March 15th, 2016


Following up

After snacktime, the plan was to put in one more CD and work until it was done, and then we could call it a day. The plan was violently(?) thwarted by the arrival of cable salesmen. I heard a knock at the door, and I thought it must be the UPS guy with some unexpected comp copies (we never expect comp copies, because we never pay attention to release dates). I looked through the peephole and discovered it was not the UPS guy, and I would have gone back to work and ignored it (maybe), but the door didn't close properly after Page's most recent excursion, so it had already been opened and I felt like there was no going back. So now we're signed up for super high-speed internet (fiber optic) and cable TV, which we haven't had in years, and I'm not sure this is a good thing. But on the bright side, we'll have BYUtv just in time for General Conference! Also, the cable representatives were manga fans, so that was nice, except neither of them had read Noragami. Clearly Viz still has a corner on the market.

By the time they left, we had been blown too far off course, and there was no going back. Work was done. But we made it through most of the expositiony bits, so we think we should be able to finish tomorrow regardless.

In the meantime, I was thinking of doing a followup on the post I did yesterday. One thing I forgot to address was the idea of Japanese being such a highly contextual language that they only say one out of every three words, while in English they say what they mean. I'm pretty sure both counts are untrue. Well, exaggerated, anyway. It's true that Japanese does tend to leave out the subject, and often the object, of a sentence, but there are conventions for it, just like there are in English. For example, I could ask, "Want to?" That's a perfectly legitimate English sentence that means absolutely nothing without context. ...Okay, not nothing. It indicates some sort of desire. So let's try this one instead, "I will." Will what? Although in this case, we at least know who will. We can't think of any way to translate that into Japanese without context, anyway, except maybe as "hai", but again, context could change that.

We actually had two instances today, when editing our Devil Survivor translation, where we removed some words because they were more strongly implied in the English (but had to be stated clearly in the Japanese) and would have made the sentence too clunky. We also had an instance where we added a modifier to the English translation because it was implied in the Japanese but not clear in English.

Of course, there's not really any competition about which language can be more vague. The problem (and this is just an assumption after editing other people's translations without talking to them about their reasoning so it's pure speculation) is that it seems to me that people tell themselves that, "Oh, Japanese is just a vague language," and thus excuse themselves from learning how to figure out the linguistic techniques that really do exist in Japanese, that can help you figure out who is doing what to whom (or what). Things like when they use the passive voice, or auxiliary verbs like kureru and morau. It might take some practice to get the hang of those things, but it's kind of super important to know how they work. (I would give examples, but I don't remember any from that editing and I'm tired.)

So there's that. And then I had a little more to say on accuracy versus feeling. I definitely think that it's important to feel the Japanese dialogue, and translate with those feelings in mind, but before you can ever talk about translating by feel, you have to make sure you know the language. Like how kureru and morau work, for example. And you have to be a good "listener". If you've already "felt" what the characters are going to say before you really read the dialogue, odds are higher that you're going to misread it.

I don't know if this is related or not, but something we tend to see a lot of is a failure to grasp character voice, by which I mean the translator either assumes that a character is a certain way, or decides that a character is a certain way, regardless of how the character actually speaks. For example, one time we were told by an editor that we didn't have a character swearing powerfully enough, because she "was marked as" one of the more vulgar characters in the character descriptions. It seemed odd that the editor told us that she was marked as a vulgar character--why not just say she is one? If you know Japanese well enough, you can tell that the character is using vulgar language. (In the editor's defense, maybe he wasn't sure if we would be able to tell.)

Maybe I just wanted to talk about this because we're working on Devil Survivor, and that's reminding me of the emails that are exchanged between characters in the game. One of the girls is kind of the normal girl, the one that hangs out with the main character the most, and they have her using chatspeak. Meanwhile, the hyperactive internet idol writes in normal English. We haven't read the Japanese versions of the emails (they don't email each other in the manga), so this presents an interesting question. Did the translators decide how the characters write arbitrarily, or did the game developers deliberately use unexpected writing styles for each of them? It's something on my mind sometimes.

Today I'm thankful for making fairly good progress on Devil Survivor despite thwarted plans, the delicious Reese's Snacksters we indulged on at lunch, getting to eat pie on Pi Day, still having pie leftover, and Livingstone 2 coming out today so we'll have something to review tomorrow.