May 18th, 2012



Yesterday we saw something that started us on another one of our tirades, but now that I'm thinking about it, I've got so much on my mind related to it that I'm not sure I could write anything coherent. Well, we'll see.

See, we happened to catch sight of an anime review that mentioned a "stilted script." That immediately had us saying, "Wait a minute!" I'm afraid we jumped to conclusions, but our conclusion turned out to be mostly accurate. Most anime these days is watched on Crunchyroll, which means people are watching it in Japanese with subtitles. Chances are, the viewers (including reviewers) don't know enough Japanese to tell if the script would make a native Japanese speaker groan, "Who talks like that!?" So we jumped to the conclusion that the stiltedness was not of the Japanese script, but of the subtitle script. And the flow of a subtitle script is not a reflection of the anime's quality, but of the translation's.

So we were like, "How dare you accuse an anime of having a stilted script when you're most likely reading a bad translation!?" And that started us on our tirade about how one-to-one translations simply do not exist. (In fact, one of the things that leads to stilted subtitle scripts is translators trying to make one-to-one translations.) So many people seem to think that a script is going to be exactly the same in every language, regardless of who translated it, and it's just not true.

We suspect this might be why there are people like our brother-in-law, who think that video games from Japan are good, but manga from Japan is terrible. You can get badly written video games just as easily as you can get badly written manga, but video game companies seem to have a little bit more of an actual screening process. On the other hand, the Final Fantasy VII translation had some serious issues, but it got to be super popular anyway, so I guess that's really more about how video games have stuff like gameplay and graphics to consider, and if it's fun enough, people don't care so much about whether or not the dialogue makes sense.

And I think I had something else to say on that, but it's completely fled my mind.

Anyway, the point is one-to-one translations don't exist. In fact, if Athena and I were to pick up something we translated a week ago and translate it again, the script would probably be different. Not as different as if we re-translated something we picked up ten years ago, but different. Why? Because there's so much more packed into a group of words than just the first thing listed in the dictionary with each word. Words represent ideas, and ideas are conveyed differently based on the context, and even word placement. And how those idea are interpreted can also change based on the mindset of the person translating.

A little while ago, we were looking up quotes about translation, and we found one we really liked that was something about how translators are just readers whose interpretation is the one in print. And I think that pretty much sums up our whole rant.

On the other hand, since most American viewers can only watch anime subtitled or dubbed, the translation quality would be a factor in entertainment value, so a stilted subtitle script is still a problem. We just want people to realize what's causing the problem, so it can be addressed properly. ...But on the other other hand, if the characters and story had been interesting enough, the reviewer probably wouldn't have cared how stilted the translation was.

Today I'm thankful for figuring out why we couldn't complete those collections in Legend Cards, the super yummy mozzarella Cheez-its we had for a snack, not being seriously hurt when the ball hit me in the face during foosball last night (human foosball; a regular foosball probably wouldn't have been as much of a concern), protective eyewear, and my glasses not being bent out of shape (I think).