read raws, my younger siblings are more comfortable with English and read translations. When we talk about manga, on a regular basis I notice that he's completely misunderstanding key quotes. I think the article pointed out exactly why this happens.
#33. by kenji_37 ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
what a long article.... Well, its hard to produce a good quality translation. you have to be good in both English and Japanese. for a non-native English and Japanese speakers like me, I need to work more on improving my languages.

At Redhawk, we usually proofread the manga so that the translation will be as good as possible. While the translation in the proofing process, there is lots or arguments between the proofreader and the translator. The translator wants the real meaning to stay and the proofreader wants a perfect English. the arguments usually takes a day or 2, but the longest I ever encounter is 3 weeks!

it is a lot easier to understand Japanese than to translate it. that's why I prefer cleaning(less stress) than translating.
#34. by serizawa (ならぬことはならぬ)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
IMHO, what Mike posted is just one side of the translation effort. There is another FUNDAMENTAL issue, which hasn't been stressed enough in Mike's post: how to UNDERSTAND Japanese CORRECTLY.

I see some scanlations with a good English (at least for me! :P), but the translation is plain WRONG, like forgetting a simple, yet crucial word like "NOT".

I do agree that having a good English is essential, but I think that having a good knowledge of JAPANESE, including the CULTURAL ISSUES, is also fundamental. And some translators do not seem to possess adequate enough skills in Japanese, especially in cultural issues.

And for "cultural issues", I do not mean things like "-sama" and the like. I mean "how the Japanese understands the original text". This is essencial to figure out a translation which conveys - as much as possible - the same impression to the foreign reader.

So, sometimes, the translation may be correct "dictionary-wise", so to speak, but incorrect, cultural-wise.

There is an example in the very post of Mike (sorry, Mike):

he writes


whereas a Japanese would come up with a wording like


which sounds way more natural in Japanese.

I am not saying that a fan translator must possess such knowledge of Japanese. It is a fan work, after all, and amateur translations are more than acceptable.

HOWEVER, I think one MUST bear in mind that the fan translations found in the net (and everywhere else) DOES NOT NECESSARILY reflect the nuances of the original work. And therefore, CAUTION is strongly recommended when comparing the so called "official translation" with the fan translation.

I see not a few people scorning the official translation because it is not like the fan translation they found in the net. This is VERY dangerous, since chances are that they are assuming wrong as right and right as wrong.

Just my 2 cents anyway :)
#35. by naruto_rocks ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I completely agree with Pomax, I'm a intl Translator and we use the translations (Jap to English) of other people as base of our translations. If they make a bad translations it reflects on our mangá too. Usually I use 3 or 4 diferentes translations from diferents translators because I don't trust some translators sometimes they messes up really bad. If there's some kinf of group doing like a inspection it would make the translations more trustfull.
#36. by Himemo ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
@shrimpy. Here are some good links on writing dialogue and how to make characters sound different and stuff.








I agree, you definitely will lose stuff in the translation. But it's just that it would be best if the characters have their own patterns of speech, even if they're not exactly the same as the Japanese ones. Although this is all in an ideal situation, it's certainly not going to be in every translation. It's like the fonts things. The fonts are different. They represent different moods, different personalities, etc. Making the dialogue all sound the same is a lot like making the fonts look all the same. Of course, writing good dialogue is hard, I'm not saying "Everyone must have perfectly distinguishable dialogue right now!" Just that maybe we can start working towards it.

Like Tsuchikage said, it is really hard to translate the differences between different dialects, or politeness levels. There's no prescribed or correct way to do it. But we can try, all talk about it, I guess. Many minds are better than one.

@ Shurou: Yay! Intentions! Nuance!
#37. by  ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
that's because it's lacking a kanji, something must've gone wrong when taylor copied it over, as if you look at the original post, it should be:

#38. by cnet128 (MH's Best Translator)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Just to add my two cents/pence/yen to the styles-of-speech discussion...

Personally, I do try to make sure that the characters are differentiated in my translations as much as I can... I try to make old people speak like old people, young people speak like young people, try to get the attitude to show through in the style of English. But at the same time, dialects and unique styles of speech are a pain in the ass to get across in English, and often I find myself giving up on translating them at all.

Kansai-ben is, of course, the ubiquitous example. I generally resort to just rendering Kansai-ben as your generic "non-standard English", with extra contractions and gratuitous use of the ~in' (as in "doin', goin', eatin'") contraction as the main feature. I don't particularly like doing it, as the two aren't really equivalent at all, but it's the only quick-and-dirty way I'm comfortable with rendering it.

Though of course, I'm not consistent even then... when there's a Kansai-ben character who I think that style clearly doesn't fit, I don't bother. And on the other hand, I also use a similar style for characters who aren't speaking Kansai-ben at all, just a cruder form of standard Japanese. So it's by no means perfect... but it's better than nothing. I don't like the alternatives; the oft-referenced "Kansai-ben => Southern accent" is just horrible in my opinion (partially because I think Kansai-ben sounds awesome, whereas Southern accents just sound unpleasant ~~); in my opinion, something like a British accent (if all my translations weren't in British speech anyway =p) or an Australian accent would be closer, but I doubt I could render any of those recognisably in text form anyway.

When a character has a clear speech idiosyncrasy, there are a few routes I take. If it's one of those idiosyncratic sentence-endings, I occasionally take the lazy route and just tack the same ending onto the English sentence. Obviously this is less-than-optimal, because a lot of the natural associations that those endings carry with them just go out the window (though manga/anime fans have heard some of them so much these days that the associations might be leaking over somewhat...), but it is at least a quick-and-dirty way of showing that their speech style is unique, and a translator's note or two can clarify. Also, in my defense, when I do resort to this, I do at least try to retain the "feel" of the character's uniqueness in their actual speech as well. It's the more minor characters in Negima where I'm most guilty of this, partly because I became so used to them from the scanlations that I read... a vicious cycle indeed ~~ (Ku Fei's ~aruyo is probably the one I feel most guilty about, because it's a bona fide stereotypical foreign accent that would probably be better realised by using stereotypes of Chinese accents in English, but that's just too much work >_<)

Aside from that terribly lazy route, there are probably two other tacks I take. The first is simply to ignore it almost entirely, which is perhaps even more lazy, but if the idioscyncrasy isn't too prominent and is completely untranslatable, it's something I can often find myself doing. The most obvious examples of this are levels of politeness and the distinctions between male and female speech, which can be almost entirely lost even when they're plot points and I'm actively trying to keep them in there (see Ice Revolution for blatant examples of the latter; it's rather depressing how much of the humour is just plain untranslatable).

The other is to come up with a similarly unusual English speech style (albeit one that's simple enough for me to apply consistently) and just use that. This is obviously more work than either of the other two, and only really works when a character has a speech style that's completely out there, so I don't feel bad about just going the whole hog on them. It's mainly (or possibly only?) One Piece where I find myself doing this... Duval, Ivankov and Jimbei come to mind. Jimbei also illustrates a nasty pitfall in that when he first appeared, from the few lines he spoke, I got the impression that he had a very strong accent, and I treated his speech as such... then as the story carried on, it slowly dawned on me that it wasn't nearly as strong as I'd thought it was, and I ended up frantically trying to phase out the idiosyncrasies I'd given him ~_~

And I think that little anecdote is a specific example of one of the nasty issues with translating a manga as it's released – it's all very well trying to be free and natural with your translation, but at the same time you never know what innocent-seeming element of a character's line that you skipped over for the sake of better flow is going to be brought back later as a plot point and screw you over. I think this is one of the reasons people can get obsessive about translating absolutely to the letter. I'm pretty sure if I was doing a professional translation of a completed series as a whole, I'd feel much happier looking at the big picture, thinking carefully about how to creatively portray characters, and generally going all-out with the interpretation, safe in the knowledge that none of it was going to come back to haunt me later on. (Pet hate: when a character says something along the lines of "Didn't you notice? I never once called you by your name!" I think that needs no further explanation. Gah.)

Oh, and on a completely different note... I find it oddly appropriate that this was posted at almost the same time as I came up with my new Guidelines For Using My Translations.
#39. by njt (Last Boss ♪~( ̄。 ̄))
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
@34 & 37

yeah, the original Japanese was what 37 mentioned, but I took the liberty to change it based off of what my gf (being native jp and all said.)

She said while what I put (taking off the 人) would be ok, what you suggested would be better, but I didn't want to change it too much .____.)

In the end Pomax contacted me and said a mix between the two would be best
and thus is now


which is more of what he was trying to get across~

-- A lot has been posted since I went to bed last night so I'll be reading and commenting a bit later ;) -- Just wanted to post this now since I was contacted by Pomax himself :).
#40. by Pomax ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
In response to serizawa's noting of "思いやりになれ", it was supposed to be 思いやり人になれ (njt apparently omitted the 人), but in retrospect that's more a line that belongs in some clever Japanese writing, not an English article.

Being a 連用形 attributive of 思いやる, it's basically an unusual but very powerful way to indicate someone being in a state of 思いやり. However, I have asked njt to change it to 思いやりの心を持てろ, even though (naturally) that doesn't convey quite the same thing, since its purpose is to get a point across, and if that point is lost, it might as well not be there at all so there is no sense in clinging to it because it expresses my intent in the most concise way possible (somewhat in line with the article =).

In response to hyperworm, if you only got 1 hit you may have accidentally been using google.com, rather than google.co.jp, which gives me 286 hits for [...]しても難しくなる - the original article I wrote didn't actually have a Japanese phrase at all, merely highlighting a crooked English sentence of the type found in scanlations a lot. It's not a sentence you'd use a lot, but then most manga are filled with single lines that you've never seen before as a translator (and many more that you've seen a thousand times already).

In response to serizawa's other comment, I had indeed assumed people to understand that a good translation also meant an understanding of how Japanese people experience Japanese, but since most people never had cultural anthropology or sociolinguistics with their Japanese courses (if they took Japanese courses), it would have been a good idea to explicitly mention this. Perhaps when (or if) I revise the article this will make it in there.

Another point missing, raised by someone in scanlation group's forum, is the fact that manga translation differs from for instance anime translation in that the audience never gets to see the original material, and for all intents and purposes is therefore blind with respect to what the original said. It's not just that they don't care, it's actually that there is no way for them to care unless you hand them the raw, and explain line by line why a translation works out the way it does.

Translating manga is effectively the same as translating a play, just with more pictures - the end result, no matter how much you want it to, should not "mimic" the Japanese anywhere, it should be proper English all the way. You can try to preserve cultural references in a way that isn't idiotic (like changing kansaiben to texan), but if there are nuances in the Japanese that cannot be expressed in English (and these most definitely exist) then either add a translation note, or simply live with the fact that a good translation sometimes means having to give up the desire to deliver a one-on-one mapping.

Don't try to force the nuance into the translation if it doesn't fit - excepting same-family languages, a source and target language will simply be too disparate to get every point across in a translation without notes.

- Pomax
#41. by Dark-san ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
It depends on the individual. I don't usually published my translations openly in MH. However if a person has some problems with my translations, they do not have to force their guts out to read it. Go read my group's release instead since the translation scripts that I have submitted to them have underwent both translation checks and proofreading.

But in the overall picture here, I tell the people here that the majority of the people here are doing it as a hobby, hence that would probably explain the lack in quality. And the reason that they post their translation here is to sought help or any form of assistance from the 'more senior' and established translators here.

If the person that wants to complain on the poor translation here, then tell him/her to engage the help of a professional translator instead.
#42. by Elkin ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Long article is long AND long comments are long. So I'll try to keep things short.

@Himemo (#24): I don't believe the point of the article is to say that ALL translations must be done in perfect English. Rather, it's pointing out that a lot of people turn perfectly good Japanese into horrible English, simply by 'transliterating' something.

@#25, 29, 38: I try to give characters their own voice, but I agree, it's hard as heck.

Just my two pence.
#43. by d4v1d_su ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
A long article and also a good one.
Those are exactly the mistakes I made when I fist came to this translation world.
I think that lots of translators just put the first thing that pop up in their mind into their translations, and that makes their translations "short and crisp". I often compare a scanlation with the RAW and I often find that the RAW has a lot more to say. It doesn't necessarily effect the main story but I think it is still a good seasoning.

Maybe I will share two more things that help me when I'm making a translation.
Before you start translating, read the story first. I mean just "read" it and don't "translate".
Knowing the story beforehand will help you make a better translation. At least it helps for me.

If you are stuck with a line, read it loud and try to mimic the expression showed in the manga. This really helps a lot, trust me.
All of you must ever had the experience when you didn't understand what's written on a book, and suddenly when a friend of yours read it loud with the right intonation, you got like "Ahhhhh~~ ".
Furthermore, it will help you find the right emotion.
But before you do that, look around and make sure that you close the door of your room.
#44. by linuxnewb ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I actually read that whole thing. I agree you raise some good points. Hopefully I will be able to learn from what others point out as I am new to the whole translating scene. Thanks for the article.
#45. by Zarion ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Damn.. njt man, you're the only Japanese dude I've ever taken a liking to. Not only did you diss the would-be-scanlators but you did it politely. Now they can't complain, this is the truth after all. To be honest I'm pretty fed up with the continued use of Engrish in fan made scanlations and speedsubs. Thank you.
#46. by Gottheim ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I'm currently translating entries for all three Naruto DB, and I'd love to have my work proofread and checked for accuracy. It'd help me improve, fix any mistakes, and in the end, it would benefit everyone. That's the reason why I go through the pain of including a transcription of whatever text I'm working on.

Hail to you, Pomax-sama.
#47. by Akainu (Magma♥)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I have to agree with what 35 said. We international translators largly depend on the work of those japanese -> english translations and are likely to reproduce any fault made as there are not necessarily more translations for a chapter, especially for new and not so well known manga (yes, there is hardly anyone reading those, so what?).

Also the same rules of how to translate kinda apply for international translationss imo (even if english and german for example are much closer to each than to japanese) and I think those advice can be very useful for 'us' translators (what 43 said is also quite helpful).

I for one would be overjoyed to get some critique among the comments ;-)
#48. by Ju-da-su ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
So long . . . both the article and the comments . . . @_@

Sorry, I understand maybe just a bit more than half of everything, but . . . while I know that I would be considered as "bad" translator according to this article, with all the grammar problems and all, I have one big problem. I think shrimpy already kind of mentioned it, but even though MH is meant to be the place where translators can get their critiques and stuffs, we don't really get any of those critiques. I posted ever since my first translation, that I would like people to check and look around at my translations for mistakes and if possible, tell me. So far, I think other than the critiques I get from the scanlation groups that I worked with, I hardly get any of those things; a lot of us never get it. Embalming is a really good one since I actually get bashed for it really hard (and I do appreciate it. Better than those "thanks" anyway . . . -_-") but other than that, I don't think I get a lot of those. >_<"

Anyway, maybe one of the reasons for my pessimistic mindset is because my Thai translations are a lot better IMO. Got to be honest with it, I seriously can't do much with differentiating each characters, since I still lacks that A LOT. I can only do that in Thai, not English (thus why my Thai translation and my English translation are different, maybe . . . >_>") Speed scanlators already freaked me out by just blindly copy-pasting without even proofreading through the script that I noted very clearly that they should proofread it first. >_<"

So, once again, I did learn a lot from it, though most of the things like the "too literal" translations, "fragmented" translation (when you basically just translate one bubble after another without caring about how you're going to connect the phrases together), grammatical and typographical errors. Yeah, got to admit it, I tried to convey the meaning behind the words, not the literal "kanji-to-English" thing after that critiques on my Embalming translations. Rena still told me that how I phrased the sentence is still weird as well, but . . . can't really explain it much. Sometimes, words basically just escaped me and a lot of other problems . . . guess it's clear that my English still has a lot more to improve then . . . >_<"
#49. by serizawa (ならぬことはならぬ)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I would have more comments on "思いやりの心を持てろ", but I feel a little bit guilty for going off-topic, so let us stop here. Pomax and Arty-chan have made their point, so I think that's enough :)

Back to the original topic, I think that, when we talk about QC in manga, we have to consider at least three aspects:

1) proper understanding of Japanese language and culture;
2) proper understanding of English to make the translation comprehensible and to understand it;
3) (for non-English translations) proper understanding of the foreign language to make the translation comprehensible for the readers.

My opinion is that 2) can be and should be improved, as pomax pointed so aptly.

However, my fear is that not many people pay enough attention to 1). I would even go further and dare say that some people leave Japanese expressions as is because they don't know what to do with them. And I see some of those end up being used in the manga/anime community as jargons or to give a "hey-I-can-speak-Japanese" look.

The other point brought by Pomax, about the accessibility to the original material (raw stuff), is something that I have no formed opinion yet. I mean, what use is there to hand out a raw material (be it manga or anime) to people who can't understand Japanese?

My impression so far is that many people (the "silent majority") really don't care much about translation QC. Some because they can't care (lack of accessibility to raw material and/or poor Japanese skills), many because they don't care, provided that they have a text minimally clear to understand what the characters are saying. No worries about good English, no worries about correct Jap->Eng translation.

The lack of feedback, pointed out by some people here, is perhaps an evidence of that. Many people don't care about improving the translation - if they can understand what the characters are saying, then it's fine.

The SPEED they put their hands on the manga/anime seems to be more important than the QUALITY of the translation, which is perhaps the reason why speedsubs and the like are still quite appreciated.

And I like Pomax's comparison between translating a manga and a play. Also, I do agree with him about mapping cultural references. 過ぎたるは猶及ばざるが如し :)

One additional piece of data that may be worth discussing is about the translation notes. I see that some people do not like them, for they interfere with the reading - you have to "break" your reading in order to see the notes and go back to the original part.

So, while I am all for using translation notes, I think there should be some criteria to use such notes only when really needed. I prefer not to talk about common sense, because I think "common sense" in the manga/anime universe is something so fuzzy that it is best left unused! :D

The discussion raised by pomax's post is something great and really important in my opinion, but I wonder if in the end, the "right translation" issue will only be relevant for those involved in translations, and not for fans in general... (obviously, I would be delighted if I was proved wrong on this)

Again, my (looooong) 2 cents... :)
#50. by bunshindattebayo ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I hope kingofranger555,the Hitman Reborn translator from INP-Mangaz read all of this.
#51. by cnet128 (MH's Best Translator)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Quote by serizawa:
過ぎたるは猶及ばざるが如し :)

...That just makes me think of this XD

Ahh, Tales of Hearts. You even teaches me the kotowazas =p
#52. by shrimpy ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
It sounds like a lot of us have been saying the same exact thing over and over again, but really we need to hear the next step to this discussion: How njt plans to implement this.

1) We need competent, qualified people who are excellent with English (or whatever target language)
2) We need motivated people, as this is an extremely time-consuming endeavour
3) We need enough people. It's too much for a mere handful.

I applaud this effort, I really do. But let's be realistic. Are there really enough people out there willing to sacrifice their time to tutor english and japanese without compensation? Because that's what we're saying here in a nutshell. As I post this, there are close to 50 replies to this thread and quite a few are by repeat authors. Compared to the 62k hits (and counting) on the naruto spoilers right now, I can say one thing with certainty:

The "silent majority" DOES NOT CARE, as stated in the above post. The only reason bad translations exist is because of apathy. The vast majority really don't care to understand the true meaning behind the text as long as they can read it [for free, mind you]. Bad translations make it commercial because it sells--the buyers are not demanding quality, so the companies are being reimbursed and could not care less.

I would kill for a japanese tutor, but I'm not sure I can make it up to that person. Translating is at most a hobby for everyone here, otherwise they wouldn't be posting at all since their work would be licensed. If you can change this njt, please do. I'll support you as best I can. But I fear we simply don't have the resources nor numbers involved. In fact, I daresay that if that many people cared about translating, a whole lot more people would be learning/speaking japanese, which would be kind of an interesting catch-22 because then people wouldn't be relying on translations, everyone would just be talking about raws. Anime and manga would be more mainstream, and the entire face of this community would be different.
#53. by njt (Last Boss ♪~( ̄。 ̄))
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Shrimpy, while I won't be able to check Every trans I'll be able to help out as contacted (I'll be spending more time on this than before) But not only that but I'll be contacting various professionals in the field to help give guides and write articles that'll help everyone at the same time. And from this and peer guidance we'll be able to at least up the notch of translations released at MH^^.
#54. by serizawa (ならぬことはならぬ)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
a quite... unusual way to learn kotowaza, cnet128 XD

I share a lot of Shrimpy's views. I think it would be wonderful if every fan translation was good, but I don't see such thing happening anytime soon. Perhaps I'm being too skeptical :P

njt, I think the idea of writing guidelines and articles on translation is very good. Perhaps MH could make mandatory for a person who applies for a translator/scanlator profile to read them BEFORE getting such profile. Something in the likes of software agreement stuff. This could be one step towards translation improvement.

OBVIOUSLY, I bet that almost NO ONE will read them before agreeing to be a translator/scanlator, but that could be a more solid argument to reject some translators afterwards.

As for peer guidance, I believe that great care is needed to manage it. I see two major issues: apathy and bias.

Shrimpy summed really well about the apathy of fans, but I would like to do one case study, right here at MH:

I see here that more than a thousand people downloaded each volume (raw) of a manga called "Ashita no Yoichi". Even if the same person downloaded twice the same volume, it still gives us 500 people or so.


Question: how many people sent messages to MH, saying that the very TITLE of the manga is wrong?

"Ashita no Yoichi" is actually read as "Asu no Yoichi", a reference to a famous Japanese warrior (archer) called "Nasu no Yoichi".

If people downloaded the raw version of the manga, then I presume that some of them can actually read Japanese.

But, if MH hasn't changed the name of the series yet, I think it is safe to presume that (almost) no one complained about the wrong title so far! Unless MH has a problem to give feedbacks, which I don't think is the case, I think this example shows the extent of apathy...

And bias: how to sort out the "best translations"? I saw that plea for comments on the quality of translations. But in the virtual world, the opinion of a fan who knows no Japanese has the same weight of an opinion from a professional translator, since both tend to use alias to disguise their real identities.

A possible workaround would be forming a "House of Lords" (or the "Translators of the Round Table", "Shinigamis of the Translator Society", whatever :D) with competent and trustworthy translators. But this faces the problem of time, as Shrimpy pointed out, and will divide translators in two: those who will try to follow the "House of Lords"'s judgement and those who will try to overthrow them.

So, I think there are some major challenges to be tackled in order to get this notch up in the translations hosted here at MH :) And I would love to hear njt's opinions on this.
#55. by Himemo ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Would it be too much trouble to start up a translation forum of some kind? Somewhere where we can discuss what makes a good translation or not, or how to best translate certain things - like polite speech and such. Even if most people don't care, at least the twelve of us or so who do can become better translators. :)
#56. by luisalirio84 ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
You need to organize a structured proofreading team. You'll need to make proofreading tests which aren't so easy that every other person here can qualify =_=;; And if possible make a test for translator-proofers ( i.e. proofers that have the ability to check the actual translation, are excellent translators themselves and can therefore offer serious constructive criticism of junior translators) This can't be just "njt" and "shrimpy" will check your translations. Because:
1. you'll never be able to do it all ^^ and
2. the translator-proofers need to also be tested thoroughly for their English skills as well as their translating skills. (Though I wonder if you'll be able to get any of these. Maybe only pomax ^^)

If you don't implement a good system, then... sadly, this will fall flat on its face and I will be right about everything I said about MH in #translators :P and don't forget the editing! What about that now? `_`'' Now that you've made reference to me ... and have continued with this "can do" attitude of yours expect more criticism from me... only I'll flame less and give more advice... I guess. (Another thing is: I wonder if most of the "translators" here will be onboard for this... from the comments it seems a few are set in their ways- most translators think too highly of themselves imo, some seem in agreement with the idea but will probably break down at the implementation and well i know shrimpy and a few others will welcome it if you can get it to work.)

/me sighs... MH is going to improve... possibly... damn.
#57. by zidane ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Good luck with whatever you plan... you know that I fully support it, since we spoke about this before, but I expected some clearer structure and idea's, ranting about the quality is a beginning, but let's get more constructive and concrete.

What's quite clear is that some series obviously don't have any problems with translations, or at least that's for me - quite much every series that cnet's translating is covered with great and insanely quick translations, however he's just an exceptional person. How about we start calling the series that a) lack translations and b) lack good translators - quite the difference there. Let's be realistic here and take the most popular magazines in consideration:

A list with the series and the translators for them would be a good start, to give people an overview, I'll see what I can do for that...
#58. by Elkin ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I think it's useful to bear in mind that the quality control for translations has two parts to it (as some have pointed out before):

#1 accuracy of Japanese -> target language
#2 how comprehendible the translation is

For some of the translations, the main issue is not of their use of English (#2) but rather their accuracy in conveying the meaning from Japanese (#1). So for these translations, the goal would be to help them correct their translations. I don't think there'll be much in the way of disputes about this, unless it's a particularly tricky line/manga.

#2 is rather more tricky, since a considerable part of it boils down to personal preference. But I think there's a lot more scope for proofreaders/editors to assist in this step. I mean, you don't really need to have extensive (if any) Japanese knowledge to see glaring grammatical mistakes or simply incomprehensible lines in a translation. While there's the issue that they may change the sentence so it deviates in meaning from the manga, that's the whole point of having a community, isn't it? As long as there is two-way discussion between the translator and the critiquer, I'm sure this won't be a problem. If the issue is that the translator doesn't quite understand the line, then they should post in the forums or just directly ask someone who's more experienced.

#56: I don't think it's necessary to have only the best of the best check over translations. If two people say a line has been translated wrongly, then it's quite likely you have indeed translated it wrongly. And this is where the best of the best come in: resolving any disputes about the actual meaning of a sentence.

Though I agree with shrimpy- going over other people's translations can be really time-consuming. If I'm lucky I can get one done in under 2 hours...
#59. by Hyperworm ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
It would be easier for me to read scanlations than raws, and then I'd be able to enjoy them with people near me as well. But, I don't read scanlations very often, because I don't have enough trust in them.
Not being able to see the original Japanese at the same time as the translation works against you here - I can't easily check the original text when reading a scanlation. If there's a mistranslation, it may slip by me because I had no access to the original. So I absolutely have to be able to trust a scanlation in order to want to read it over the raw. I have to know that I'm not going to be missing/misunderstanding anything. It's not like anime where if there's a mistake I can pick it up from the audio and never mind - if I spot a mistake in a scanlation, it makes me wonder how many others I've not noticed. I start doubting the accuracy of that whole scanlation and its scanlator. It really doesn't take much for me to just go straight back to the raw, because I'm reading for enjoyment.
Of course, when I'm just reading raws, I don't get exposed to scanlations, I don't offer my corrections and I don't put much input into translations. Raws take longer to read, too, so I don't read as many, I don't see as many new series, I'm less useful as a translator/translation-checker.

I do think forming some group of people who know what they're talking about (which I'll refer to as "House of Lords" following serizawa's lead) would actually be quite helpful. It should be easy and quick for members of the House of Lords to leave useful votes, comments and criticism that stand out, without feeling like they're bashing or hounding people.
If the House of Lords has broad consensus that a certain scanlation of a chapter is excellent in translation accuracy, and wording, but not typesetting, I want to know that kind of information on the scanlation page (before going down to the comments and seeing possible spoilers?), or maybe even on the scanlation-list page.
If the House of Lords thinks there's a mistranslation or badly-worded line, I want to know about that too. I want to know how many people think it's a mistranslation (and how many don't), and how major an issue they think it is. If it's really major maybe it should show up in an overall list or something, drawing people to fix it.
The scanlators who produce the best-translated, typeset, worded scanlations by House of Lords consensus could get special front-page attention or something....

I dunno, you shouldn't get me to design the system :P There are probably a whole ton of flaws with what I just wrote. I'd just like something to give me more faith in scanlations, so I know when something is problem free, and some assurance that people aren't going to hate me if I regularly leave "this one thing could be translated differently/better" on works that the general community is going "great! thanks! you're awesome" to, for instance >_>

[3rd post in this thread. Trying to help. Hoping I'm not causing trouble. ;p]
#60. by zidane ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
For ongoing stuff with several groups... just download all possible scans for 2-3 weeks, talking about WSJ, check MH on tuesdays, by then about every group will have released their stuff.

Then just decide which group you wanna stick with, and how important speed and quality are for you... almost all the popular series have groups that scanlate that particular series regularly, and for the not so popular series you probably won't find different scanlations anyway... yes, you will have to remember the groups name, but that's all the difficulty there is...

#61. by Tsuchikage ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
It really is sad that the only times that I read scanlations now are either to check where I screwed up, or to just breeze through a manga I don't really care too much about. When it comes to any manga I really care about in regards to the story, I stick with reading the raw.
#62. by zindryr (誰も知らない)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I've got plenty of opinions on the topic at hand but I'm going to hold my tongue in check because I'm kind of a cynic and an elitist and I know I can come off as highhanded and... yeah, now I'm rambling.

Anyway, I've seen a few people using the phrase "bad" translators and the like. Let's try to keep it nice, fellas. Lumping people into a "bad" translators group or saying things like we should exclude them from things until they improve. That's not what this community is about. We're here to help people. We don't want to be elitist, we just want to help people get better at doing what they like (or in some cases or forced) to do.

It'd just be nice to keep in mind that we don't want this to turn into some elitist grouphug party where people who are just trying to help are shunned.
#63. by luisalirio84 ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009

House of Lords? that just sounds ridiculous and the way hyperion imagines it is impractical. What is needed is a well trained ... LARGE... proofreading and quality checking team here at MH. But like I said before... It will fall on all the mindless scanlators here to actually adhere to the new system of quality control... which I doubt most of them will do since they only care for fleeting fame. IMO this only succeeds if njt can find some way to force the scanlators ( i mean of course the editing teams crappy or otherwise) to use the system and not get fed up and just do whatever they want. This could possibly be done by having translators post their translations on a forum only viewable by the Proofing team and when the team feels the translation is ready then it is made public. I doubt that MH or njt has the um .. guts... to do this though as it will most likely lead to slower releases of manga :x from MH translators.
#64. by Hyperworm ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
I don't think he meant that name seriously. XD I should probably not have used it. Sorry >_>

I agree, a pre-proofing system like that is bound to be fought against by speed-scanlators.
As for systems which are designed to correct stuff after its release... for translations, it's easier because a translation can be easily edited if problems are found, but scanlations are a bit tougher. Would scanlators actually edit and re-up to fix problems? Sounds pretty unlikely actually.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing what we end up with here. :)
#65. by serizawa (ならぬことはならぬ)
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
luisalirio84, the name was meant to be a JOKE, hence the quotes ;) If you got offended, I'm sorry.

I agree that a large group of proofreading/QC is better than a smaller group, but the latter one is more feasible, IMHO. Obviously, the best thing would be having every translator/scanlator do a good job, but... XD

I don't find it practical nor feasible to go through EVERY translation to check its quality. I doubt there will be enough people volunteering to do such task.

On the other hand, I don't think every translator/scanlator is willing to improve the quality of their translations, though I believe that most do.

If one wants to improve the translation, perhaps the first thing to do is to realize that it can be improved :)

In order to do so, perhaps a kind of a "ranking" would be a possibility. We have scans in CAM, LQ, MQ and HQ. Perhaps there could be something similar for translation quality, with a N/A for not rated translations.

So, it would possible to filter the translations and those who get a lower rating could go to a forum or something similar to get advice in order to improve.

But for that, MH would have to figure out a way to ensure that only trustworthy and capable people will rate, otherwise it will surely be a mess.

Just rambling :P
#66. by shrimpy ()
Posted on Apr 15, 2009
Is there any way to link or bring in the long discussion we've already had on this topic, njt? It's kinda veering off track, and I know all of these points were discussed in detail back when you opened that thread several months ago on the forum...just can't remember where it is...
#67. by d4v1d_su ()
Posted on Apr 16, 2009
I can't see the end of this and I doubt that this plan is going to be a success.
It is simply because we don't have a clear definition of a good translation.
I know that some of you are going to say "a good translation is a translation that can cover the meaning correctly, comprehensible, bla bla bla " and something like that.
To me, that is a very vague definition. We need something that can be rated with points.
Good translations are relative, bad translations are absolute. The best we can do is to sort out the undeniable bad translations.

I also think that giving a rating to a translation is a bad idea. It's like saying "Hey people, look over here, these are the bad translators".
I believe that some people are aware that their translations are not superb compared to the others, but I doubt only few of them are going to accept open heartly if you announced to the public that they are not that good.
Especially the well known translators, they might complain even if you rate their translations with just "OK" and not "outstanding"
#68. by Dash4 ()
Posted on Apr 16, 2009
Thank you Pomax for your comments
I agree that the emphasis of translation is passing intentions between 2 languages
#69. by Lingwe ()
Posted on Apr 16, 2009
Definitely think the idea of 'ranking' translations would be a bad idea. All it would do is get people upset, and those who were given bad rankings would probably just pack up and leave rather than stick around and get 'insulted'. I definitely could do with a proofreader to go over my script and tell me the parts that don't make any sense. It's hard for the translator themselves to proof their own work of anything except for spelling mistakes since they are reading the raw at the same time and thus 'know' what their translation says even if it's meaning is obscured or doesn't make sense to another person.

I do disagree with some of the things Pomax says though, but this comes from my university linguistics courses. I'm a pretty die hard descriptionist when it comes to english. For those that don't know it means that so long as the english is understood then that means it's english. The opposite of descriptionists is prescriptionists, those are the people who tell you that "It's not 'you and me', it's 'you and I'", or "sentences cannot end in a preposition". Anyone who listens to everyday english speech knows this is patently false - I can't even count the number of times I've said "you and me" or heard people on the phone asking "where are you at?".

And so we get to something like this:

The same goes for the last mistake. While the Japanese sentence used a verb form that translates to "will become", the English "will be" entails becoming, so using "things will be difficult" is perfect; "things will become difficult" on the other hand uses a double future tense.

I just asked my friend "Do you think it will become cloudy tomorrow", then after he told me he didn't I asked him if he found anything wrong with that sentence. He didn't. Just as I didn't find anything wrong with seeing "will become". So by pointing out 'that's a double future tense and thus wrong' it just says to me 'prescriptivist'. My friend understood perfectly what I was asking, he didn't have to stop and figure anything out, he didn't ask me why I was speaking so strangely, he just understood it. English is filled with all sorts of 'grammatically incorrect' things like that. You might argue "but by not at least attempting to speak/write it correctly you are corrupting the language". To that I say what my lecturer told me - bull. English has always been changing, there is no one 'english', there are only multiple 'englishes'. So for me calling things like this 'incorrect' or 'bad' doesn't make much sense.

With all that said I would definitely welcome any attempt to get more proofreaders or just people in general to say "that line doesn't make sense" or "I can't figure out what is being said here" so that the translator goes back and has a good look at that line and retranslate it in a way that makes more sense. God knows I need it, I'll readily admit that I've still got a long way to go before I am half as skilled as some of the people on this site. But as several have said the problem is that of participation. When you're only getting 5-10 people who even go out of their way to click a button to express their thanks for your work out of the 500 or so who read it, the chances of getting someone who is willing to go through the whole translation and mention any parts they find confusing are pretty slim.
#70. by Kinlyu ()
Posted on Apr 16, 2009
As a non-native English speaker and manga translator, I get the point. However, I do my best but I also hope that my mistakes are corrected by our proofreader, as it should be.

But indeed, I've seen bad scanlations - and fansubs - with horrible English grammar and basically a serious lack of 'sentences'. Personally, I also want to give a lot of attention to the way various characters talk, but it's damn hard to translate that to English, or even my motherlanguage, Dutch.
#71. by zidane ()
Posted on Apr 16, 2009
Lingwe has a point there... rereading this article I noticed some points I dislike, tbh.

Hopefully as someone with an understanding of Japanese, as well as language in general, my arguments will carry a bit more weight than a random user complaining on a manga forum, but it's time an uncomfortable truth was discussed:

No, actually it doesn't - it looks more like someone from above, or actually outside the community is bitching at the fantranslators - who are, as the name already let's one suggest, fans. Now if a cnet128, hisshouburaiken, molokidan or shrimpy wrote this article, this would be a whole different thing, people who actually do contribute to this community on a very regular basis since years. I kinda have a problem with this, it's like if a professional graphics designer came and said that scanlations that aren't HQ shouldn't be released, that just proves how he has no Idea about the scene -- and he has no voice for me as long as he didn't contribute shit.

And that leads to the next point that I just can't accept:

Translation is an art. You can do it just for fun, or you can do it to make a living, but either do it right or don't do it for an audience.

No thank you, I'm not supporting that. Don't get me wrong, I still love the basic idea of this improving quality thing, and dude, some really need it - while the discussion here was actually led on several different levels... the gap between the translators is huge, however, rookie translators are more than welcome, please do translate it for the audience even if it's not perfect - I hope this new system will rather support those people than saying "fuck off, we don't need you" from the start - don't scare away potential new translators, you have no right to do so in a (mostly, don't think about NF) non-benefitial community

However, these days manga translation is big business. There are plenty of scanlation groups that will point out they are 'better' than other groups, and that they take pride in the quality of their work, and it is at this point that things become a problem:

This is crap - I'm aware of the cash that sites like OM make, and lol, they couldn't care less that Sleepyfans are having shitty translations, as long as they get that kind of traffic on thursday nights, however almost everyone here is doing everything for free, as a hobby - like you call it, for fun - and no one is forced to appreciate anything or say thanks - you don't like an LQ scanlation that you just dl'd? Why bother, throw it away and fine - the translation that you just read was engrish and hard to understand? Either ignore it, or support the manga you like by telling the person that put effort in translating it what he could do better. And that's my essential point - I seriously doubt that we are having this huge effect/impact on professional licensers and such, all they might do is check the popularity of a manga on OM or w/e, to see if it's worth to license it. I mean sure, Naruto was a no-brainer for example, but for most new series they do have to think of how much they can sell of it and if it's worth picking it up. That's the huge advantage we fans got, we simply do whatever we can, want and like. It's sort of pirated but if it really was damaging the industry so much then I doubt huge sites like OM, MF and also MH would exist - it's the fan articles (merchandise) that makes the most money anyway, and you can't scanlate that shit xD.

Oh well, just accept the reality, we aren't doing this on a professional level, and people who claim to be better than others and show pride are stupid to begin with, don't point at anyone, we don't need it in this community. While I fully support supporting the translators with feedback and such - better show more gratitude to them than debating stupid things like the stuff in this discussion... some comments here made me think, "wow dude, you can't be fucking serious... they are fans, doing it for free, stop bashing".

And that's what's it all about, for free - as long as we have that, there won't be any quality control - the only thing doable is support, and that'd be really appreciated too. So I'll just silently wait for njt's next steps and hope they go in the right direction.

#72. by misopeenut ()
Posted on Apr 16, 2009
the last phrase in japanese....i dont know who Pomax is, but that's wrong japanese

not trying to be a dickhead or anything but if you wanna talk about language, at least know it
#73. by joshua019 ()
Posted on Apr 16, 2009
I couldnt I agree more, the thing is I used to buy manga volume here in UK but the quality of english translation does not have better quality than, the scanz...

To some people that might think that the reason of some people for agreeing to his[Pomax] argument is that we are just being elitist, elite earn in so we should at least consider their opinion. To those idiot who are criticising of his english, its a lot understandable than the english of the scan, and if you the fact that its his 2nd or 3rd language, its quite impresive...

Seriously people, think 1st before you comment here whether its for/against, the per bubble translation and the things that can be translated to english, why leave it as japanese e.g. NAME OF MOVES its annoying.

To the Translators, why do you guys leave the name of the attack in jap' if it easier for us[reader] read it in english e.g. in Negima 248, Titanoktonon = Titan Slayer, right from last week's translation, no offense I dont hate you Cnet. Titan Slayer is far cooler than 'Titanoktonon' if its in Naruto 'Rasengan = Swirling whatever' then use Rasengan its easier to read and sound better. Isnt the reason of translating to let people who does not understand the language to be able to comprehend it, then why not translate those are possible??

#74. by  ()
Posted on Apr 17, 2009
and it would help if you actually mentioned a) which version you read, since the line has changed like 3 or 4 times b) what is wrong with it. Somehow, it makes me thing you missed the whole point of the article.
#75. by Ex-Shadow ()
Posted on Apr 17, 2009
Woah, it's too long, though I must say that you're right. I hope all japanese translator will get this article point, and all scanlators too.
#76. by cnet128 (MH's Best Translator)
Posted on Apr 17, 2009
Quote by joshua019:
To the Translators, why do you guys leave the name of the attack in jap' if it easier for us[reader] read it in english e.g. in Negima 248, Titanoktonon = Titan Slayer, right from last week's translation, no offense I dont hate you Cnet. Titan Slayer is far cooler than 'Titanoktonon' if its in Naruto 'Rasengan = Swirling whatever' then use Rasengan its easier to read and sound better. Isnt the reason of translating to let people who does not understand the language to be able to comprehend it, then why not translate those are possible??
Okay, you're contradicting yourself, demonstrating ignorance, and presenting subjective opinion as fact here. You ask why we leave attack names in Japanese, and then say that we should leave Rasengan as it is? Why? Surely "Spiral Sphere" means more to an English speaker than "Rasengan". If you think that preserving the meaning is the important thing, then leaving Rasengan as-is makes no sense.

Translating Titanoktonon, meanwhile, makes less sense than translating Rasengan, because it's in a foreign language to begin with. Akamatsu Ken used a Greek attack name for the Japanese-speaking audience; why should I change that to an English name? Using translations for terms that have been purposely given foreign names is just plain wrong; that's just taking the "flavour" out of the original. (It's one thing that bugs me about Dattebayo's translations of Bleach... they insist on translating the Espada numbers into "Espada No. 6" etc, instead of sticking with the original Spanish numbering. I just can't see the logic in that, especially since the characters often go out of their way to clarify what the Spanish number means anyway.)

But yes, it sounds like you're going entirely on what you personally think "sounds better", which is hugely subjective and not very logical (particularly since I'd guess the only reason you think "Rasengan" sounds more natural is because you're used to it). Personally, I think Titanoktonon sounds plenty cool, whereas "Titan Slayer" would sound a little too generic in comparison. But that's not particularly relevant; if I translated attack names purely based on what I thought "sounded coolest", then I'd be abandoning all semblance of consistency, and my translations would be the worse for it. Okay, so my choice of whether to translate attack names or not isn't always 100% logical, but I try to be consistent and sensible as far as I can, particularly within a given series (there are some series, such as Soul Eater and especially Claymore, in which I translate attack names and terms a lot more than I do in others).

There are a few reasons why I generally leave attack names in Japanese. One is that it does, in general, sound "cooler" to a lot of people that way (heck, a lot of these names just sound plain stupid if translated into a direct English equivalent), and it's what the fanbase in general seems to prefer. Another is that since in this world of ad-hoc translations there is no way of determining a single "official" English translation of an attack, or of making sure that fans stick to reading a single translator's work, using the original is the only way of ensuring some modicum of consistency across the fanbase. If we all translated attack names into English, then, particularly with more popular series that get lots of translations, everyone would be coming up with their own versions of the attack names and nobody would know what to call anything any more.

As for letting people know what things mean when they're not translated, well, I do generally include translator's notes (often quite detailed, where necessary) explaining what attack names mean when they first come up, and offering an English equivalent. I don't know how often these actually get included in the translations as side notes, but I personally think it's a good idea to include them, particularly since in the original Japanese, unfamiliar terms are usually given kanji glosses to indicate their meaning.
#77. by tora-chan ()
Posted on Apr 17, 2009
I took the time to read the article and all the comments, and I find this discussion very interesting. Many good points have been made (I won't quote them because it's time - not to mention space - consuming)...

Personally, I always strive for accuracy in my translations, and I wish everybody did so. Ok, it's a hobby, you don't get paid, you want to help the community. But there are *so* many things you could do to help the community... Obviously, no one is born with a perfect knowledge of Japanese or translation techniques, so I'm not saying newbies should be excluded. The problem is, too many people are translating just "for the heck of it" (or "for fame"), completely unwilling to even bother *rereading* their work, let alone improve it... As mean as it might look, these people DO deserve a "bad translation" label stuck on their work.

As many others have pointed out so far, the hugest problem is apathy. It's very frustrating for me not to be a native English speaker, because I'm a grammar freak when it comes to my language (Italian) and I wish I had the necessary skills to judge whether my English translations are good or bad. Unfortunately, despite always double and triple-checking, I'm not fluent enough to be 100% sure everything is fine. I *always* ask people to point out anything they perceive as "wrong", but I rarely receive any feedback at all, and only a few (always the same ones, indeed; I'm very thankful to them <3) actually take the time to tell me about typos and other mistakes.
One time, for instance, I wrote all the "strength"s as "strenght" and days went by before someone finally pointed that out.. Another time I wrote a line that wasn't English-sounding at all and only one person (once again, days after I submitted the text [mind, I'm not complaining about the slowness, but about all the ones who read it and said nothing!]) took the time to tell me. Oh, and I'd been using "anf" and "pant" interchangeably to express gasping in all my translations, until someone eventually let me know that "anf" is not used in English... (it is in Italian, so it sounded natural to me *sweatdrop*)

Anyway, my two cents on a few things.

-perfect vs imperfect English: I'm all for accuracy, but I agree to use "imperfect" English in dialogues, since it's what native speakers actually use when talking. Obviously, this is not the same as using "plainly wrong grammar", so you have to do it carefully and when it's needed... (It's the same in Italian.. A common mistake is to use the indicative mood instead of the subjunctive, to various degrees according to a person's "education" and politeness, let's say. In manga I usually mirror this: for example, when I translate Naruto and Naruto speaks I replace almost all the subjunctive with indicative, since he doesn't really speak first-rate Japanese...; I would *never* replace it when Itachi speaks, of course)

-speech patterns: Yeah, it's VERY hard to translate some idiosyncrasies, and I use different means according to the specific cases. But I wouldn't translate kansaiben (and so on) using another language's dialect, because I don't think an English person who sees a character speak Texan gets the same impression/feeling as a Japanese person who sees the same chara speak kansaiben. It's just.. different. I can speak about my own country, and well, I think I'd burst out laughing if I saw a chara speak Naples dialect and I'd never take him seriously even if he were a serious chara...

-proofreading team: I think it would be a great idea, though obviously "common" users should help, and I highly doubt they will (as Lingwe said, they don't even bother clicking a "thanks" button). I believe someone already suggested it, but in my opinion an "anonymous feedback" feature would be useful. Although I think it's stupid, many users (mostly non-translators) seem to fear the rage of translators/mods and so they just say "thankxxx you're teh best!!!!!!". Anonymous feedback wouldn't probably make the comments become twice as much, but it might help (IMVHO).

-scanlation editing after proofreading: I don't think scanlators would take the time to edit a scanlation because the translation was proofed and mistakes were found. But this relates to the problem of "speedy scanlations". In my opinion a translation should always be proofed *before* using it to scanlate. If groups are in a hurry, then they should get their personal proofers (lots of people offered in the proofers thread) and use them.

This said, I feel sorry for not being able to be more active in the community... I have no internet at home since November, and this doesn't help, plus lots of things to do.. (I did translate some stuff into Italian, but English is way more time-consuming for me :/) What I regret the most is not being able to help in the Academy thread...
I hope before the next century I will be able to come back and help concretely, instead of just popping out of nowhere and rambling about this and that. I support anything that is done to improve the quality of manga translations on the web (and everywhere else, actually) and I wish I could do more than what I am doing now.. :(
#78. by proscientia ()
Posted on Apr 18, 2009
I like the suggestion writing a translation in "proper" English and then adding extra notes to clarify the meaning. By "proper" English, I mean that the writing style should not have unnecessary artifacts from the Japanese, as many people have already identified. Although I enjoy reading translation notes to clarify the subtleties or other untranslated details of the original text, the text can take more quite a bit more time to read through. On the other hand, I do not think that deviating from proper English to convey ideas not easily translated -- by adding Japanese honorifics, for example -- is a bad idea, as long as the quality of English is otherwise good.

I would not mind being an editor for someone who would like to improve their English, but I have a bunch of unusual speaking and writing quirks, though I think I can catch those, if I focus long enough.

On a side note, I enjoyed reading some translations, which had some quirks -- like Del Rey's Negima Vol. 6, which had a lot of quirky writing, typically found in internet dialogue and text messaging --, as a novelty, though I hope that this practice does not become widespread. Some of my the original comments, which I wrote in rough yesterday, will be transfered to the new note on MH.

#79. by nacryss ()
Posted on Apr 18, 2009
I must admit that I totally agree with what he wrote. Despite the fact that I am not a English native-speaker, I could sometimes sense that the turn of certain phrases was convoluted: it would not make sense. I have not attained a fluency level yet but my good understanding of my own language helps me to know whether a sentence sounds correct or not. As my learning of Japanese goes on, I can luckily start to sense that as well (not at a very high level, unfortunately) and it sure is annoying to read a piecemeal translation.
I recently did an interpretation for a 11 year old child (English into French) and I truly found it difficult as I had to keep the original meaning in mind and to try to find the closest equivalent in French. I endep up with a headache but also with a better comprehension of the task we, translators/interpreters, have to address to ourselves. This was definitely a rewarding experience!
#80. by Bomber D Rufi ()
Posted on Apr 29, 2009
First let me apologize for coming in so late...I really need to be more active around here, as I'm a translator too >_<.

Personally, I try my best to make sure that my translations are understandable above all else. It's extremely important that they stay close to what the author intended...but you have to remember that we translators are in a sense, entertainers as well. If you simply put down verbatim what the Japanese script says, it's right....but awkward and maybe a little boring. I'm not above using English idioms, slang, and even ebonics if it fits the situation. I don't deviate when I don't have to, but when something 'clicks' better, I don't mind changing things around (as long as the original meaning is intact of course!)

I think of how I would say something in an conversation, more so than how it's being said in Japanese. Because the characters are well....having conversations. If the translation is too stuffy sounding or too loose then the reader gets lost and quite frankly the translation fails. No matter how accurate the script is, if no one can understand what's going on it fails. I don't want to say that being entertaining is more important than being accurate, but as a writer myself I like to delve deep into the characters and how they think. It antagonizes me to no end when a translator skimps over a dialect because it's 'too hard' to deal with. Those quirks are what make the characters so interesting.

I know I'm no where near being as good as some of the elite here....but I have come a long way. Mainly because I kept at translating, and posting the translations here. I can't remember where I heard it...but I disagree when one says that translating over and over again doesn't make one better. I'm proof it does. (I weep when I look at some of my earlier work.)

#81. by ChibiAkaii ()
Posted on Nov 2, 2009
"Translation is an art. You can do it just for fun, or you can do it to make a living, but either do it right or don't do it for an audience."

The implication here being that the "audience" is a monolithic, homogenous block with a clear set of priorities and preferences, and that quality can only be defined in the sense of making the translation as natural sounding in English as possible, at the expense of all else.

Let's be honest here, does this "audience" Pomax refers to include the kind of audience that speed groups cater to? Does this audience include students learning Japanese who might benefit from cultural notes and more literal (if stilted) translations? Or people who value the author's original intent over the translator's (or god forbid, some executive's) best interpretation of the English equivalent? Is there really a binary dichotomy here between doing it "right" and "not doing it for an audience at all"?

Or are people who value speed or the original context simply not a legitimate "audience"?
#82. by Shinou ()
Posted on Mar 29, 2010
oh i get it now. I going to correct my translations. This makes seems. it is going to be hard but I think I can make improvement now.

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