Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena

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This morning a friend of ours IMed us to ask for help with a translation. We love showing off how smart we are, especially when it's helpful, so it was no problem at all. It was a question of a pronoun with an unknown antecedent. Or rather, the antecedent was known, because it was right after the "this" in parentheses, but it didn't make a whole lot of sense. But that doesn't matter.

 Anyway, she said that without the parenthetical antecedent (wow, this entry has big words!), the way she had the sentence translated worked very well with the rest of the paragraph, and then she gave us her translation. And then we said, "Actually, to us it looks more like this..." It seems like she had a hard time getting enough into the Japanese to realize that the word order is guaranteed to not match the word order in English translation. If that makes any sense.

This is something we see a lot of in amateur translations, from a lot of different people. For example (grabbing the nearest thing on our desk with Japanese sentences), on the Final Fantasy X vocal album, Tidus has a song with the line "星より輝く夢がある (hoshi yori kagayaku yume ga aru)."

For those of you who don't know any Japanese, "hoshi" is "star(s)," "yori" is "more than," "kagayaku" is "sparkle," "yume" is "dream(s)," and "aru" is "exist (to be)."

It's probably a question of not knowing what modifies what. Most people who've studied Japanese know that the verb always goes at the end of a sentence, so that probably wouldn't be a problem here. So an amateur translation of this might be "more than stars, there are sparkling dreams." It might also be translated as "more [importantly] than stars, there are dreams that sparkle," or "there are more sparkling dreams than stars."

But here, "hoshi yori kagayaku" is an entire clause that modifies "yume," so the most accurate translation, we think (and we really don't think we're the best translators ever, so we could be wrong), is "there are dreams that sparkle more than stars." Or "brighter than stars," if you want to take a less direct, more poetic translation approach.

The point is, we see a lot of very good translators who just need a little more practice and help. Maybe coaching? I wonder if it would be arrogant to suggest we start up our own website or LJ community dedicated to helping people translate better. We could proofread, answer questions, etc. etc. I don't know. It's a thought. We'd welcome any feedback.
Tags: language geekiness, translating

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