Honorifics in scanlation / text translation

Yeah. You read right. This is for everything that doesn't have anything to do with Eva.

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Honorifics in scanlation / text translation

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Postby ChaudSept » Thu Aug 13, 2015 5:28 pm

Heyo

Although the discussion "Honorifics in dubs" has been talked about countless times, the matter here is mainly centered on printed stuff.

I'm also kinda only talking about fan-translation.

I've read that a lot of people here think that honorifics have nothing to do in a dub. Are your opinions any different on a scanlation of, say, a manga? A manga where there are a -niisan, a -sama, and a -chan at each page.

My opinions though :

- Translating the honorifcs (aka Mr, Ms, Brother etc...) seems horrible to me. It's ugly and unnatural.
(Hello big brother Shinji, where is Mr. Eren ? Oh he is with little Goku...NOPE NOPE)

- Writing nothing instead, that's the more natural. But I think we agree, we loose something relationship wise.

- Keeping them (all of them) is my personal choice. But it can be confusing to non-sub-watcher readers, and getting annoying.

Wanna argue?
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Postby Rosenakahara » Thu Aug 13, 2015 5:38 pm

Since im watching slayers dub all the way through i can comment on this, in the sub Amelia tends to use honorifics a lot when talking to people (which as i have stated before feels at odds with the setting) however in the dub they change it to Ms. Lina, Mr. Gourry etc. and it works, it actually improves it to me as it fits more with the setting and doesn't lose anything relationship wise and personality wise it keeps her character quirk intact.

Obviously this wont work for every anime specifically more actually Japanese focused ones but i think trying to find ways around it would be the best option as "onee chan!" doesn't sound nearly as good when English voice actors are saying it compared to Japanese ones.

Yes i just talked about dubs even though you wanted print.
Regarding manga keeping everything is by far the best way to go as it just flows more naturally.
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Postby Ieyasu » Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:00 pm

I've no problems with the honorifics since I understand the original contexts they're used in... but the job of translating is probably best done when it translates from one culture to another smoothly as possible. If anything seems awkward or out of place it's a translator's job to make it seem more natural in the target language, even if it means ditching stuff and avoiding literal terms. At least, in professional works it seems to be... scanlation quality translation can be just as good, but sometimes awful because the translator decides to go literal.

One of the reasons I started learning Japanese (not the most important reason, but one of them) was because of how much is lost in translation from J to E and how frustrating it is, subtle relationships between characters and reference terms they use can convey information you wouldn't get in English, plus the words and concepts that don't even seem to exist in English.

So while I don't mind seeing niisan, sama, kun, chan, bo, whatever in English, which is much better than a bad literal translation, I'd still prefer to read the thing in its original language.
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Postby IronEvangelion » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:11 pm

I actually love Japanese honorifics. When you take an Eastern work and try to normalize it for Western tastes, it loses a lot of the cultural flavor. I love being known as Big Bro Sempai-Kun in Persona 4, and in Gunbuster I love hearing Noriko say "Onee-sama!" so much that I wouldn't watch an English dub if it was available. Half the fun of getting into anime is finding out what all the jokes and cultural nuances mean.
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Postby pwhodges » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:47 am

It really does depend on both the audience's appreciation of their meaning and how important the subtleties of interpersonal relationships are in the particular work - which really means there's no simple answer other than your own judgement in each case.

When writing my fic, I decided against using honorifics, not least because (more than in translating) I couldn't be sure to get the subtleties right. But I did work out for myself a scheme of how to use family names and personal names that reflected the likely honorifics in a consistent way without being unnatural (no "Mr Shinji", obviously!).
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Postby Mr. Tines » Fri Aug 14, 2015 4:00 am

It was common enough back in the day to have European characters referred to as Herr Doktor Professor Niemand, Mme. Personne, Señorita Nadie or whatever; and that's with a pretty much 1-to-1 mapping to English. As there are more nuances in the Japanese forms, and they are used in manners that would be unnatural in literal English translation, given the precedent of using foreign forms of address, there is a strong argument for keeping them, simply so as not to further contort translation.

There are enough other problems trying to map between Japanese and Indo-European languages as it is.
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Postby Fireball » Fri Aug 14, 2015 8:29 am

I'm of the opinion that you should deal with the fact that you are reading/watching something Japanese for Japanese. I'm not saying go full weeb but you might as well learn something along it. Same goes for any entertainment outside your country. Translated honorifics sound most of the times forced as hell but I honestly don't care enough if they are out to keep it neutral.

Names and attacks however should not be localized. Fuck your godrobe and tankery :hahaha:
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Postby Dr. Nick » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:02 pm

As a translator, I don't really have strong feelings about it one way or another, but in terms of utility the preferred strategy should be the one that makes the translation the least noticeable. Ideally (that is, if you value smooth communication of ideas and meanings), the translation should trick your brain into thinking there's no translation here. This, of course, connects to making the subtitles as inobtrusive as possible, but that's a whole different can of worms and a classic fansubber stumbling block.

My personal preference is that the forms of address should make sense in the in-universe context, as that helps to make the translation a less obvious separate layer on top of the original. Since a great majority of anime of course take place in Japan, it is a perfectly valid strategy to leave in some Japanese flavoring. One just has to understand that this is done not out of any necessity. Translation always involves signal loss, and you can't plug that leaky dam just by leaving the honorifics in. While this article commits the silly fallacy that "serious literature" doesn't use cultural flavorings, it does point out that politeness in Japanese entails a lot more than just honorifics and that you're bound to lose some nuance.

On the other hand, if you have an anime that doesn't take place in Japan or have any Japanese characters in it, just blindly sticking to the source language address forms can create a bit of a layer disconnect if you start thinking about it. The layer disconnect can also work the other way if the translator doesn't distance themselves from the target language, although it more often manifests as realia elements being called something they're not. The phenomenon is the same.

Then there's an additional consideration that goes a long way in explaining why your average fansub discussions are often pretty terrible, with people talking past one another, and it has a cognitive basis on human behavior. Basically, humans are bit like ducklings when they consume translated media, and people tend to get imprinted on the first translation version they encounter, regardless of its merits. When they later encounter different translation versions of the same thing, they often dismiss them out of hand even if the new versions might do things better, be more accurate or communicate their ideas more effectively. Fireball's post above is a good illustration of this and how it leads to substanceless prescriptive demands.

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Postby Monk Ed » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:32 pm

View Original PostDr. Nick wrote:Basically, humans are bit like ducklings when they consume translated media, and people tend to get imprinted on the first translation version they encounter, regardless of its merits. When they later encounter different translation versions of the same thing, they often dismiss them out of hand even if the new versions might do things better, be more accurate or communicate their ideas more effectively.

Are you also talking about sub vs dub or just different translation conventions within subtitled media? Cuz I grew up on dubbed DBZ, but I kept hearing about how much cooler the Japanese version was and saw some clips of it online and fell in love with it after years (childhood years no less) of hearing only the English dub. (Of course I realize that something that people "tend" to do is not necessarily going to apply to everyone.)
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Postby Dr. Nick » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:42 pm

View Original PostMonk Ed wrote:Are you also talking about sub vs dub or just different translation conventions within subtitled media? Cuz I grew up on dubbed DBZ, but I kept hearing about how much cooler the Japanese version was and saw some clips of it online and fell in love with it after years (childhood years no less) of hearing only the English dub. (Of course I realize that something that people "tend" to do is not necessarily going to apply to everyone.)


The studies we went through only dealt with printed and subtitled media.

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Postby Fireball » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:54 pm

Yes, because Goku Uniform is such an accurate translation for Kamui. Pls Nick, I've been watching anime for too long to be lumped together with narrow minded sheep. At least call me a weeb or something.

I was one of the first that called out Kaizoku subs back when they were the only one subbing One Piece and they pretended that "nakama" was some untranslatable special word because apparently it would transcend the meaning of "comrade", but I was also there to disagree when the translation nazis wanted to force "haki" as "ambition" which itself is the literal meaning but turned out to be a horrible idea because I could see miles away that it was just the author's idea of mana/chakra/ki/ and would later cause awkward made up attack names. Also I love troll subs so don't give me that.

I agree with your examples of in-universe context that's why I don't necessarily mind when you leave out honorifics.
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Postby Dr. Nick » Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:33 pm

View Original PostFireball wrote:Pls Nick, I've been watching anime for too long to be lumped together with narrow minded sheep. At least call me a weeb or something.


You clearly understand that translation difficulties often require problem solving on a case-by-case basis (and that unfortunately makes you ineligible for a weeb card), so I'm a little befuddled where a sweeping blanket statement like this comes from:

View Original PostFireball wrote:Names and attacks however should not be localized.


Other than that, I don't see any disagreement between us.

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Postby Sailor Star Dust » Fri Aug 14, 2015 4:45 pm

I think honorifics and the like should be case by case basis. "Miss Misato" or "Ikari" in Eva (ADV and VIZ manga, dropping Rei's "-kun") work as good English equivalents.

Leaving "gomen ne" in OP lyrics (VIZ Sailor Moon, supposedly stylistic choice from lyricist) or "flavored rice rice ball" (Kodansha-USA Sailor Moon manga...Why not just "rice ball" for onigiri? ) just confuses Westerns unnecessarily.

Translating's always a balancing act between a good meaning and the literal. Like I mentioned in my podcast interview the other day, I think a happy medium between the two is best, but I know it's not always possible.
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Postby Nuclear Lunchbox » Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:00 pm

Scanlator reporting in.

When it comes to basic -chan or -san honorifics, I tend not to leave them in unless there's some kind of significance to the story, or another character calls attention to it, eg. meant to belittle or something like that. For calling a character a title that isn't a name, like referring to someone as Onee-chan, I'll tend to leave that untouched unless I see a good reason not to-- whereas I'd be more likely to localize something like Ojou-sama.

In short, I go with whatever feels right for the story that I'm working on.

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Postby InstrumentalityOne » Fri Aug 14, 2015 6:33 pm

View Original PostSailor Star Dust wrote:case by case basis

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Postby A.T. Fish » Sat Aug 15, 2015 7:53 am

View Original PostFireball wrote:Fuck your godrobe and tankery :hahaha:


I think Tankwondo is a better translation, it has basically the same meaning of senshado and keeps the joke intact. It's not like it matters that Taekwondo is Korean as far as the joke is concerned.

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Postby Fireball » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:27 am

Well, I'm not a fan of replacing a legit martial arts term like Kendo with another foreign word mixed with an English one.
Just call it what it is - Senshado (the first episode even explains what it means) but you are right, at least it's humorous, I'll give you that.
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Postby A.T. Fish » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:44 am

View Original PostFireball wrote:Well, I'm not a fan of replacing a legit matial arts term like Kendo with another foreign word mixed with an English one.
Just call it what it is - Senshado (the first episode even explains what it means) but you are right, at least it's humorous, I'll give you that.


Is it really connected to Kendo? "Do" is a common suffix in Japanese martial arts, so it's probably just a fusion of "sensha" (which is tank, I guess) and "do". I bet the "do" from taekwondo has a similar purpose.

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Postby Fireball » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:55 am

Yes, it's based on Naginatado, basically the womanly version of Kendo. Senshado means literally "way of the tank".
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Postby Nuclear Lunchbox » Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:55 am

And see, with that kind of knowledge of the language, that's the kind of think I'd be inclined to leave intact. It's not like one would try to literally translate kendo or ramen out of the language.


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