October 18th, 2012


Someday Dream At

There was a brief incident at Universal Studios that I left out of my report that we've been thinking about on and off for a while, mostly because it touched on something else we'd been thinking about for a while before it happened. We ran into somebody we knew who had only just barely started learning Japanese, and I (perhaps sadistically) encouraged that person to say something in Japanese to Kyoya and Tamaki. It was a little interesting to hear, because they kept trying to maintain English word order ("sore wa desu keitai," for example), which really doesn't work when speaking Japanese. (It's okay; Kyoya makes similar mistakes when speaking English, so we all understand that nobody's perfect, and we don't mock anybody.)

There were probably a few things that led up to it, but we've been thinking about how Japanese is so vastly different than English, and people don't always seem to realize exactly how different it is. We've posted some of our "literal" translations online before, but even those had some work done to them--we took all the vocabulary and rearranged it into English grammar. But even the grammar is really different, and in fact it's the grammar that makes Japanese difficult--not the vocabulary, not the pronunciation, not even the different writing system.

So to illustrate, we thought it would be fun to post a word for word translation, one to one. Nothing rearranged. Basically, what you'd get if you read through some text, looked up every word in a Japanese-English dictionary, and slapped it on paper as-is. And, to illustrate our point even further, we decided to go with the Japanese lyrics of a Disney song, to show how much the word order had to change from English to get it to work in Japanese. Then we realized our selection was narrowed down significantly when we realized we had to choose one that hadn't taken too many liberties to get the lyrics to fit the tune, or just to make sense (for example, the "one jump ahead" motif really doesn't work in Japanese).

But we persevered! (for about a minute) and chose "Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty. If you don't know the English lyrics, it'd probably only take a few seconds with Google to find them.

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Then that turned out to be really short, so we decided to "translate" "Go the Distance," too. (As sung by the character in the movie, not by Michael Bolton in the end credits.)

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Tadah! I admit, we did have to tweak it anyway. We made sure to choose the right translation for the context, and of course the way verbs are conjugated... There's just no way to translate that sometimes. For example, in Japanese, sometimes, you can drop the ending (or change the ending, based on the verb type) and add a -zu, which means "without ...ing." But the verb conjugations always come at the end of the verb, so we tried to maintain that. Was that a mistake? I don't know. But hopefully it's still a good demonstration.

I should also point out that, in that first line in "Once Upon A Dream," "you" is the one being seen, not the one seeing. In Japanese, it's obvious, but there's no English translation for the particle を, so we just translated it to the object form of "you," which (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) is "you." But they do have a way of changing adjectives into adverbs in Japanese, so that was already done; we didn't tweak that.

Today I'm thankful for grammar rules, getting our fancy new hairbrushes, Clorox Greenworks, Japanese Disney songs, and Jun Fukuyama's skull tie (we were looking at the lyric book for our Disney Date CD (of course), and we saw his picture, and Athena was like, "Oh how cute, he's wearing a tie!" then she looked closer and it was a skull; a shiny one, too).