Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena

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A dangerous pastime

I keep staring at my sparkly fingernails as I try to come up with something to write. The thing is, I got started on a dangerous train of thought and I'm having a hard time coming up with anything else to write about. I think the biggest problem is that I want to write about it, so maybe subconsciously I'm rejecting other topic ideas.

(The other problem is that I don't know if I can talk about what we're currently working on, which is the other thing taking most of my mental energy. But even if I could talk about it, I'd want to save that for the review anyway. I can tell you that it's pretty much as time-consuming as we expected, and that we maybe should still be working on it, but it's hot and we're tired, and we're hoping that even though they're predicting even hotter weather tomorrow, we will have had enough video game time to recover and will be feeling more up to getting more work done. Actually, we're perfectly fine as far as meeting our deadline...for that book. It's the ones due after it that we're going to have trouble with.)

So there's this dangerous topic. It's called English adaptation writers. We never made it a secret that we think ideally translators shouldn't need them, but it's been a long time since we've explained our stance, so I thought now might be a good time to do it again. The short version is this: ideally, a translator doesn't need them, but we can see instances where they can be very helpful.

When we first started translating, we were told that they were going to put an adaptation writer on our works and we said, "Please do!" We had a bunch of friends in college who were always writing, but we never considered ourselves to be writers. We knew we could tell you what a character was saying in Japanese, but we had zero confidence that we could write it in the form of clever dialogue. I mean, we grew up watching Tiny Toons and Animaniacs. We couldn't compete with that! So we thought yes, absolutely, take our translations and make them sound good.

Then came a series that we loved with all our hearts, and we were so grateful to be able to translate it! We actually already had, for a friend in college at first, and then for our own benefit and fun. We read over our old translations and fixed them where necessary, since our Japanese had improved by then, but there were places where the dialogue just sounded ugh. We didn't know what to do about it, but that was okay! Because they would put a rewriter on it and all would be well. Only it wasn't well. All the ugh dialogue was still exactly the way we wrote it, and all the good dialogue was now also ugh. It was clear that the rewriter was writing the characters based on the personalities she superimposed onto them, and not based on the personalities they already had. She had also written in some jokes that we didn't think were very funny. We're pretty sure most rewriters who are still in the business don't do that, though, so we're not going to use that as a reason against the profession.

So anyway, what we learned from this and other experiences is that the only way to convey the nuance of the Japanese properly is to do it ourselves. Of course, this could be considered just a matter of ego: nobody translates better than we do. (Surely that couldn't have been true back when we were working with rewriters. These days we're much more confident in our abilities, but we also know how much we've improved.) Translation is a perfect blending of science and art, and you could say that the translator takes care of the science part while the rewriter makes it art, but the science and art in language are so thoroughly ingrained in each other that it's almost impossible to separate them. (And of course, art being subjective, we're probably going to disagree with the art of even another Japanese-fluent translator.)

Still, there are situations where the skill of someone who specializes in English writing would definitely help translators. Wordplay is one of those places. Since we have been working without rewriters, we've learned to deal with it ourselves, but when we have a busy schedule, it might be nice to have someone with a bigger English vocabulary sift through all the various synonyms and word combinations to make things work.

The other place is dialects. It's always so frustrating to me when we want to write a character with a certain dialect, and I think, "I know I've heard characters who talk like that!" but I can't remember how exactly. I like to think that an expert in the English language would be better prepared to write English regional dialects than someone who spends half their time thinking in Japanese. (Of course, it would be the translator's job to explain the significance of the dialect used in the Japanese text so the rewriter could make an informed decision about what English dialect to use.)

Today I'm thankful for making very good progress on work compared to yesterday, having extra time due to not playing Kingdom Hearts [chi] (the not playing KH part is sad, but sometimes you just have to cut back), cardio kickboxing being pretty easy, having penguin cake waiting for us in the fridge, and having gold coins for Singing Time on Sunday.
Tags: translating

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