Question to all translators.

Discussion in 'NDS - ROM Hacking and Translations' started by Dann Woolf, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. Dann Woolf

    Dann Woolf Deadpan Snarker

    Oct 12, 2010
    I'm sure you've all had the problem where you're translating a game and you find a line that doesn't work so well in English as it does in Japanese, like a joke or a saying. How do you solve this problem? Do you translate the line directly anyway and risk losing its intended effect, or do you change it to something that works better in English (if I'm not mistaken this is called a Woolseyism)?
  2. twiztidsinz

    twiztidsinz Taiju Yamada Fan

    Dec 23, 2008
    United States
    That IS the question...
    That has been the topic of debate as long as I can remember discussing fansubs for anime. Which is the better way? And there's really no answer.

    If you change the line to make sense in the native language, then you're changing the dialogue. People who have an understanding of the culture may have understood it.
    However, one could argue that by changing the line to something that keeps the intended meaning you're still staying true to the work.

    Since I don't feel there is an absolute right or wrong way, I think it requires a compromise and should more be more determined by the difficulty to understand. If you can add a little note somewhere to explain or relate the meaning, then keep it the same. However if it is some obscure reference that people won't get without a deep understanding, then by all means change it.
  3. monkat

    monkat I'd like to see you TRY to ban me. (Should I try?.

    May 21, 2009
    United States
    I'm not sure how fan-translation customs are, but if you're doing a professional job, you had better find a way to make it work in English. Simply translating the words is an amazing way to not get another job from that client.

    But, again, that's with documents and conversations, not art-forms, so I can't say how you'd handle it like this. If I were in that position, I would use a bit of discretion. If its something completely obscure to even moderate japanophiles, such as puns translate it naturally (or at least provide an explanation at the top or something). If it is something that is kiiinda obscure, but you think that if you're into Japanese stuff, you might get it, then a literal translation would be fine.
  4. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip Reporter
    Nov 21, 2005
    United States
  5. Rydian

    Rydian Resident Furvert™

    Feb 4, 2010
    United States
    Cave Entrance, Watching Cyan Write Letters
    When this is done with no regard to the placement of the original pun it's called that, but when one is english is created to parallel the original, it's done well.

    • If the original was some joke about a japanese pop star nobody in the US has heard of and the english version ended up being some pun about cats, that's like Woolsey.
    • If the original was some joke about a japanese pop star nobody in the US has heard of and the english version ended up being some joke about an english pop star in the same vein (for example a pun if the original was a pun, or the same type of reference if it was a reference) then it's done well.
    The first is fine for your average english gamer (which is why it's the most often used route as it's less restrictive), but japanese fans would be irked by it... whereas they'd be pleased by the second type, but normal gamers wouldn't know the difference so it might not be worth the effort (and creative restriction).

    When doing a fan translation it's expected that your audience will be of the second type, so spending the time to find a proper parallel is often much appreciated by the players.
  6. jjjewel

    jjjewel GBAtemp Maniac

    Dec 17, 2009
    United States
    I guess it depends on the translator(s). [​IMG] And for game translation, in most case, you don't have any place to add a footnote or reference to the culture. So if you think that most of the players won't understand the culture reference in that part, you might consider changing it. (Anyway, it's totally up to the translation team.)
  7. Phoenix Goddess

    Phoenix Goddess The Ninja's Protégée

    Apr 25, 2009
    United States
    Away from civilization.
    Inori and I usually try to make it as close to the Japanese pun as we can. It happened a thousand times in our translation and most of the time, we can manage, but a few times, we can't. It usually takes extra brain work before we come up with something for it XD
  8. Inori

    Inori GBAtemp Regular

    Dec 13, 2008
    One could argue that there`s no point translating something literally if it loses the intended effect. That`s only if you believe that a translation should resemble the intentions/meaning of the original and that a translation should flow naturally.

    In the end, it does depend on your target audience and what you expect them to know.

    I think Feenie and I encountered this problem when we had to translate dialogue of a word chain game, which would obviously not work in English. In the end, we had to change the English translation(s) of some words so that the intended effect remained the same or else there would be too many puzzled players.
  9. Densetsu

    Densetsu Pubic Ninja

    Former Staff
    Feb 2, 2008
    United States
    Wouldn't YOU like to know?
    When I buy books, if it's a really popular title I usually try to get both the English and Japanese versions. For instance, I have the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia full sets, both in Japanese and English. When I read the English I like to look out for things that might be hard to translate and then go to the Japanese version to see how it was handled.

    In Philosopher's Stone, Harry asks Hagrid "What's the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite?" And Hagrid says "Stalagmite has an 'M' in it." In Japanese, "stalagmite" is ?? (sekijun) and "stalactite" is ??? (shounyuuseki). When I read that I immediately pulled down my Japanese version from the shelf. When Harry asks "what's the difference between ?? and ????" (but in Japanese, obviously), Hagrid says something like "?? has two characters in it."

    I also have The da Vinci Code in English and Japanese, and that one is full of poems, clues and word structures that only work in English. The Japanese one handles it surprisingly well, but some of the original meaning is lost to the Japanese reader. It can't be avoided.

    Luckily I've never had to interpret Japanese puns on the spot in a professional setting. I interpreted at my friends' Japanese wedding once (American groom and Japanese bride). The families from both sides were there and some of them wanted to give speeches. The Japanese speeches were a little easier to interpret into English because they tend not to joke around when giving speeches, even at weddings. I was lucky that the Americans were pretty straightforward in what they wanted to say, but one guy said a funny remark that was meant to be an inside joke, so I didn't get it. Some of the Americans laughed, and when the Japanese looked at me for an interpretation I said "I have no idea what the hell he's talking about (???????????????????????????)" and they all laughed too. I cheated, but it worked!