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New Poll - Translation Accuracy vs Fluency

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Post #596617
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6:37 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 9105

This week's poll is a bit different. Instead of just being fun and games, a member named mattfabb requested that we run this poll for a university research project. It's not the usual way to do a statistical study, but hey, it's an easy way to reach a bunch of scanlation readers who actually might answer the poll. If you got comments on your choice, post them here!

You can submit poll ideas here (and try to keep them manga/anime-related)

Previous Poll Results:
Question: If you were in an RPG, which class would you pick?
Warrior (fighter, barbarian, knight, etc) - votes: 2755 (18.3%)
Archer (sniper, etc) - votes: 2425 (16.1%)
Thief (rogue, assassin, etc) - votes: 3192 (21.2%)
Mage (wizard, sorcerer, witch, adept, etc) - votes: 5374 (35.7%)
Cleric (priest, healer, etc) - votes: 1306 (8.7%)
There were 15052 total votes.
The poll ended: April 26th 2013

Just as fire has amazed mankind since the beginning of the caveman, so would the modern man be able to shoot fire out of his finger tips. That and magic is OP

A just ruler amongst tyrants
Post #596619
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Noblesse Forever!

7:20 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 1066

The choice is hard to make. While I want the translation to be completly accurate in order to fully understand the original text, I also want fluency in order to enjoy the reading. Of course, a translation have them both, but the thing which matters most to me is fluency.

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Post #596623

7:36 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 9

Going by the given definitions, which make the poll extremely biased and thus completely useless. (It is blatantly false to say that translations that retains the original characteristics of the language are more accurate.) I'd fail the paper a failing grade if I was the professor but I digress.

If a translator is not skilled I suppose they can opt for a more literal translation as a crutch. A professional translator should be capable of translating the nuances of each language. There are some cases where things are lost but it's better than butchering a language for things the reader won't grasp anyway.

I've read boatloads of manga. And I'd be a liar if I said I understood what the honorifics -san, -kun, -chan, etc. actually mean. Do I have a general idea? Somewhat. But a good translator would convey the general idea anyway.

Post #596628
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A silly pumpkin

8:03 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 174

Translations need to convey the original meaning behind the words accurately. Phrases used in Japan can convey the wrong meaning, or one I see what they are trying to say, but just burst out laughing, cringe or get annoyed. I also really like reading allot of books, complicated books, I have a great appreciation for words and the different meanings that words, than mean almost the same thing can make a big difference due to the small differences. I am less engaged if the writing is overly simplistic and repetitive, simply because I throw about words like flummox, discombobulate and embonpoint in my every day speech.

We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have, out doubt is our passion and our passion is our task, the rest is the madness of art. Henry james
Post #596630
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Lone Wanderer

8:24 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 1841

That's a tough choice. I'm pretty adamant that they keep the honorifics, because you can never convey the formality of -sama, -dono, the neutrality of -san, -kun, or the friendly familiarity of -chan, -tan, etc. with any kind of English honorific (or the lack thereof), but at the same time excessive usage of Japanese words can break the flow of the dialogue and confuse the readers.

I say go for a blend between the two: retain in Japanese the honorifics and the words that are: (a) so deeply rooted in Japanese culture that translating them to even their closest Western equivalent would result in a loss of important subtext or (b) don't have a significance in the plot and therefore require only the barest understanding of their meaning (for example: why try to translate something like "Takoyaki"?)

I have to wonder why the people who want every little thing to be translated into its Western equivalent even bother reading manga or watching anime when they're clearly not the least bit interested in being so much as occasionally reminded that these stories are, after all, set in Japan and deal with Japanese people and their society and its nuances.

Which means I'm not voting in this one.

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Post #596631
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8:27 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 830

Ideally there should be both. Translations should strive to be as accurate as possible, but an accurate translation is still a poor one if it lacks fluency. Something are just not translatable, and to attempt to do so will only succeed it altering the author's meaning, but by that reasoning any translation can be said to have altered the author's intentions, so nothing should ever be translated. Therefore we should accept that a degree of accuracy is always going to be lost and focus on maintaining a balance rather than prioritising one at the detriment of the other.

The pen is mightier than the sword...and considerably easier to write with.
Post #596632
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Mad With a Hat

8:44 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 4767

Well, you see, it's impossible to choose...
A good translation should have both.
In order to retain the original mood, it shouldn't sound completely localized, but it should still flow and not be a pain to read.

I've read boatloads of manga. And I'd be a liar if I said I understood what the honorifics -san, -kun, -chan, etc. actually mean. Do I have a general idea? Somewhat. But a good translator would convey the general idea anyway.

Google is your friend. : )

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If I had a fantasy self, it'd be a tentacle monster.
Post #596633

9:03 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 17

the choices are cut off and I can't seem to see the full choice

Post #596636

9:15 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 33

Hi guys

This is how the poll was phrased

Poll: What aspect of translation is more important to you?

- Accuracy: I like manga translation to retain characteristics of the language of the original, to show the linguistic and cultural differences between Japanese culture and my own.

- Fluency: I like manga translation to read as if the author was native English speakers, so that linguistic and cultural differences are minimized.

The technical terms would be "foregnisation" and "domestication" or, to use an even older dichotomy, dynamic/formal equivalence.

These are two extreme poles, so you guys are right: most of the time, there is a middle ground. but what I have in mind is the removal of culturally specific sentences in order to ensure an easier reading experience.

Post #596637
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9:18 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 215

Personally I like fluency in the sense that the translations use proper English grammar. Word for word translations ruin the flow of the story if I have to stop to correct each dialogue box. Too many Japanese words do the same thing. Keeping more well known words like Shinigami in a story about grim reaper or death gods is good and so are words that do not have a clear and concrete English translation. Honorifics should always be included in the translation because not only is it part of Japanese culture it immediately tells me and other readers the relationship of two characters by the ones chosen or when suddenly one character is not using them with another when they usually use them. They also help define character personalities as a delinquent might be more inclined to disregard honorifics, but a delinquent with some social consideration might still use them in certain situations showing some good in that character.

Throwing in random Japanese words (or German words [shame on you Commie]) for the sake of having them in there to be more "authentic" or to be snobbish is not something I like. If there is an English word that matches the definition and context of the Japanese word (unless it is vital that the word choice be displayed for reason pertaining to the plot) then it should be used in place of the Japanese word in a translation.

Banana Gecko!!
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Post #596644
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10:31 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 29

This poll isn't great on choices. A good translator can use fluent English while still translating accurately. Although it's true not all Japanese nuances/jokes/cultural differences are able to be translated to English, that doesn't necessarily mean that a direct translation will be able to convey that information to a reader in a way that they can understand. There are usually ways to convey a nuance to a reader accurately with fluent English, and if there isn't, then the use of fluent English coupled with a small translation footnote to explain to the reader what's going on is what I prefer to do.

Things do get a little tricky with Japanese specific words like honorifics, especially because there are differing opinions, with some preferring the inclusion of honorifics and others not. However I believe the use of honorifics is very important in Japanese culture, particularly the relationship dynamics between characters. Moreover including them doesn't usually detract from the readability of the English, which is why I prefer to have them stay. However I understand that some people would rather stay ignorant to the use of honorifics and the meanings behind them.

The only thing that really gets to me though, is when translators have everyone regarding each other on a first name basis like how it would be in an English-speaking country. That really annoys me, because sometimes it's pivotal in a relationship between characters when they start referring to each other by their first names. Like you totally wouldn't get that touching scene towards the end of Fruits Basket, when Yuki calls Tohru by her first name, if Yuki and Tohru had always been calling each other by their first names! In any case, I don't think naming and honorifics detract at all from the fluency of the English, which is why I don't see the problem with keeping them in, even if it isn't 100% natural in English.

Last edited by PandaRanda at 12:52 pm, Apr 27

Post #596647

10:49 am, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 15

Thanks for introducing me to the terminology, mattfabb. My linguistic study isn't in an academic context, so I've been using the concepts but didn't know the terms.

I see foreignization and domestication as being on a separate spectrum from dynamic and formal equivalence. Domestication and foreignization are about whether a translation should be true to the source or familiar to the target, whereas formal and dynamic equivalence are about whether a translation should convey the detail and structure of the language or the overall effect of the message.

The poll is asking whether I prefer formal foreignization (literal translations) or dynamic domestication (localizations), and most discussions seem to identify these as the only options. My personal translation style, however, is dynamic foreignization: I try to accurately convey the message as understood by a native of the source language. This isn't a middle ground. In this style, accuracy is the goal but natural-sounding language is part of the accuracy: if a translation sounds unnatural, it should be because the original material sounds unnatural to a source native. From reading the comments, it seems many people actually prefer this style.

I'd be interested in a poll that offered dynamic foreignization as a third option. I suppose formal domestication could be included for completeness, but it's trickier to describe without explaining the dichotomies and I doubt it'd get any support.

Post #596654 - Reply to (#596632) by NightSwan

12:41 pm, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 9

Quote from NightSwan
Google is your friend. : )
Really? I've read brief descriptions. They just give you a general idea and nothing more.

Is there someone who hasn't been to Japan for an extended period of time that can tell you what exactly each use of honorifics means in each case? When it's fine to break convention? When a character is simply being impolite? Or polite? Or sarcastic (although, I've read that sarcasm isn't really a thing in Japan)? What their use of honorifics says about a character? There are nuances that a simple description can't possibly help you understand.

I've never learnt Japanese and I've never been to Japan. It's inevitable that the nuances will escape me. Unless it's a slap you in the face transition to first name basis variety.

Post #596659
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Phoenix Knight

2:24 pm, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 225

I auto-correct spelling and grammar when reading anyway; sometimes to the point of re-wording/structuring the entire sentence.

Lose - Opposite of win, to misplace something/someone. e.g. To lose your way, to lose a fight.
Loose - Opposite of tight. e.g. To have a loose screw, to loosen a jar lid.

^ Not just scanlators, but also company documents are getting it wrong now!
Post #596661
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Manga Crusader

2:33 pm, Apr 27 2013
Posts: 51

I prefer accuracy! is done right!!

I find that when reading manga, it makes so much more interesting if the translation does retain some of it's original characteristics. For example Pin to Kona, which for those who don't know, is largely based on Kabuki, you can't translate it without losing a fair bit of meaning. I also find it more engaging as a reader if I can learn bits and pieces of Japanese and Japanese culture while reading a good narrative. Most of the time, if there is something that is left as is translation wise, most good scanlation groups ensure there is a footnote somewhere in the scans so you know what something means.

This is what I meant by if it is done right. There is no point leaving as is if you don't explain to a larger audience who probably don't know what something means...Then you are left with something that is accurate, but makes no sense because there is that gap.

In saying that, you do get some scans that aim for fluency and it doesn't make sense anyway, so it feels like that the reader misses out entirely.

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