Honorifics in scanlation / text translation

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Postby Rosenakahara » Tue Aug 25, 2015 12:46 pm

Likewise i brought up amelia back when this thread started, she is also a very polite character when talking to people (unless they are in her words "agents of evil") so it fits nicely.
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Postby Bagheera » Tue Aug 25, 2015 12:53 pm

View Original PostSailor Star Dust wrote:So, you think the earlier ADV dub example of Shinji saying "Miss Misato/Ritsuko" in place of -san doesn't work? He's generally polite/respectful when speaking to others...Especially because he's keeping the relationship gaps closed while Misato wants things to be friendly.


I had him running with that for years in my post-3I fic. It just seemed appropriate. He eventually got over it and started just calling her "Misato", but it took a while.
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Postby Mr. Tines » Tue Aug 25, 2015 2:43 pm

View Original PostSailor Star Dust wrote:So, you think the earlier ADV dub example of Shinji saying "Miss Misato/Ritsuko" in place of -san doesn't work?
Because it's not a natural usage in English, except perhaps by a servant speaking of the junior members of the family they work for (which is an archaism). The progression roughly goes, oddities like knighthoods aside -- given name, given + family, family, honorific + family, and the progression goes both up and down the social ladder (until it starts to reverse); and American usage is even less formal than that.
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Postby Enki v.2 » Tue Aug 25, 2015 4:10 pm

With regard to 'Miss Misato' vs 'Misato-san' -- it's a mistake, I think. It doesn't mean the same thing or have the same significance. If someone *doesn't* know the meaning of '-san' in this context and what it indicates but instead takes it at face value, s/he is left with an impression of Shinji being ten or twenty times more uptight than he really is because honorific forms of address simply aren't used in english outside of extremely formal settings; if someone *does* know it, then s/he has to translate it mentally back to Japanese in order to process what it means (and then, it may be ambiguous -- the consumer of the dub might need to guess whether -san is being used; the distinction between -san and -sama in non-historical contexts can be ambiguous in translation in precisely this way, because very rarely does "onii-sama" mean "your lordship, my brother" when said by a little girl in the modern day to someone who isn't her brother). While this is a translation decision up to the translators and certainly one that must be weighed carefully, I think it would have been more appropriate in the particular case of Shinji addressing Misato to drop the honorifics entirely and lose that dimension of the characterization than to have Shinji address everyone as though they are his kindergarten teacher (which is really the only context I can think of in english where Miss/Mrs/Mister is used in conjunction with a first name non-sarcastically).

If you're translating for people who don't understand honorifics, you need to be *very* careful about how you translate them, knowing full well that it may be necessary to gloss over whole potentially-important dimensions of character development and interpersonal relationships or drop them entirely in order to avoid completely warping the perspective of the viewers, because poor translation of honorifics can really damage meaning.

Let's take as a parallel example Russian. Russian doesn't have honorifics. Instead, they have a patronym system, wherein one's patronym acts sort of as a middle name, and a system for modifying given names to varying degrees of diminutivity. The equivalent mode of address for the Japanese '-san' honorific in russian is first name plus patronym. The equivalent mode of address for the Japanese '-chan' honorific in russian is to mutate the person's first name by shortening it and adding '-a' or '-ya' to the end. In english, the only situation in which one's first name and middle name is used is when one is being scolded by one's parent, and while diminutive forms exist for some names, they are not systematic and do not exist for all names. Translating 'Antonina Ivanova' as 'Antonina Ivanova' would be a mistake! Instead, you'd want to figure out the character's family name and put a 'Mrs.' in front of it! Likewise, translating 'Tonya' to 'Tonya' as an informal way of addressing this same character would be a mistake! English readers would have no way to know that 'Tonya' and 'Antonina Ivonova' are the same person.

Basically, what I'm saying is, being able to keep honorifics in is a huge benefit because you don't need to think very hard about how to translate them anymore. Needing to translate honorifics is a challenge, and one that cannot necessarily be done effectively. Systems of address really don't have pairity between languages, and systems of address are often loaded with large amounts of implicit cultural and contextual meaning. (The same character can call the same other character 'oji-chan' two different times and have the first time be complimentary while the second time is insulting. Try doing that in english.)

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Postby ChaudSept » Tue Aug 25, 2015 4:42 pm

Tines said pretty much my point on this.

But, I still think that dub is quite another matter. When you dub a show, you really export it. When you sub, fan-sub, it's an adaptation of the audience somewhat.

That's why reading is to me different from hearing, it might be terrible to hear some random voice actor saying "Oneesama".
While I understand the usage of "Miss Misato" I still find it ugly. But I recognize that the relation Shinji - Misato is a little complicated.. well more complicated than "friendly relationship" anyway. If it was purely professional, then Miss Katsuragi would be the most natural way to say it in english.
But here it is, the jap dialogue doesn't say neither "Katsuragi" nor "Katsuragi-san", and obviously that's way too formal for Misato. Therefore I'm block and I prefer Misato-san.

View Original PostBagheera wrote:I had him running with that for years in my post-3I fic. It just seemed appropriate. He eventually got over it and started just calling her "Misato", but it took a while.


The fanfic case is also different because, stop me if I'm wrong, but when producing something like a fic/art/whatever it's purely, mainly and firstly for yourself. So you write what you feel just to you, if you did watch the dub your all life then you keep on using the same appellation because if you want to do a good fanfic then you have to keep it in-universe all the way. But you can be like me a disagreeing with how the dub is done.
If I were to write anything on my own, I would have the same issues with the honorifics, though.

When doing translations, I don't think I'm suppose to do what the hell I want because it's not my work. Just because I translate something in english, I should adapt to how pro's did ? I still don't feel like it.

The more I have that debate, the more I believe I feel that way because my mother tongue isn't english hence I don't have the same reference in mind. I have no special love in french-dub (they ignore all the honorifics anyway, but we have "tu" et "vous" to say "you" politely or not, just like italian have "Lei", unfortunatly english doesn't have that), and I ~kinda~ dislike all english-dub.

Btw it's the same thing with every english movie I see, I saw them sub, english sub even, because I know deep down that what I understand in my little head is far better than a mere translated sentence.

That kind of problem is the same with jokes and puns in a medium : Would you rather see it localized to an occidental reference, or kept as it is knowing that nobody will get it unless there's a footnote ?


Basically, what I'm saying is, being able to keep honorifics in is a huge benefit because you don't need to think very hard about how to translate them anymore. Needing to translate honorifics is a challenge, and one that cannot necessarily be done effectively.


You put in as a benefit for the translator, but I think about it more as a benefit for the audience. It's not like we can't translate it because it's too hard. It sounds a little cocky to say "Oh Japanese is too nuanced for english bruh", but it is a little true.

In Ore Monogatari!!, the main character calls his girlfriend "Yamato", his bestfriends calls her "Yamato-san".. It means a lot!! And adding a Miss won't work, as Enki said.

Is my approach about this matter a way to raise awareness among those who'll read me? It would appear so... But I can't say "don't watch dub", only a Sith deals with absolute.
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Postby Enki v.2 » Tue Aug 25, 2015 6:41 pm

Well, there *is* a middle path (and its accessibility depends on what medium you're working in). That middle path is copious footnotes & translation notes. This used to be *somewhat* common in fansubs, back in that ancient era when 'sub vs dub' meant 'fansub of unlicensed property vs heavily rewritten and recut dub with all the interesting stuff censored for the 7-12 year old audience'. These days I mostly see it in fan-translation of light novels, although I'll *very occasionally* see it in manga. This is also the academic route, so you'll see it outside the anime/manga scene for professional translations of books of historical importance. You can use 'Miss Misato' at that point (or, for that matter, 'Misato-san') and just give it a footnote and explain the actual meaning the first time you do it. Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well in fan-subs -- it fell out of fashion in part because subbers would underestimate their audience and fill the screen with a long-winded explanation of 'senpai' and 'kouhai' in the first episode of every show (and this was before softsubs, so you couldn't just turn off the TL Note stream if your moon is strong).

Regarding mapping modes of address -- I feel like even when there *is* a mapping, sometimes you still benefit from a note! Distinguishing between kimi and anata via tu/vous (even in situations where those really are the only options and nobody's saying omae or kisama) is potentially a mistake because of differences in the meanings in context that may not match up. (This is sort of a bad example because, as far as my limited memory of high school french goes, they *do* match up -- insomuch as informal address when formality is expected is at least as offensive as formal address when informality is expected -- and although the particular parameters of formality and familiarity may not sync, they are unlikely to be quite as mismatched as 'miss' vs 'san'.) It's easy enough to, for instance, translate 'anata' into 'dear' when it's clearly being used that way, but it's more difficult to translate a scene where one person thinks it means 'you' and the other thinks it means 'dear' and some romantic comedy misunderstanding type plot evolves from that. Inbetween, you get a bit of coloring where everybody in the scene both knows what is meant and what else it *could* mean and that tempers their reactions subtly -- something that you lose entirely when you live in a place where calling your wife 'tu' and thinking that's the same as calling her 'ma mignon' is absurd.

There are definitely some circumstances where a reliable translation isn't possible in a way that makes sense without copious translation notes. Think of the bits in Bakemonogatari or Sayonara Zetsubo-Sensei that are essentially extended kanji puns. There's no way to make that funny in english, or in french, and there's no way to translate it to make it natural. As a result, those things can't be translated in such a way that they will be made accessible to someone who, for instance, has no idea that Japanese has a system of writing based on composing together ideograms that have various meanings and pronunciations. When it's explicit -- for instance, saying "the chinese character for ninja is a blade over a heart" -- then it's fine and easy. When it's more subtle -- for instance, misreading a character's name as 'despair', or (for instance) the gag in Umineko where every family member's name is written in kanji but pronounced as an english name -- you can either allow it to make absolutely no sense and let it pass, or explain it out of band.

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Postby Bagheera » Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:01 pm

View Original PostChaudSept wrote:The fanfic case is also different because, stop me if I'm wrong, but when producing something like a fic/art/whatever it's purely, mainly and firstly for yourself. So you write what you feel just to you, if you did watch the dub your all life then you keep on using the same appellation because if you want to do a good fanfic then you have to keep it in-universe all the way. But you can be like me a disagreeing with how the dub is done.
If I were to write anything on my own, I would have the same issues with the honorifics, though.


My case is a bit odd, since the characters all have either professional or familial relationships with one another, and thus don't have the strangeness you'd see when calling a classmate or whoever by "Ms. (first name)." So that means I have professional courtesy on the one hand, which translates much as it would in the U.S., and endearments and various translations of "baka" on the other, with "Miss Misato" being the only outlier (Asuka doesn't have that problem because she gives no fucks by this point and calls people whatever she likes).

If I were doing a classroom setting I'm not sure what I'd do. I'd probably fret a bit and then do something else. :tongue:
For my post-3I fic, go here.
The law doesn't protect people. People protect the law. -- Akane Tsunemori, Psycho-Pass
People's deaths are to be mourned. The ability to save people should be celebrated. Life itself should be exalted. -- Volken Macmani, Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
I hate myself. But maybe I can learn to love myself. Maybe it's okay for me to be here! That's right! I'm me, nothing more, nothing less! I'm me. I want to be me! I want to be here! And it's okay for me to be here! -- Shinji Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Yes, I know. You thought it would be something about Asuka. You're such idiots.

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Postby felineki » Thu Aug 27, 2015 10:32 pm

I don't have too strong a feeling on it one way or the other. Although I'm currently not including honorifics in my fledgling attempt at resubbing Teyandee (but that is subject to change in the future.)


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