So without further ado, here's the first part!
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Translating with the Twins, a brand new blog brought to you by the famous(?) manga translators, Alethea and Athena Nibley! I'm Alethea, and I do all the typing while Athena sits beside me and tells me what to type. You never know who's really talking! But that's not important, because it's all approved by both of us.
We started this blog because we've felt a growing desire to show the world what kind of work goes into transforming a comic book from the Japanese language into the English one. Of course, as translators, we can only show you the first step in the process—there will always be lettering and editing to varying degrees and in different orders depending on the publisher, but none of it! I repeat, none of it! Can be done until after we translators get our greedy little hands on it. And there's a fair amount of work that needs to be done before we can let it go.
So we wanted to show everybody what the process is like. Of course, not all translators are the same, either, so the details may vary from one to another, but the basic principles of it won't change. What we're going to do here is show you the Japanese page and walk you all through the process of getting from that to an English language script. But don't think that just one of these walkthroughs will teach you everything you need to know about translating! That's why we're going to make it a series!
We wanted to start with a page from Hiro Mashima's current series, Edens Zero. When the first chapter of it went live on Crunchyroll, one of the reviews for it said it sounded heavily re-written. That made us die a little on the inside, because we know there's an idea going around that an accurate translation of Japanese can't sound like natural English. We reject this idea, because a native Japanese speaker isn't going to read every manga and think, “Wow, this grammar is kinda funky, and people don't actually talk like this, but that's how comics are supposed to be.” I admit we haven't asked any, but our guess would be that most native Japanese speakers expect the dialogue to sound reasonably natural to them. But Japanese and English don't work the same way, so if the translation is too direct, it can sometimes mean something different than what the author originally intended, and therefore become less faithful.
It's kind of a difficult concept to explain, but hopefully as you read this blog, you'll come to understand what we mean. And hopefully we can demonstrate how a translation can sound like natural, colloquial English and still be faithful to the source material. To help us choose which page we would feature, since it was pretty much impossible, we used the help of a handy-dandy random number generator, courtesy of Google-sensei. The number it gave us was 40, so here we present to you Edens Zero, chapter 1, page 40!
First, here's what the page looks like:
Now, we're going to take each element of text and assign it a number, for the purposes of this walkthrough:
Right off the bat, you'll probably notice that Japanese doesn't use the same writing system as English. So the first thing you need to know to translate it is how to read it. It's pretty easy to find resources online, and we don't have time to go into all that, so we're just going to skip ahead and tell you what it says using the Roman alphabet (that's the one we use in English, doncha know!), also known to students of Japanese as romaji:
1.Neru / maeni / karihen / shitoko[HEART]
6.Ore / no / kami / ga / naku / natta!!!
8.tte / Dare / mo / inee!!!
I should point out that the capital letters don't really mean anything here. I capitalized them arbitrarily based on my feelings. But now that you know what they all say, let's get into the nitty-gritty of what they all mean! Naturally, we'll go one number at a time.
1.Neru / maeni / karihen / shitoko[HEART]
If you look them up in a Japanese to English dictionary and place all the words in the same order, you'll get, roughly, “Sleep / before / karihen / let's do in advance.” As you can see, it makes no sense. Why? Because—and I can never stress this enough—Japanese and English do not work the same way.
This part is going to get pretty technical, so I hope you can stick with us. In Japanese, the words that work like prepositions actually come after the words they modify. (In English, we call them “prepositions,” because they are positioned before (pre- means “before”) a word.) So while the correct phrase in English is “before sleeping,” in Japanese, the correct way to say it is “sleeping before,” but it means the same thing as “before sleeping.”
So now we know that something is going to happen before someone goes to sleep. We may have taken the long way to get here, but don't worry—once you're at a certain level of Japanese comprehension, that part comes automatically. It's the next part that starts to take a while, because you may have noticed that we left the word “karihen” in Japanese. This is because that word didn't show up in any of the Japanese to English dictionaries we have access to. When this happens, it's time to start Googling. When we searched for this word, we got a link for a glossary of video production terms. That makes sense, because this line is spoken by the Edens Zero equivalent of a YouTuber. Context is extremely important in accurate translations. The glossary tells us that karihen is short for kari-henshuu, which means “offline editing.” After poking around the internet (since we're not video editors and don't just know this), we find out that this refers to using the footage that you have to make a sort of rough draft version of your final video. But we still don't know how it fits into the sentence until we tackle the next part.
In our example English sentence, we have “shitoko” translated as “let's do in advance.” It comes from “shite oku,” where “shite” is the -te form of “suru,” meaning “to do.” In this case, changing it to -te form means “we're going to connect it to an auxiliary verb. That auxiliary verb is “oku,” which we learned in Japanese class means “to do for future reference.” It's not grammatically correct that way, but it pointed us in the right direction. It means you'll do something so that, in the future, when you'll want it to be done, it will have already been done. So what is going to be done for future reference? Kari-hen, or offline editing! Tadah. “Oku” is conjugated as “oko,” which is a contracted version of “okou,” which roughly means “let's do [verb] for future reference.” It doesn't always mean “let's”—it usually just indicates intent, but often in an inclusive way, which makes “let's” work as a translation in most cases, especially if more than one party is present. In this case, the speaker (Rebecca) is likely talking to her sidekick Happy, so she might be inviting him to join her, or she might be saying it as a, “Hey, this is a cool idea I had that I'm going to do,” sort of thing.
Finally, we have to address the heart at the end. Athena and I are firmly of the opinion that hearts are punctuation. This probably drives our editors crazy, because without exception, they disagree. But punctuation exists to tell you the intonation of the sentence, and a heart definitely indicates a certain tone of voice. So we always stick it at the end like a period or exclamation point, and then our editors have to come along and add “real” punctuation. I suppose the argument could be made that English and Japanese don't have the same punctuation marks, and I couldn't really argue with that, but originally Japanese didn't have punctuation at all, which means all of it is adopted, so why can't English adopt punctuation, too? But I digress.
More importantly, let's put all these words together in a way that makes sense. From what we've learned so far, we have roughly, “Before sleeping, let's do some offline editing for future reference[HEART]” That...sounds kinda funny. And not funny “ha ha.” Funny “odd.”
First of all, the “for future reference” thing doesn't really have an English equivalent—in English, it's usually something that's implied. Especially in this case, since you always do your offline editing before your online editing, so offline editing is generally done “for future reference.” So it's our feeling that we can leave that out, and there's not anything lost in translation. You could potentially start out with, “I'll go ahead and...” which has the same feel to it, and maybe we'll include it, but let's see how it fits with the rest of the sentence first.
Most people, when speaking English, don't say, “Before sleeping.” They're more likely to say, “Before I go to sleep,” or, “Before I go to bed.” You may have noticed that there's no “I” in the Japanese version. This is because Japanese makes ample use of what is called the “zero pronoun.” In English, usually we'll introduce the topic of a story and then, when we're reasonably assured that the audience knows who we're talking about, we use a third-person pronoun for subsequent mentions. For example, “Harry went to the store. He bought eggs.” In this example, we know that “he” refers to Harry. In Japanese, it would be more like, “Harry went to the store. Bought eggs.” With English words, it sounds kind of weird, but in Japanese, it's perfectly natural. In fact, if speaking Japanese, including “Harry” or “he” in that second sentence would sound superfluous and unnecessary, or add more meaning to the sentence than just “He bought eggs.” Why? Because Japanese and English don't work the same.
So who is the subject of this sentence? The author assumed we wouldn't need any more context than we got for it to be obvious, and in fact I think we can all agree that Rebecca is likely referring to herself. This theory is supported by her use of the okou conjugation, which indicates intent—in Japanese, it is very rude to speak of others' intent without the proper verbage (not used here).
But back to neru. It can mean “sleep,” “lie down,” or “go to bed,” and that means we can use whichever one of these we feel sounds best. This is probably where I should mention that translation is an art as well as a science. Up until this point, we've been talking about the technical aspects and what the grammar and vocabulary mean, but sometimes it's just about what you think sounds better (as long as it means the same thing), which can change based on any number of factors, including just how we're feeling at the time. Now, if you've seen the previous page, you'll know that Rebecca is already lying down in her bed, which means she's definitely talking about sleeping. Some people (ourselves included) say “go to bed” to mean “go to sleep for the night,” even when they're already in bed, but to reduce confusion (since that's likely not the majority), we'll stick with sleep here, too.
And it's all kind of jumbled by now, but I think we have the pieces. The subject is Rebecca (who will refer to herself as “I”), and she intends to make some offline edits (so she'll have them done later when she wants them) before she goes to sleep. Now, if we put ourselves in the situation, and ask ourselves, “How would someone like Rebecca put all that information into an English sentence?” we come up with something like this:
“I'll just do some offline editing before I go to sleep[HEART]”
Check it out, and let us hear your feedback!