Translation Theory for Anime Fans: How to Critique Translation

Let’s start today’s post with a Youtube video.

What’s interesting about this guy’s take on fansubbing is that he brings up translation theorists in order to justify his argument that fansubs are Objectively Bad Translations. This is something you should probably take with a grain of salt. It’s really easy for an academic’s work to be oversimplified when it’s being talked about in a non-academic environment. Even if the argument itself is presented accurately enough, the context around it might not be. In other words, someone might present an academic theory as fact when a theory is really just a theory.

This is relevant to the world of translation because, if you read any of the modern theories, they’re pretty much all in agreement that what makes a good translation is… um… well… it depends.

Seriously, that’s what it comes down to.

Take the untranslated Japanese words in fansubbing, for instance, which the video above overwhelmingly presents as a bad thing. Venuti, one of the cited academics, actually wrote a book in 1995 called The Translator’s Invisibility, where he comes out in favour of leaving cultural terms untranslated. Here’s what he has to say for himself:

The translator … may submit to or resist dominant values in the target language, with either course of action susceptible to ongoing redirection. Submission assumes an ideology of assimilation at work in the translation process, locating the same in a cultural other, pursuing a cultural narcissism that is imperialistic abroad and conservative, even reactionary, in maintaining canons at home. Resistance assumes an ideology of autonomy, locating the alien in a cultural other, pursuing cultural diversity, foregrounding the linguistic and cultural differences of the source-language text and transforming the hierarchy of cultural values in the target language. (pg. 308)

In plain English, what he’s saying is that whitewashing the differences between cultures is racist.

Granted, Venuti is not saying that weaboo translations are a great thing. In context, he’s arguing that translators should show a critical understanding of the cultures they’re working with. He wants translators to take their role as cross-cultural communicators seriously. The average fan translator has probably not thought deeply about imperialism and orientalism, but these are things that keep translation theorists awake at night.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there is no such thing as an objectively good translation. Lots of translation theories encourage certain approaches, but there is no scholarly consensus about what makes a good translation. Just like there’s no scholarly consensus about what makes a good anime (although eminent scholars definitely agree that your favourite anime is shit), a lot of translation is purely subjective.

But how can I tell if a translation is good?

See, this is an important question. I really encourage all anime fans to approach translations with a critical eye. However, if you don’t know the original language, how can you critique a translation properly? Are you really going to trust those guys at Cry More to do the thinking for you?

Here is what I think: Even if you don’t know the original language, you can still critique translation as a work of art in its own right.

The first thing you need to do is discard the notion that translations are inherently inferior to the original. Nor should you hold them to unrealistic expectations of faithfulness. If a translator has to change things around to make things work in your language, that’s okay! It’s a valid approach.

This might be going a bit far, though

This might be going a bit far, though

Think of translation like an adaptation. All translations serve a function, and all of them go through a process of transformation before you eventually read them. When you think of a translation in terms of what it is trying to achieve and how it is doing it, you can critique translation usefully even if you’re not an expert. I mean, I’m betting that none of us here are master animators, but we all have expert opinions about anime, right???

Anyway, there are two central theories in translation that should come in handy whenever you’re thinking about any translation.

I’ll start with the simpler one: skopos theorySkopos comes from the Greek word meaning ‘purpose’ or ‘aim’. The theory states that all translations serve a function, whether the translator is consciously aware of it or not.

The advantage of this theory is that it frees you from the assumption that translations have to read a certain way. You also don’t need to know the language to make reasonable guesses about what the translation is trying to do. What kind of audience is it trying to appeal to? How does the language reflect it? You can basically analyse a translation like any other text.

Of course, there are limitations to the theory. I think Anthony Pym sums it up quite well:

If every translation is dominated by its purpose, then the purpose is what is achieved by every translation. To separate the two, we would have to look at “bad” translations where purposes are somehow not achieved, thus complicating the notion of what a translation is. … Some appeal might be made to a principle of internal contradiction (one part of the translation goes one way, the other goes the other, so it is bad…). But who said a translation only has to have one sole purpose? The longer continues that line of argument, the less the Skopos rule seems to be saying. (pg. 152)

– From Exploring Translation Theories, 2nd Edition (2014)

This makes sense. Just because a translation fulfills its stated aim doesn’t mean it’s a “good” translation. For instance, the aim of a machine translation of a light novel is just to give fans a basic idea of what happens in the story. That doesn’t mean it has to preserve the stylistic elements of the novel or even be grammatically correct all the time. Basically, not all goals are created equal. (A similar thing applies to anime, by the way.)

That’s why proponents of skopos theory also mention that you can’t ignore the source text altogether when you’re evaluating a translation. It might not be the most important thing as far as translation is concerned, but it’s still pretty darn important.

Which brings me to the other central theory in translation: equivalence.

Translation works on the assumptions that words can mean different things in different contexts. That’s why there is no such thing as 1:1 equivalence. Even among speakers of the same language, there might be a need to “translate” words or phrases.

Now, there are certainly incorrect translations. You can’t translate 犬 (inu) as ‘cat’. But even when you rule out what a word or sentence can’t mean, they’re still open to multiple interpretations. Because of that, it’s better to think of equivalence in terms of a spectrum instead of a binary.

In other words, a translation doesn’t have to be literal or free. It can incorporate elements of both.

Screen-shot-2014-02-08-at-8.47.41-PM

Source: He Is Making Everything New

Moreover, equivalence doesn’t have to be posed in terms of this one spectrum. Eugene Nida came up with the idea of “formal” versus “dynamic” equivalence, where “formal” means sticking close to the word structure or form of the original text, and “dynamic” means capturing the effect. Friedrich Schleiermacher came up with “foreignization” versus “domestication”. Christiane Nord devised “documentary” versus “instrumental” translation. There are many more examples.

This might seem like an overload of terms all expressing the same thing, but they’re actually subtly different. A translation with lots of foreignised terms doesn’t have to be literal, for instance. An “instrumental” translation (i.e. one that prioritises its function over the form of the original message) doesn’t have to be a “dynamic” translation in the sense that it’s trying to capture the effect of the original.

You don’t have to know the names of all these approaches (in fact, I’m pretty sure these theorists are just making up new words for the hell of it). All you really need to know is that translations don’t just have to be literal or free. Once you open yourself up to the possibilities of translation, the more complex theories are easier to grasp, and you can still relate them to the translator’s word choices. That’s a topic for next time, though.

I'm sure there was a deep meaning behind this

I’m sure there was a deep meaning behind this

To finish, here are some things to think about:

When can you tell that a translation is a translation? What defines “translationese” for you?

Nida says that “dynamic” translations are generally preferable for literature. Would you agree with him?

Have you ever read a text in more than one language? Did reading that text in another language help you appreciate it more or less?

Posted on August 23, 2015, in Editorials, Translations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Congrats–I’m now cleaning off the tea I spit out onto the screen when I saw the translation for that Naruto screencap there.

    This makes me think back to some comparative lit classes I took in college where translation was brought up a lot but while every prof had their favorite translator/translation, it was pretty much agreed that as long as the thematic integrity and style were somewhat preserved and recognizable, all translations were pretty good. Nothing like reading the story in the actual language though!

    There are some pretty hilarious Yu-Gi-Oh! fan-translations btw, which were the only translations available until the GX_ST fansub group came in and saved us all from that atrocity.

    My favorite’s probably “Dignity of the Retarded” for “Heart of the Underdog”. Here’s a page for your entertainment.

    https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=702&q=bad+yugioh+translation&oq=bad+yugioh+translation&gs_l=img.3…935.4472.0.4714.24.15.1.7.0.1.208.1807.0j10j1.11.0….0…1ac.1.64.img..15.9.1273.N0tDyC-TXuE#tbm=isch&q=bad+yu-gi-oh+sub+translation

    • Oh man, some of those are gold. I’m a big fan of “You look very good as the naked king”. I honestly can’t tell if those are trollsubs are just genuine incompetence

  2. Nice post, really enjoying the series!
    Not sure I wholeheartedly agree with some of your comments, though.

    “Here is what I think: Even if you don’t know the original language, you can still critique translation as a work of art in its own right.”

    While I agree there are certainly aspects that you can critique, it’s important to still remember boundaries when doing so.There are quite a few armchair translators out there with very little knowledge but lots of Strong Opinions. They critique editing and localization decisions without knowing the actual meaning of the line, and it gets old pretty quickly. For examples of this, check out /a/ or a bunch of the posts on the Crymore.

    I don’t, however, want to say that people shouldn’t look at translations with a critical eye! They just need to keep in mind that their critique is limited in scope. Grammatical accuracy, characterization, localization decisions, and even tone are all acceptable topics of discussion. The trick is for people to stick to topics they have information on (as they haven’t worked with the source) and to remember that they probably don’t know nearly as much about Japanese culture as they think they do.

    • “Here is what I think: Even if you don’t know the original language, you can still critique translation as a work of art in its own right.”

      I interpreted this more of as “translation is an art, it can have multiple ways of being done and interpreted”, but your interpretation is also a very interesting and valid way of looking at that statement.

      I agree that blind criticism is bad, and half-informed critique can be even more harmful, but I do think that the person viewing the product has a very valuable say in certain areas that someone working with the medium doesn’t have. Sometimes when you work with a medium for a long time, you can’t see the bigger picture or you can get so close to the material, you may form your own ideas of the characters instead of the ones that are actually there within the material. This can lead to characterizing the wrong way, misinterpreting a character’s motives, or in a worst case scenario, just completely missing the point of a segment of dialogue and writing your own fan-fiction in its place. While I doubt this happens often (if at all), I think it could happen and could cause rewriting of the universe that the actual author of the material had created, which is a disservice to them. In this way, the people reading the translation play a very important role to ensure the translator doesn’t skew the validity of the material.

      I’m playing devil’s advocate here, as I absolutely love and welcome a more liberal interpretation of these mediums, but I did want to make a mention of that. I’m also not saying that it has to be a perfect literal translation in order to make sure that doesn’t happen (as that can be also disastrous), I’m just further agreeing with you that there are boundaries to all sides and that each opinion has a very important role to play when examining a translation of a work.

      The rest I pretty much agree with you on. There’s lots of people that talk like they know everything about a particular area, the two you mentioned are definitely the bigger culprits. I mentioned this in my comment as well, and I think lots of people on there are mistaking the context and work-specific translation/edit as “the one and true translation” of the line. I definitely am going to agree that in lots of contexts, it’s either them not understanding why different words than the literal Japanese ones are chosen, or them falling into the trap of “there’s only one way to translate a line”. Both of those come across as narrow-minded ways of looking at things, and I feel that if they knew the language and the work in question a bit better, they would be able to distinguish and correctly interpret those localization and characterization decisions from the actual words.

  3. I do think one doesnt need the source language to critique a translation. Anyone could point when alternative word choice could have been chosen (for example, people who dont seem to be native first language english speakers tend to consistently make lots of word choice errors picking words that people dont really say outside of very formal writing or scholarly works), additionally grammar mistakes can be pointed out, or inconsistencies given, surely anyone would hate it when something is kept in its original japanese word but then later on the person just chosen the equivalent english word, but then later on realizes the word they chose is not correct for situations. Perhaps the worst fault is translators throwing in hundreds of expletives in their translations, do kids in boys action series really have such dirty mouths?

    It is also interesting to read different translations for past classic literature and tales

  4. I kind of agree with the guy of the first video, I think there are some things you can’t do and call yourself a fansubber; the excessive amount of text in OPs and EDs, font size, font style and specially the tendency of fansub groups of putting their fansub’s name with the same font style and size of the anime title.

    putting aside the translation theorists to justify what he says, I also agree with him about “the more close to the original material the translation is, the better.” but, as you said, a theory is just a theory. I think there’s no really a formula for a good translation, specially on such a subjective theme.

    “In plain English, what he’s saying is that whitewashing the differences between cultures is racist”

    Thanks for that, I really tried to understand the paragraph but, nope, dind’t grasp it at all.
    I laughed really hard at the “English to American Translator” That was really hilarious, even though they were real idiots, people were really kind and very patient with them :)

    “Yeah, I know, they’re a real pain in the ass, oh, I’m just telling him how helpful you’ve been” that was the best part, Lol.

    But, to be fair, there are some accents that are really hard (if not impossible) to understand for western english speakers, for instance, the southern irish accent and the scottish accent, at least I, don’t understand a sh*t when they speak. Although, I Don’t know from where was the people they were talking to.

    In my opinion, formal translation is best, at least, for media that comes from the other side of the world; with a formal translation you can capture the essence of the original material and even learn something new about that culture that caught your attention.

    In dynamic translation, you might get the the author’s joke easier, but you’re missing the new information you may learn about the author or the characters. however, there are some cases in which a dynamic translation is better, for instance, in one of your previous posts: “Stay away from the NGNL novel” you mentioned that the translator didn’t translated a piece of text and instead used romanised japanese to transmit the general idea of the phrase, but, instead of using a romanised japanese expression, a french expression would have fit better. So i guess there are certain exceptions.

    I tried to read one of Ryu Murakami’s novel in english… it didn’t went so well. I read it in spanish, much better, better experience with formal translation.

    Interesting post about how to critique good translations, great job!

    • Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying these posts.

      About the guy in the first video, I actually agreed with some of his points as well. That said, it’s a really old video, so it doesn’t accurately reflect fansubbing conventions today. I couldn’t even recognise any of the fansub groups mentioned in the video lol.

  5. The door is there but no threshold, huh?

    Anyway, yes, dynamic translation is preferable to me. But if I think about it, most foreign novels I read (usually of Romanticism period) don’t take each of the words too seriously (in a “classicism’ or “baroque” sense)

    One thing I know that many great translators don’t read the source work only, but also the different translated versions in other languages. (For Vietnamese, usually a Russian-French-English triangle). But of course, do you really expect an anime translator to know 4 or 5 different languages?

  6. As I think I stated in my comment on your last post, I am definitely a fan of the “effect”/”dynamic” approach when it comes to literature or media. I’d rather have an entertaining story with the translator having in mind characterization and situation context as their basis than have to confine themselves to a particular form. I’m sure there would be instances where that idea wouldn’t work, but I would prefer that to be the norm over the “formal” in most works. It makes it a much better read and captures the entertainment aspect of the work so much better than having to stick to certain words because that’s the direct translation for them. I’m sure that if the work was more rooted in historical or story-specific/plot aspects though, I think I would prefer a more “formal” approach to ensure certain details are as accurate as possible, as that would be what’s valuable to that particular work. There’s definitely no end-all be-all case where one of the two theories works 100% of the time.

    I also think that lots of people miss the “work-specific” part of understanding when it comes to translating, they think because they hear certain words in Japanese that they have to be those words all of the time, which I think is just silly. I would call those translations “translation-ese”, as that’s what I’d expect a machine translation to do. As you mentioned above, that’s just unacceptable because it’ll sound rough and unpolished, which takes away from the ideas and concepts of the work you’re translating. I understand accuracy of the translation, as that’s what lots of people want as well, but to make the story what it is, sometimes you have to take liberties with your translation. I think that’s just the nature of the translation beast, and lots of people on the internet have yet to grasp that. I would say there are limits to liberalization though, as you can’t just throw whatever you want into your translation and call it a day.

    I’ve never personally read a text in more than one language, mostly because I only know English. That’s why I admire translators specifically so much, since that’s a load of effort that other people are putting in and I have massive respect for those folk that can do it so well keeping in mind all of the aspects and details of the language and the culture.

    Can’t wait to see what the next post will be about! Great series thus far!

    Also, the video at the top made me pretty upset. It fit with the article’s theme and it made some good points, but the information the narrator conveyed about some of the fansubbing aspects was just uninformed and inconsistent with other points he made. I don’t blame you at all for linking it as it fit your topic, just had to make a mention of it somewhere as it bugged me as a fansubber :P

  7. If you want to make a serious translation critique, you need to have a grasp of both languages and understanding of translation theory on the side. If you’re just there to nitpick on functional mistakes, then that’s a different matter altogether. Just don’t call it a critique.

    There’s no “objectionably” good translations, but there are empirically good translations. If you have two functionally equivalent translations, then the translation that gets the least complaints wins and should be a candidate to setting up a standard. The fansub critic doesn’t acknowledge why fansubbers chose to do what they did, but he has a point: you shouldn’t be distracted by the translation. There are two reasons why Crunchyroll’s translations aren’t like translations for home video. First it’s because they use cheap translators and work under tight schedules. Second it’s because fansubs had raised a generation of weeaboos that actually prefer honorifics and translation notes. I remember early CR translators talking about this. It was more a matter of discarding old notions of target audiences and adapting translation styles to a younger audience that grew up with fansubs.

    What this audience wants are, as I’ve mentioned before, empirically “good” translations. Translation theories have nothing to do with reality, they’re not inherently good or bad, it’s just that when it comes to market, no matter how solid their framework is or how much empirical research backs it up (things like viewer attention and understanding of material *can* be measured). But there’s just no way how a new audience is going to receive a certain translation style, which in the case of TV anime obviously had some preconceived notions.

    Also, I’d like to remind everyone that fansubs are dead. You guys were born too late to revive this debate.

    • I’m confused about what you mean by “empirically good” translations. Are you talking about the translations that are received well by their audiences?

      You seem to be implying that translators should measure their success by how well they appease the market. And yeah, that’s a pretty pragmatic way of looking at things. The market demand doesn’t arise from nowhere, though. I’d like fans to think critically about translations because they’re the market. The conversation about translation approaches and their implications shouldn’t just be held among professionals and theorists. So even though I agree that you can’t make a serious critique without referring to the source text, I want to encourage discussion about translation among as many people as possible. It’s better than no discussion at all.

      By the way, I wasn’t trying to make this about fansubbing. I linked to that old video mostly because of how the creator made use of translation theories. The legacy of fansubbing is something I find more interesting. Have you read my other post introducing this topic? https://fantasticmemes.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/translation-theory-for-anime-fans-why-you-should-care/

    • Also, one other thing caught my eye.

      “things like viewer attention and understanding of material *can* be measured”

      Have any studies of this nature ever been carried out among anime consumers? I certainly haven’t seen anything like this. At the moment, there isn’t any empirical data that proves that subtitles with, say, honorifics are more effective at holding a viewer’s attention than subtitles without them. So at the moment, all of the theory is still up to debate.

      • I’d guess that localization companies routinely survey people, ask them whether they liked the translation. But to call that a proper study is stretching it, since there’s no ambition to measure all these things. The only important thing is whether the customer was pleased or not. I think it’s sort of impossible to make a good study on this with anime fans, they’re hard to work with out of obvious reasons.

        I’m not sure whether such empirical studies have been carried out at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The problem I’m more intimate with from the field of computer science is that when it comes to things that can be subjectively perceived, people tend to ignore such empirical studies, because for some reason subjective perception is more sacred than empirical studies that formulate their findings around statistics.

        For example, an academic study in CS found that yellow letters on blue background provided the best contrast and best readability of documents, meaning that readers read faster and made less mistakes doing so while reading such colored documents. The results were better than black-white combinations. But then designers come in and say that yellow-blue is an ugly color combination. A completely subjective interpretation of colors is discarding valid, useful empirical results, simply because they think the combination is ugly.

        I also think yellow-blue is ugly as hell; that’s not the point. Never mind that designers can make sacrifices to accommodate readability, but in practice they don’t. I see a whole bunch of blogs that have terribly readable typesetting, for example. :)

        To bring my point back, “objectivity” is a very abstract notion in reality, but there are good practices that are universally beneficial for their respective applications. Fansubs and translation – It’s better to avoid honorifics, because there’s always going to be a group of people who don’t know what those mean. If that logical realization favors more liberal, less Japanese-y translations, then so be it.

        • I get what you mean. I wonder if it would’ve been better for English licensing companies if they’d done extensive surveying before adopting honorifics. My intuition tells me it’s mainly just a small but vocal minority that would go so far as boycotting a translation because it doesn’t have honorifics. (And if they’d boycott over something like that, they were probably never interested in buying the official release in the first place…) Translation practices might be the way they are because of fandom politics, not because of useful or pragmatic reasons.

          I learned some cool stuff from your comment, so thanks for that. I come from a humanities background, so it’s nice to get some perspective from someone into the more “harder” sciences.

          • At least on the subject of honorifics, fandom politics are indeed the more influential factor. CR (and I think it was Bandai Entertainment USA for Suzumiya Haruhi) adopted them because of marketing. They wanted to get fansub watchers on their side.

            The truth of the matter is that fans don’t know what’s best for them. What’s worse, fansub legacy continues because anime fans are even bigger weeaboos than they used to be. I’m saying this as someone who used to fansub in the heyday of fansubs. Fansubs used to have weird conventions that made no sense whatsoever and wasted everyone’s time, but we practiced them because they were fun, creative and traditional.

            Eventually, somebody from humanities could tackle this problem with a more scientific approach. Sounds to me like Venuti arrived to his theory from a logical-philosophical approach rather than any statistic. These are valid research/theses topics.

  8. in fact, I’m pretty sure these theorists are just making up new words for the hell of it

    This is the whole point of academia, after all ^^;

    I’m glad you brought up that point about ‘whitewashing’ the differences between cultures. I remember a conversation I had with a Japanese teacher of English at the high school I worked at a few years ago: he lamented how Japanese name order was rearranged into {first name} {surname} in most English writing. His reason was aesthetic (the Japanese order sounds better to him) rather than practical or cultural, but that got me contemplating, for example, my ignorance of Arabic names and naming conventions.

    Hm…I think I’d agree with Nida that dynamic translations are generally preferable for literature. That said, following on from the ‘whitewashing’ point, I wouldn’t want something to be localised to the extent that cultural differences are lost. But it’s tricky: I remember reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore in English once, and wondering whether the translator had localised it because of all the Western cultural references that appeared (I’ve been meaning to go back and compare the translation to the original, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.) Hence, I’d go for an annotated translation if publishers made them. I expect there’s not a particularly big market for them, though.

    Have you ever read a text in more than one language? Did reading that text in another language help you appreciate it more or less?

    I was going to say ‘rarely’, but then I remembered that I watch a lot of anime with subs. I don’t think it makes me appreciate the text more, as translations that are inaccurate and/or do not flow often frustrate me by taking me out of the viewing experience. But it makes me appreciate the subtleties of language more. And it highlights to me just how difficult translation is, even as I’ve lamented the arguments I’ve gotten into as a consequence of less-than-stellar translations that plague certain franchises.

    In any case, I’m really enjoying this series of posts. They’ve given me much food for thought for my own translations. After your first post, I started reviewing some of my older work, and it’s pretty embarrassing how ‘unreadible’ some of them were…

    • Glad you’re getting something out of these posts! And yeah, I think everyone’s probably at least a little ashamed of their first translations. Nobody starts off great.

      I’d go for an annotated translation if publishers made them. I expect there’s not a particularly big market for them, though.

      Same. And I think a legitimately great thing about English-speaking anime fans is that they are generally willing to read annotated translations. Sure, they can break reading flow for casual readers, but overall, people could learn a lot from them. I wish annotated translations were more popular outside of classics and historical texts.

      Unfortunately, as you also mentioned, the anime market is also full of poor translations on a technical level. Crunchyroll can be so hit and miss…

  9. I personally tend to prefer more formal translations, and annotations. I don’t feel like they break the flow at all, and you don’t have to read them if you’re not interested.

    While I agreed with some of the things the video said, I really like the practice of overlaying the Japanese text in images with the translation. The more traditionnal way of doing things (with text written on top, or asterisks) is fine if there’s only one word or one line, but it quickly becomes confusing if there’s more stuff. I’ve seen some official translations who don’t even bother, like the French translation of Akira. Very annoying, and sometimes it really prevents people from understanding.

    I’m French, and something immediately came to mind when you said that it wasn’t necessary to know the source to critique a translation. Most French fansubs or scanlations are translated through English (and some are Japanese -> Chinese -> English -> French, so you can guess the accuracy of the translation the poor French reader gets), and sometimes it shows. The most visibles cases are when expression are translated word for word, but sometimes it’s just clumsy sentence structure inherited from the English translation. Thing is, learning English is mandatory in France, so even people who aren’t able to follow English subtitles can sometimes tell when that happens. That’s one of the reason I usually look for fansubs and fan translations in English before French, even though it’s not my first language (the other reason is that there’s lot more stuff translated in English than in French).

    I think that knowing the source is necessary for some aspects of translation critique, but there is stuff that you can critique without, and it’s natural to prefer one or another style of translation without needing to know anything about the language or translation theory.

    In the context of fansubs, I’m a bit surprised no one mentionned the target audience. For obscure stuff like not very famous visual novels being translated by fans, the translator is assured that almost all of their readers are otakus, and have a pretty good knowledge of Japanese culture, so the translator can keep Japanese terms or cultural customs without bothering to explain them. For an anime on TV in a children channel, you obviously can’t do the same. I’ve got a feeling that the guy in the video should be reminded of this when he compares fansubs to pro translations.

    I’ve read lots of books in English and in French (some in Italian and in French, hopefully I’ll also read some in Japanese someday), and sometimes it’s easier in French (for instance, Robin Hobb with her specialised nautical and botanical vocabulary kills me in English but reads fine in French), sometimes it’s easier in English (particularly striking for Dune, which was waaaaay easier and faster to read in English even when my English was pretty bad) and sometimes it’s about the same. The Discworld translator, Patrick Couton, did such a good job finding equivalents to all the puns that when I’ll have the money, I’m going to buy the books in English and French. I’m really not a fan of localisations which completely change really important stuff, like the Famous Five, who’re French in the French version, with completely different names, and they always go to French cities. It may be more transparent for children, but surely it wouldn’t have killed us to read stories about English kids, and there’s really a lot of stuff about Britany that the translator must have pulled out of their ass.

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