What’s It Like To Translate A Light Novel?

HenNeko-006-007

In case you haven’t been keeping up with my Twitter feed, I’ve been spending the last couple of months translating the Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko light novel. The first volume is finally complete – you can read it here.

I know that not all of my readers are necessarily interested in my translation or in light novels in general, but I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the challenges in translation. This shit is important, guys! If you’re not a Japanese speaker, chances are translation has a huge impact on your anime experience. But unless you’re a translator yourself, you’re probably not likely to think very deeply about the transformations a work of media undergoes when it gets translated.

So here’s a post about translating, right from the horse’s mouth.

(No pics in this post! It’s also a bit theoretical, but it should all be understandable.)

What’s So Special About Light Novel Translation?

Light novel translation is probably the “freest” kind of translation you’ll find in this subculture. Unlike anime, manga and visual novel translation, there are no space limitations to observe. I can’t speak for other LN translation groups, but at Nano Desu, I was given an extraordinary amount of leeway. There were no set conventions about style and word choice that I had to follow and I was allowed to translate at my own pace. I was even allowed to keep my sexy British English spelling, which was sweet.

Light novel translation is also, for the most part, an entirely solitary effort. Part of it is that there are simply not enough translators to go around. LN translation projects are huge and the demand for speedy LN translations isn’t that high compared to other media. The other reason is that different translators have different writing styles, and these differences are glaring and obvious even to the casual reader.

I regard light novel translation as fundamentally more difficult than any other kind of translation I have mentioned so far.  Anime and manga are partly intersemiotic translations, which is fancy translator lingo for “there are pictures and stuff, too”. The translator conveys meaning not just through words but through images, so while they must pay strict attention to facial cues to make sure the words match the context, the visuals tell half the story anyway, which makes their job a lot easier. (Hell, I wrote a post on this.) LN translators don’t have that luxury. LN translators must have a strong grasp of literary composition, because they are not just conveying meaning – they are conveying literary form.

Good Writers Are Good Translators, And Vice Versa

Good translating requires you to understand how writers achieve things like word flow and style. To most readers (and even writers), these are intangible things that you can identify but wouldn’t know how to describe. Translators work with those things on the nitty gritty level. An author’s style isn’t some magical hubris that no one will ever understand – style is constructed purely through words. Many of the world’s greatest writers are also translators precisely for this reason: they understand just how words work.

When I translate, I don’t just translate word-for-word or sentence-for-sentence. I read the whole text first and try to get a feel for the rhythm of the words and the overall tone. Then I put the individual words and sentences into context and try to understand what the author is trying to say through the basic, literal meaning. Finally, I start writing, adapting where it suits in order to reconstruct that intangible feel in English. This is called sense-for-sense translation.

Constructing Literary Style In Henneko

The prose in Henneko, as in most light novels, is rather plain and unadourned. It’s written in first-person with very colloquial Japanese. It’s quite a silly and ridiculous comedy, but it actually took a while before I pinned down the writing style I wanted to use for it.

One of the most surefire strategies in translation is to read parallel texts. These are texts that resemble the tone and genre of the piece you are trying to translate. I’ve read plenty of light novels, both in English and in Japanese, so I had a rough idea of the level of language that was expected. But I’m strongly critical of English light novel translations, so I looked in other places for my influences.

Unexpectedly, I ended up drawing on fanfiction, of all things. It actually makes sense when you think about it. Light novels are themselves pretty “fanfic-y”, and many anime-inspired fanfiction negotiate Japanese culture and English text in precisely the manner I was doing in my translation. There was no way I could make the prose sound “classy” or “literary”, but that’s fine. The content itself wasn’t exactly deep or profound. I focused on making the text feel brisk and lively, simple in lexicon but colourful in flow. Not too ambitious, but harder than it looks!

Foreignisation Versus Domestication

The whole issue of “foreignisation” (keeping in the Japanese words) versus “domestication” (or localising) is often portrayed as a black-and-white issue by those who don’t translate. There’s obviously no clear right way, and most of the time when you’re translating, you foreignise some lines and domesticate others. Most translations skew somewhere in the middle, rather than settling entirely for one end of the spectrum.

When you’re writing a fan translation for anime fans, it’s safe to assume that your readers will “get” the otaku humour without having to explain it. This strongly influenced my translation choices. Nano Desu encourages footnotes to explain cultural and linguistic issues, but I tended not to use them very often myself. Sometimes, my editor asked me to add a footnote, but in general, I let the text speak for itself.

Since I was writing for readers who understood otaku culture, I felt I could be creative with the English language in ways only an English-speaking otaku could be. Take this short excerpt, for instance:

When I got out of the arcade, God, who usually caused me so much misery, turned dere for me. An unoccupied taxi drove into view right before my eyes. The instant the door opened I leaped inside and shoved my wallet into the driver’s hand. “Go as far as this money can take us!”

… which was followed up, later on in the chapter, by this:

My blood went cold. Just how much time had passed since we had left [Azuki Azusa] downtown? I took my wallet back from the driver and paid him for the mileage he had driven. Between Tsutsukakushi and I, we were broke.

The taxi dropped us off on the national highway. It was about four or five kilometres back to the main street. There was no train close by, and we had left Tsutsukakushi’s bag in the arcade. I’d gotten Azuki Azusa’s cell phone number, but thanks to that weird photo incident, it’d been deleted. Just as I thought, God was a tsuntsun.

If you compare my translation to the original Japanese text, there are actually quite a few changes here and there. I localised cultural elements when they were linguistic in nature, like sayings and puns. I felt more inclined to do this when I thought I could preserve the humour. I felt that using a footnote to explain the joke would be beside the point.

For example, there’s a running gag in the novel where the club president girl mistakes the protagonist for his nonexistent “twin brother”. In order to keep up the deception, the protagonist pretends to be his twin brother by changing his speech patterns. He uses ore instead of boku. I knew that many anime fans would be familiar with this linguistic convention, but I still wanted to show the contrast instead of explaining it. So I settled on this:

“Yeah… it’s me, no, INDEED IT IS I… YOKODERA’S BROTHER. YOU HAVE MET YOUR MATCH.”

I made Yokodera talk like a hammy villain, basically. It actually fits the context and Yokodera’s personality, since he likes over-exaggerating things in general. This was a case where, even though you technically “lose” something through translation, you can potentially “gain” other things as well. Which I think would make my translation interesting to read, even if you could read Japanese and knew where I was being unfaithful.

I also combined paragraphs, added dialogue tags, changed sentence structures, and even within sentences there is a lot of variation. I’m sure there are even a few mistranslations here and there. (I was doing this alone and by the seat of my pants.) But in general, readability was my number one priority.

Mental Blocks in Translation

The actual translating part was really gruelling. Some days I didn’t feel like doing it at all. I didn’t get translator’s block so much as I groaned at the time sink. Each page took at least half an hour to translate – more depending on the number of kanji.

I relied heavily on the dictionary, not because I didn’t know the words but because I wanted to make sure of the full range of possible meanings available at my disposable. I’m picky about word choice. Sometimes, I looked at all the dictionary meanings and picked another word altogether. But in any case, as invigorating as it was to write my own sentences, trying to make every word choice perfect made the task very tedious. I have a perfectionist streak, and I’ve been editing and re-editing chapters long after they’ve been released.

There were other times when I got discouraged, thinking, “Nobody really cares that I’m translating a light novel. Light novels are just trash, anyway. Even if I make this translation sound good, no one will treat it seriously as literature.”

I got over it, though, because I’m still idealistic enough to believe in myself, at least. My frustration with the quality of light novel translations led me to start writing my own one. Given the choice, I’ll always choose a constructive form of action over a destructive one.

Tying it all Together: Respecting the Source Material

The most faithful translation is generally agreed to be one that draws from the widest range of inferences (that is, aspects related to the text) and channels them into the most coherent package possible. Translations will always be different depending on the needs of the target audience and how the source text is viewed at the time, so there is no such thing as a “definitive” translation.

In order to write a good translation, I think it’s necessary to understand the source text from all possible angles. It’s not possible to translate something well if you think it sucks. I’d been doing a lot of thinking about light novels before I started translating, and while I do regard Henneko as low-brow literature, I don’t disrespect it for that. As soon as I let go of my need to “improve” the text for the sake of lifting up the shoddy reputations of light novels, my writing felt a lot smoother. Perhaps the lesson I learned from Henneko was to have faith in the author. My translation is liberal, but I ultimately felt that it was at its best when it was faithful.

In the end, I got a lot out of this project. It improved my Japanese a lot, and plus it always feels satisfying to finish such a huge task. I felt like I was writing my own novel alongside Henneko’s author. The final work is just as much mine as his, and I feel the same creative release I get from finishing one of my own stories.

Henneko liked to quote Oscar Wilde a lot, mostly for humorous effect. Right now, his most famous of quotes is running through my head: “All art is quite useless.”

Maybe so, and that’s probably why we do it.

Future Projects…?

I’m not continuing with Henneko, as much as I enjoyed the translation. I’m handing that title over to another translator. My next series will be Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, which I’m picking up from volume 2. I’ll probably start that translation early next month since I have exams and stuff to deal with. Plus I have anime to catch up on!

This ended up being quite a long post. Perhaps my passion for translating came through somewhat…? Heh heh. Well anyway, ’til next time, guys.

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Posted on May 20, 2014, in Editorials, Translations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Great post. It really looks like you’ve got a head on your shoulders, Frog! Or rather, I’ll just say “Finally, someone gets it.” =P Translation is a huge undertaking, and to translate a novel well, you really have to be both a great translator *and* a great writer. To be great at just one of those things is no small feat, so to be great at both is something else entirely. But when everything flows together just right… it makes for a fantastic read. (As an aside, I do wish that translators would be featured on covers for books right along with the original authors… Credit is DUE!)
    I’ll be sure to give your book a read some time soon, and if I’m nice I might even give some half-decent feedback. ;P

    • Thank you! I’d certainly like to see translators get more credit, but it’s really all about letting the author’s work shine. So if people read a translation and not even realise it was a translation, that’s probably the greatest compliment a translator can ask for, honestly :D

      • I see what you mean… I remember hearing a quote from someone who did special effects for movies–I’m paraphrasing, but it was essentially “The best compliment someone could give for my visual effects is to say nothing at all.” i.e. The visual effects aren’t even noticed since the viewers are absorbed in the movie. So to some degree, I guess you can say that the ideal for a translated book is that the readers won’t even think about the fact it was translated in the first place.
        This is why I think it’s important for translation teams to make sure the finished product actually reads smoothly in English. Accuracy is obviously important, but not many will care for the story much at all it is if it’s a clunky and awkward-sounding literal translation of everything. I have a feeling this is something that has been improving over the years, both among fan groups and official publishers. (There are a number of reasons for this I believe; perhaps that would be worth its own post some time.)

  2. Juanjo Amador

    I understand pretty much how do you feel. I’m a translator too, but I translate from english to spanish (That’s my native language) And you write exactly everything about what I think about light novels. Specially the part of the adaptations, every time there’s an announcement about a light novel being adapted to anime I say to myself: ´Let’s see how good is this adaptation’

    Because as you said, whenever a LN is adapted there are a lot of important issues that are left aside which are pretty important. I’m a huge fan of the Hidan no Aria series, I was at the edge of tears when eManga released the official English translation, all material was removed from baka-tsuki. But the most disappointing thing was that all my work went to hell…. I was using baka-tsuki’s material to translate it, and from one day to another I had nothing to go on with. I had the PDF’s from volume 1-10 I think, but I was dissapointed that the translation wasn’t going to continue. but okay, that’s fine. hey, a LN is being brought to America… Oh, but guess what? IT’S NOT EVEN A PRINTED VERSION! I think that’s what I hate the most.

    but, putting that aside and continuing with the adaptation (Sorry I get carried away) I read the Hidan no Aria series til volume 7 and I gotta say it has a pretty good adaptation, maybe not a 100% pure, but pretty decent. Despite that, they missed some important issues of the original story in the Anime, that is something that always happens, but I think the adaptation loses a lot of important issues when the LN is narrated in first person view, I do really like to read the thoughts of the character when he’s in funny, akward or even in romantic situations (I could say this ones are the most I enjoy).

    Some other adaptations are just really bad, for example High School DxD… Everyone thinks that DxD is all about demons and tits, (Ok, I have to admit, there are tits in the LN) but that’s not all! DxD is narrated from first person view and again, the internal thoughts of the character are avoided. leaving that aside, the quantity of fan service is exagerated, there are tits flying everywhere. The LN plot is so damn good! I mean, the plot is flawless, everything has sense, even the most tiny detail is well explained in the novel that there’s no room for any doubt and also the battle narrations are awesome which I think reading the battle scenes are a complete different experience from watching them. So I don’t know why do they have the need to add that quantity of fanservice…

    I do prefer foregnisation, maybe it’s because I started reading LN translated that way. maybe a little bit of domestication is not so bad but, removing the ‘-san’ and replacing it with ‘miss’ or replacing the ‘-sensei’ with ‘teacher’ is like almost removing the essence of the LN. Maybe it’s a little detail but I really prefer that the characters be named in the traditional japanese style, First the surname and then the name. Even when I translate them to spanish I make sure to put the character names in that order. Also I really liked the way you domesticated that line of Henneko, the change in ‘Ore’ and ‘Boku’ is not something that anyone who doesn’t read japanese could notice, so I think your domestication really hit the nail.

    I remeber that I read in a blog (I think it was yours) about the narration style of light novels. I have to say I agree with you, sometimes the narration is quite dumb and silly, but maybe that’s not something considered silly in the japanese culture, I mean they use a lot of onomatopeias to describe actions. but there are some LN which have an incredible narration style, for example the Fate/Zero series. The narration is awesome! maybe a little redundant sometimes, but really, really impressive, is Urobuchi Gen’s work, his style is quite something. maybe not as good as Haruki Murakami, I mean, he was awarded with the Franz Kafka Award. but Urobuchi does deserve to be mentioned as a talented writer.

    I think every translator has reached to the point where he had started his own light novel. i have like 7 different stories, which I only have a few pages in each one, I do have one LN which i think it’s my proud, maybe not for the quality (I don’t know if it’s good or not, nobody except me has read it) but for the quantity of pages I have written, I think 65 pages or so. But it’s really difficult for me to keep focussed in a single light novel because, all of a sudden I came with a really good idea and I’m like: ‘Man, this is a really good idea, I should write it down before I forget it’ and the continuation of the idea keeps flowing so I think it’s inevitable for me. how about you, do you have the same problem or is it just me?

    Actually I’m focussed in one LN I started writing for a contest, the contest is in spanish of course but strangely, I started to write it in english (somehow my ideas flow better when I write in english) and I plan to translate it later to present it on the contest. I would really like to read some of your LN, I think it’s nice to compare your work with other writers.

    I started to read your blog not to long ago, but you write pretty interesting articles, sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand them perfectly, I think maybe it’s the difference between the British English and American English, Sorry if my english isn’t too good but I hope you continue with your interesting posts. Otsukaresama!

    PD: I love british accent. XD

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m glad this post resonated with you. And sorry if my English doesn’t make sense to you. I sometimes use a lot of big words and say stupid things, so even other English speakers don’t understand me lolol.

      A couple of thoughts are going through my head:

      So you translate the English translations of light novels on Baka-Tsuki into Spanish? Quite a few of the LNs on that site are translated from the Chinese translations of the Japanese novels. So basically, you’re translating a translation of a translation of a translation. (Japanese -> Chinese -> English -> Spanish) I find that to be pretty amusing!

      I agree that even though light novels are considered light reading, they often go more in-depth about the characters’ feelings and about the worldbuilding than the anime adaptations do. I still think that many LNs benefit a lot from being brought to life on screen, so it’s not a bad trade off. High School DxD is one of my favourite series too, although I really enjoyed the fanservice there.

      It’s been a while since I wrote any of my own fiction, but it’s something I’d like to keep practicing, especially if I want to be a good translator. I used to write a lot of fanfiction, so that’s where I draw a lot of my influence. I’d like to write a full-length LN of my own, but that seems almost as time-consuming as translating one. Anyway, good luck with your writing. Hope you do well on your competition :)

  3. You are extremely mistaken about visual novel translations in almost every way. Very few are collaborative efforts and all of the ones that are so far have turned out disasterously since nobody takes ownership of the final product and there are massive style and nearly always proficiency issues.

    There is also no “intersemiotic translation” in working on them. Scripts are text files and you’re lucky if you have anything at all besides raw string replacement. Feel free to have a look at some to see what VN translators actually work with: http://www.mediafire.com/?uw6re7wp9a207

    Also, even a short visual novel is geometrically times longer than all but the longest (Horizon length) of LNs. Most LNs are a few thousand lines long. Most VNs are a few tens of thousands of lines long. While there are short ones like Saya, the average for a commercial moege is closer to 30,000 lines with the longest in the 90,000+ range. Even at a glance, the full text of a PDF (eg not well-encoded) LN is significantly smaller than a pure shift-jis text dump of a VN. http://tlwiki.org/index.php?title=VN/Eroge_Script_sizes

    • Ah, sorry about that. I appear to have drawn my observartions from what VN translations were like years ago. The scene has changed a lot since then. I have edited this post accordingly. Actually, it seems from your comment that VN translations are harder than LN translations. I actually genuinely didn’t know that translators had no access to the context. Surely it would make things easier if you did.

      Anyway, thanks!

      • That would require playing the game at the same time as you’re translating: controlling two different programs simultaneously in the same workspace. Imagine having to hit alt-tab enter alt-tab between every single line to get a sense of how efficient that would be.

      • お疲れさまでした。A job well done. Actually, I’ll probably need to read it through before I can conclusively say that. But good job for managing to even finish the project!

        As for VN translation projects, here’s my impressions from the very brief stint I was on one last year. Size really is prohibitive, which is why people do try to collaborate. But in line with what Arc says, any time gained by splitting the work can easily be lost if management can’t keep a tight rein on all the contributors. You get various dependency issues and people dropping out (like me, ashamedly) due to RL. Plus in order to get any sort of consistency, you need extra rounds of editing, eating up even more time. I can definitely see soloing a translation being far more efficient and effective, if you somehow didn’t need to study/make a living. That said, scrolling through VNTLS, most translations indeed are group projects. Many do have a single Translator but are supported with Translation Checkers, Editors, Quality Control, Engineers, etc. It seems that sometimes those roles are not very well defined. When I was still working on the project as an Editor, we used a Google Doc spreadsheet, and what I got from the Translators/Translation Checkers was really rough, sometimes no better than a machine translation. That pretty much put most of the responsibility of making things sound like proper English, not to mention having good flow, style, and consistency, on the Editors. I indeed found myself playing the VN simultaneously for context, just like Arc describes below. It was painfully slow.

        Do take a break! Extended periods of translation can be hazardous for your mental health!

  4. The most faithful translation is generally agreed to be one that draws from the widest range of inferences (that is, aspects related to the text) and channels them into the most coherent package possible.

    I think you might have a case with "The best translation." – Even though that section speaks of respecting the source material, I don't agree that these are the marks of the most "faithful" translation, necessarily.

    Another aside, all translation is also interpretation, and especially when speaking of "faithfulness", it's important to remember. In Israel, all Jewish students in the secular sector learn some Old Testament, and we also learn some Old Testament theory/history, including how the meaning of some obscure terms was derived when it wasn't known – researchers went for translations written when the OT's "Hebrew" was still spoken, into Aramaic and Ancient Greek, for instance, and got a better understanding of the words that way – it's not perfect, but if they had several languages, they could triangulate.

    But it's important to remember you don't just pick a "suitable" meaning, you also imbue it with connotations, and in the case of "literary puns" you flatten them, and other such actions.

    Now, what you wrote about "good authors being good translators", as well as some of the notions about "localization" – while I don't dispute that the translator has a style, and he needs to construct the sentences, rather than just tell us what they mean in the blandest way possible, you did lump up, and it seems related to the work process you've mentioned, the work of an author and editor.

    Some of what you mentioned is done by an editor, or by a second translator, just because writing and then editing your own manuscript is very hard. Picking a tone isn't something an editor can do on their own – well, they can, but then they essentially “translate” the translator’s work again, but they do have a lot to do with picking a tone, and localization as well, just look at some Commie crunchy-edits, as an example.

    • you did lump up, and it seems related to the work process you’ve mentioned, the work of an author and editor.

      That’s because that’s how it works in a fan translation of a light novel. I was in charge of pretty much everything. I had a proofreader, but not an editor who compared my translation to the Japanese and rewrote sentences for me. I’m not speaking of professional translation here at all.

  5. Great post. In terms of translation philosophy I think ours actually overlap quite a bit; you could probably look up old rants of mine in which I say similar things (albeit probably in less neutral/politically correct ways :p). In fact, before I translated my first sentence (two and a half years ago), the first thing I did was to write the following on my first translation blog:

    Translation is a bit of an art. It’s not only transporting words from one language to another; it is also transporting meaning. This distinction is especially appropriate in this case, since Japanese and English are two very, very different languages.

    In lieu of that, my translation philosophy is to be as faithful as possible to the original meaning of a work, even if I have to change a few words around. I want to be able to convey the novel’s character and atmosphere in English, and not have it sound like I just copy and pasted the entire thing into Google Translator. When I take significant enough liberties, I will add a translator’s note to alert the reader, but otherwise, I will not detail every single change I make. Ultimately, I really want to construct a reading experience that both flows well in English and also best encapsulates the original intentions of the Japanese authors.

    In retrospect it was not that eloquent of a statement, but considering nobody ever really talked seriously about emphasizing quality in LN translations two years ago, I think it was quite a bold one.

    I’d also like to say a few words on behalf of the “management,” since you mentioned how much freedom you were given when translating. I’ve heard of rather draconian policies in manga scanlation and anime sub groups, but I really don’t like those kinds of policies, especially since in LN translation it is clear that the translator is pulling the most weight. For a translator, this process is so time-consuming and lopsided that I would find it rather demotivating to do that much work just to find myself as a random name in the middle of a credit list. So for me, it is important for LN translators to take pride and ownership of their work, and that is the guiding principle on which a lot of our group’s policies are based. This is why we display the translator name on the project banners (which no other group does), generally don’t allow multiple translators to work simultaneously on the same project (which no other group does), and even delegate to our translators a few administrative tasks like managing proofreaders. We WANT our translators to feel like the kings of their domains (and not just like another cog in the machine), because God knows they deserve it. This is also why we try to minimize forcing certain translation conventions, which means you can use your “sexy” British misspellings all you want :D.

    Admittedly the one drawback of this is that as “the king,” the working environment can feel a bit lonely. This is why we’re trying hard to build more support infrastructure like our IRC channel and our staff forums, but I’d like to think that this freedom is still ultimately a good thing and also one reason why our translations are generally higher quality – kind of like how restaurants owned by their head chefs often produce better food.

    And let’s face it, our staff is fairly self-selecting – if you’re honestly loony enough to want to translate a light novel (and translate it well), you deserve no small amount of respect and elbow room for that and that alone.

    • And I would like to say – thank you for all the freedom and trust you and all the Nano Desu staff have placed on me. I’ve learned a lot from you guys so far, and I’ll try to keep up the hard work in future.

      When I first came across Nano Desu sometime last year and saw that message you wrote about your OreImo translation, it opened my eyes, frankly. I’d had no interest in reading translated light novels before then, but I liked this idea of translators taking pride in their own work. Until then, I’d never given any thought about the people behind the translations. Now that I’ve experienced for myself how time-consuming and taxing it is to produce a book-length translation, my respect for people like you has increased.

      Honestly, translating one light novel is hard enough, but to keep up with three projects AND manage the site AND keep up with your postgrad is nothing short of a superhuman feat. I don’t know how you can do it.

      Anyway, thanks for encouragement! I’ll get to work on Oregairu soon :)

      • Thanks for the vote of confidence :).

        I get the feeling you’ll like working on Oregairu. Just the fact that Hachiman has a much more colorful personality than most run-of-the-mill LN protagonists means there is a lot more room for interpretation on the part of the translator.

  6. You probably read on my blog already that back in mid-2011, I was part of a small group of fans who translated volumes 10-11 of the Haruhi series. I translated one of the longest chapters myself (and did editing for a few others). I had some of the same feelings as you did with Hanneko while working on the Haruhi – I left in honorifics and certain otaku terms and I definitely did get translator’s block at some points, usually when I’d get stuck on a sentence that I just couldn’t figure out how to translate well into English without losing some nuance. Actually, that was a big struggle for me: how to keep as much of the original meaning as possible while not translating so literally that it sounds strange in English. Like you, I’m a perfectionist with stuff like this and I’d often second guess myself many times on whether certain sentences were the best they could be. I don’t know about Hanneko, but the Haruhi novels have a lot of “big words” and random references to things I don’t even know about in English much less in Japanese (thanks to Kyon’s narration style). Anyway, you can read more of my own “what’s it like to translate a light novel?” post here: http://animeyume.com/blog/2011/08/04/what-ive-learned-from-fan-translating/

    By the way, you said you used a dictionary for your translating. Did you mean a book dictionary or an electronic one? I mostly used the Firefox add-on Rikaichan and my Nintendo DS kanji dictionary. My paperback dictionary would be my third go-to source if I wasn’t satisfied with the other two XD

    • I’m pretty fortunate that Henneko was written in simple Japanese all the way through. I did struggle somewhat in the beginning getting used to the truckload of idioms the narrator used in pretty much all of his descriptions, but other that that, the word choices weren’t too difficult to work out. Not compared to the nightmare that is Haruhi, I imagine…

      Like you, I had the most fun translating dialogue! You’re right – it’s generally the easiest part. From watching anime, we’re pretty used to the speech styles of anime characters and how they’re translated in the subtitles. We don’t have any frame of reference at all for the narration, so that’s why it’s a lot trickier. In preparation for translating Oregairu, for instance, I read The Catcher of the Rye because the writing style is fairly similar. You seem to have realised the same thing, but to be a translator, you need to have a good grasp of general knowledge – stuff that goes beyond the language. It’s really tough ;___;

      I used Denshi Jisho as my default dictionary. (A-and a little bit of Google Translator on the side meep) I have a dictionary on my tablet, but I never used it. I also never really asked anyone for help, because as I discovered early on, when you tried to get people to help out with certain sentences, they wouldn’t understand the context. In the end, it was much more efficient to just do all the raw translation yourself and get others to check your work afterwards. There are downsides to solo’ing though. I’ve been editing the novel the past few days checking for mistranslations, and actually there were quite a few I’ve spotted already.

      Gotta work harder! :D

  7. I haven’t read a lot of light novels. I am just starting to get into light novels. In fact, I haven’t completed any series yet, and I am always somewhere in the middle of reading the series. Reading different fans translations simultaneously is kind of entertaining though. Great post, by the way. This sure gave me a glimpse of how it is like being a translator. I salute you for your effort, sir!

  8. Cool post. Very insightful.

    -Zero

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