Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena

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Perfectionist blues

Well, it's not ridiculously hot today--just hot. But we're still feeling very blaaah. We were just supposed to finish editing this volume of Missions of Love! It was supposed to take, like, half a day! But it didn't. It took all day. Actually, we do usually take a full day to edit Missions of Love, but we already started yesterday...for like half an hour. No, maybe an hour. I don't remember.

The point is, this volume was hard. I think that might have to do with another phase of staring at lines of dialogue and constantly wondering if it could be better somehow--more snappy, funnier, more idiomatic, more...something. And then there are the lines that mention a Thing that's done in Japan, and we're like, "I'm pretty sure they do that here, at least on TV shows..." and we look it up, and despite finding the summary of the exact episode of a TV show that we're thinking of, there's no one word or phrase in it that could be defined as that thing. It's tricky.

And then there are the lines that we could technically just translate the way they are, but do people really talk like that? I don't know, I don't know what people talk like anymore. Sometimes we decide that yeah, sure, I guess they do. And sometimes we decide that I don't know, maybe they would in those circumstances. And sometimes we decide that no, no they don't talk like that, and we need to change it. And then we have to figure out how, and usually that's fine, but sometimes that means changing the line to something that may or may not seem radically different from what it said in the Japanese.

Case in point. The ever-popular question "can I stay by your side?" It's not really the question so much as the phrase: soba ni iru (be by [your] side). In a lot of contexts, it's fine the way it is, but it really didn't seem that fine in this particular context. So we did what we've been doing in Missions, and we defined the relationship. And we had a translation note. And Athena mentioned later (at lunchtime) that she wondered how many readers would see that note and think, "Yeah, so why didn't you just leave it like it was in the Japanese?"

And that leads us to a little story. It happened all the way back in high school, when our school was hosting some exchange students from Glendale's sister city, Osaka. One of the girls in Athena's French class was part of the host family for one of the students, and she was talking to her friends about a letter that the student had written to her host family (maybe specifically to the girl) about what she hoped to do while she was in America. The student apparently had done her best to write this letter in English, and one of the items on the list was that she wanted to play with this girl. Athena overheard the girl repeating the sentence, "I want to play with you," in a mocking tone of voice, like, "I want to play with you?"

Whether the girl thought the sentence sounded childish or whether she thought it sounded dirty, it was pretty clear she didn't really know that "asobu," which is usually translated to "play," has different connotations in Japanese than it does in English. In Japanese, it usually means something along the lines of "hang out and/or do something fun," which is still technically playing in English, but we don't call it that, because playing is what children do.

So the point is, because different words mean different things and have different connotations across cultures, it's important to remember that when translating. Translating it straight won't lead to the same understanding a Japanese person might have of the text. (Incidentally, we rarely translate "asobu" to "play.")

Anyway, the happy ending to our day is that we were feeling so insecure about our Missions translation that we decided to read it over a third time, and when we did, there were a lot of things that made me think, "Hey, that's pretty good!" But we still didn't have time to get started on the Harlequin manga we agreed to translate by Thursday.

Today I'm thankful for that third reading of Missions, being able to come up with dialogue that sounds pretty good, Page seeming a little more comfortable today, having a ride to the ward activity tonight, and fun interaction between Akira and Shigure.
Tags: missions of love, nostalgia trip, translating

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