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New Poll - Translation Accuracy vs Fluency

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Post #596766

6:57 am, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 2

Tough choice. Personally, I prefer accuracy because I'm studying Japanese and I like to see translations closer to the original text with things like honorifics, idioms, speech patterns, etc. On the other hand, fluency is probably better suited to official translations. In the end, I think a lot depends on the individual translator.

Post #596767
user avatar

7:00 am, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 147

Professional localization translator here, who started doing amateur translation years ago as a hobby.

Let me say that while semantic accuracy (meaning) is, of course, paramount, the choices presented in the poll are oversimplifications.

A good translation transmits as much of the original meaning and intent as possible while still sounding natural in the target language. You also want your audience to be able to understand any cultural references that are made, if possible. Of course, when dealing with culturally and linguistically distant languages like Japanese and English, compromises have to be made. In some published manga (like Del Rey's release of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle) and light novels footnotes and appendixes can help the audience along. With more substantial projects like video games, movie subtitles, and novels, however, it becomes more complicated.

I would say the industry as a whole has gotten much better about this since the 1990s. Back then it was common to rewrite -- not translate -- wholesale entire works to suit some producer or executive's idea of what the target audience would be able to understand. Now that we live in a more globally aware age people want to see the original culture come through, and so we try to aim for this. It's not black and white, of course; an intentionally European-style setting (e.g. check out the Tactics Ogre PSP game) might do better if editors are given more creative license to make the writing more believable, it makes sense to preserve some unique cultural conventions in a title that has a specific Japanese context (e.g. Shin Megami Tensei).

In the end this is why we have both translators (who, well, translate) and editors (who do the actual final writing) in localization. While it would be ideal if a translator had equal, native-level fluency in both Japanese and English language AND culture, the reality is that very few people do. It is really important that both sides communicate to publish the best work.

Post #596771
user avatar
Lone Wanderer

7:58 am, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 1841

I see the wording of the two options has been changed. In that case, I vote for option 1, since it's closer to what I like to see in my manga and anime.

On another note: I've noticed that quite a few people who pick no.1 are students of Japanese language and/or culture, but I, personally, don't know anything about Japan apart from what they show on the occasional NHK programme. I've never been to Japan and don't have any intention of going there to live/work, though I wouldn't say no to a short holiday.

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Post #596804

12:35 pm, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 11

One otion is missing: BOTH.
Too much of either one of them and neglecting the other one is not good.
Too much accuracy makes the text difficult to read, it sounds clumsy and even wrong at times.
Too much fluency "distorts" the meaning and sometimes sounds to westernized.
So, a balance between both would be best.

Post #596810
user avatar
Stray dog.

12:51 pm, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 58

A good translation should, nay, must be both accurate to the source and be fluent and well-crafted in terms of language.
I can't pick one of these answers since they are both equally important things to have in mind when translating Japanese text.
P.S. If you're a translator and you leave in honorifics, know that I probably hate you. That's all.

the tigers have found me
and I do not care.
Post #596814

1:54 pm, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 33

OK I see that some of you guys are arguing for both, so let me rephrase it in simpler terms:

Option 1: I'm OK with notes on page, honorifics, etc. I find them useful.

Option2: I'm not OK with notes, honorifics, etc. I find them unnecessary.

Last edited by mattfabb at 3:07 pm, Apr 28

Post #596819
user avatar

3:02 pm, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 14

I have to go with accuracy (option 1). One of the reasons I love reading manga is because I love seeing the linguistic and cultural differences between Japanese culture and my own. In case of fluency, much of that gets lost. That's why I tend to enjoy fan/group scanlated manga and doujinshi compared to the manga done by big, publishing companies. Not always, but usually the ones scanlated by individuals or scanlation groups are much more accurate. (And in my opinion, much more enjoyable.) >.<

Post #596864

10:48 pm, Apr 28 2013
Posts: 354

Totally accuracy but the best scanlators do both as best they can.\

I appreciate the T/Ns that are used too b/c it helps understand where things are coming from like proverbs and such.

As for fluency, i think it's hard to minimize cultural differences. I think an example would be easier to understand that but personally i enjoy learning about other cultures so i'm on board w/ accuracy.

Last edited by mysstris at 10:53 pm, Apr 28

Post #596930
user avatar

9:48 am, Apr 29 2013
Posts: 58

In my opinion the accuracy is the important part, proofreading is of course very important in order to not make me rage, but what infuriates me the most is when "san" becomes "mr" and such, also when the text becomes "americanised", it just feels so wrong reading it then.

Post #596937
user avatar

11:28 am, Apr 29 2013
Posts: 211

I personally believe that it should be readable so that it doesn't sound stiff and halting. I think that it should keep sans and stuff like that, but stuff that sounds normal in japan, such as their indirectness, would sound better without it.

Post #596950

1:06 pm, Apr 29 2013
Posts: 106

Chose fluency. Mostly because of retarded non-translations like just romanicizing that thing they say when they're leaving instead of well, "I'm off/leaving." or "Let's eat" instead of "Itadakimasu". It's not important, and it makes your work as a translator look bad.

I like suffixes and hierarchy when they're important to the story, or classics like "Sakura-chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!", but in general I have a distaste for Japan's kouhai/sempai-culture.

So yeah, if it's vital - retain as much as possible, but please get rid of the nonsense-translations.


Like someone said, T/Ns are fantastic. General comments like "Omg Kawaiiiiiiiii!!! O.O ><" suck though.

Post #597112
user avatar

12:28 pm, Apr 30 2013
Posts: 22

Why is there no middleground to this poll?
I mostly prefer accuracy as far as titles go and also to some degree dialects.

What I do not like however, if the translator keeps the korean or chinese or japanese word choice and grammar. That just sounds strange.

So the favourite middle ground for me is keeping titles like -dono, or -san, or -kun, or -ou, I don't mind things such as "Itadakimasu" either. They keep the manga spirit intact. I don't find they disturb my immersion or anything, they actually improve it. I do remember however, that in the beginning I didn't like most of them. It takes some getting used to, but now I prefer it this way.

When life throws you lemons, throw 'em back, and then beat the hell out of life with whatever blunt object you can find lying around. I mean, damn it, life threw lemons at you! You're not just gonna take that shit, are you? Seriously man, make life sorry it ever messed with you. Life won't pull that shit again.

Get revenge - shit on a pigeon!

Make love, stop war - go marry, do both!
Post #597155

8:36 pm, Apr 30 2013
Posts: 59

Accuracy - yes. But "accuracy" not meaning "literal" or even "plain transcription" (itadakimasu, tadaima, etc. - its not translation at all). And "accuracy" no way in hell meaning "I don't understand what written there, but I compensate it with lot of fucks, shits, flying sluts, and good orthography (occasional), albeit overall meaning will be absent".

Fluency - no. Because not all of us "native English speakers". Heck, not all of translators etc. are "native English speakers". And I really hate when translators turn japanese manga into american comics with american jokes, idioms, curses (especially in shounen manga, when in original nothing of the sort), etc. "Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo" as prime example. And Tokyopop's rewrite of "Ikkitousen" is beyond good and evil.

Post #597230

7:09 am, May 1 2013
Posts: 2

The two things aren't mutually exclusive for a good translator and good editing/proofing of the translation. The whole point of translation is to make a text, with all it's cultural undertones and references, understandable and readable in another language, so what's the point of having accuracy to the Japanese if that doesn't then have meaning to an English (or whatever other language) reader? I also think that while cultural references should be kept and/or explained with notes, some characteristics of the original language should not often be retained. Japanese syntax and phraseology can often end up sounding quite ridiculous in English and makes reading tedious.

Hespia Klarerin
Post #597233
user avatar

7:25 am, May 1 2013
Posts: 704

when i first started translating, i was all over accuracy. i debated over the wrong choice of words, trying to re-arrange the korean words and inserting the english words in it

now though, my opinion is completely different. I'm not afraid to use a different expression, idiom, and choices of words when i translate. If i have to translate a expression that doesn't flow very well for english audience, I WILL STRIP IT OFF and add a similar semi-equilvent english expression in there. now i focus more on the flow of the language then translating. I do not want the reader to stop and think "what did that mean" and i keep any translator's note to a minimum and always at the end of the chapter. (I do not want to be one of these translator that makes comment on every insecure word choices they make, that make it look like i don't know what i'm translating) what flows best flows best. I trust my confidence.

ps. i sometimes leave suffix like -nim though, this is only because i know that the majority of the manwha readers already know what this means. I won't bother stripping it off and finding another expression for it if it's really hard to find another word. (as in, if it's a situation where i can't use sir or lady, -nim it is)

Last edited by Hespia Klarerin at 7:38 am, May 1

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