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Translations: One Piece 917 by cnet128 , Gintama 698 (2)

Translation Essay

+ posted by Harun as tip on May 2, 2009 13:10 | Go to

-> RTS Page for

Professionalism. What does it mean to you? Why not 'go with the flow' of the modern scene? Easy routes are easy for that very reason, but they are rarely satisfying or challenging. Even among amateurs, there is a vicious cycle. If you are the first to acquire material, make sense of it, and share it with others in a way they understand, then you gain 'credit'. I'd never realized how futile these titles were, but there I was, battling it out for non-existent yet still looming 'credit'.

I wanted to become a translator when I started reading books on theory and literary translation. The first words that jolted me, "We build a bridge for others, to make something accessible where it would not normally be.", drove me to improve myself and what I knew of my craft. A translator needs people to translate for. Volunteer work seemed like a great idea to help orient myself and 'see the sights'. I could not see the cavern I was about to enter, and the differences of opinion that people held on what was to be expected.

The first text that I gazed at. The first text that I translated. The first text that started me on the journey.The first text I took on for them was relatively simple and straightforward, or so it seemed to me. It was a children's TV series summary. Looking back on it now, I cannot believe that I had so much trouble with it. Simple structure, simple grammar, and a simple story gave me so much trouble.

I handed the text into the editor when I finished. It took me three days. Now the same text takes me 20 minutes. The first journey begins with a single step. They looked it over. It was sent back with a very odd complaint: "Leave the names as they are in the original text.". I picked up the text and glanced at the names that I used, all from an official American website. I couldn't make sense of it. Why would these people want the original names of characters when they were easily available in English? I caved in and made the changes. Now, the text looked not foreign, but out of place. Most of the material was in fluid English, but the names were now sore thumbs that stuck out and poked the reader in the eyes.

But who was I? I was only the person in charge of building the bridge in understanding to those who could not comprehend the material in its native state. The new draft was sent back. A day passed, and I did research for the next project they wanted me to start. It was another very small summary, like the last. The speed was still painfully slow.

The draft was sent back with another comment: "Explain these references.". I was baffled. A few simple holidays were mentioned in the text. This was getting very odd. I took the references and added the dates in parenthesis, hoping that would suffice.

Round Three came at me as I realized the oddity I had fallen into. Another note fell into my inbox: "Change the sentence structure.". The sentences were in English, and one would expect them to hold an English sentence structure. However, there were certain particles and modifiers that I thought did not need to be added. And then it hit me: I was not translating this text, I was destroying it. It was different from a rewrite, because the same base story was kept. But it was not 'native'. This isn't to say there was foreignisation, as there was no need to exoticise for young readers.

An adorable story meant for young children was now attempting to be transformed into fodder for the brainless mass of fandom. If I handed this work to a child who could read English natively, they would have a hard time with it. And so, I would have failed myself.

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Bomber D Rufi, Imitorar, Elkin, Himemo

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#1. by Elkin ()
Posted on May 4, 2009
Thank you for pointing this out... I wholeheartedly agree with you, though I can't say I've ever had to rearrange a sentence so it sounds more Japanese. Thank god for a good proofreader who don't pander to the fandom. The worst is if you have to include the Japanese versions of words like 'kaa-san' and 'haha-ue', when a simple 'mum' and 'Mother' would do.

I think the case is somewhat more ambiguous with names, especially if North American licences westernise them. Putting my personal dislike for the somewhat ridiculous names at times, it makes sense for Japanese characters to have Japanese names. One alternative is to have a footnote for readers who are more familiar with the original material.

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