Over-localization


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    @harunachiep said in Over-localization:

    Also, with localization in general, the only type of over-localization that would annoy me so much is completely changing the location of the story (see Ace Attorney / Gyakuten Saiban )

    That’s something that the translator said they’d change if given a do-over. Based just on the first game it was a reasonable choice; by the time later games made it more and more implausible, the ship had already sailed.


  • Member

    Bookworm is translated without any use of Japanese honorifics. Here is one interesting technique I saw Quof employed in translating very specific use of "-chan".

    In Bookworm Part 2 Vol 1 - Cleaning Up the Orphanage; his translation:

    But still... Delia sure is being unreasonable here, isn’t she? What a cutie.

    In original, it was more like:

    But still... Delia-chan sure is being unreasonable here, isn’t she?

    No where else Myne ever refer to Delia as "Delia-chan" in the original, but here, it was added in Myne's internal voice for the effect of Delia being cute here. Quof expressed that feeling very naturally with addition of "What a cutie.".

    It is hardly a generic technique and it can be used in very specific context, but I just wanted to present it here as an example of what translator go through.


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    @myskaros said in Over-localization:

    @jon-mitchell said in Over-localization:

    Honorifics

    You're dead to me now.

    Honorifics are one of the worst offenders for me, because most of the over-localizations do the opposite of what they're supposed to - they call attention to themselves instead of vanishing into the background.

    -chan seems to be one of the worst offenders - 'Young Miss Aisha'? 'Young Miss Naden'? Really? Does anyone really think that sounds like natural speech? Presumably Fuuga's use of Aisha-chan and Naden-chan was meant to make him sound casual and overly familiar, but that kind of translation makes him sound stilted and overly formal.


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    Personally I really prefer honorifics to be kept intact if the setting is in Japan and maybe sometimes in fantasy worlds, but I do think there are some cases where they really probably shouldn't be kept in, like if something is set in 1800s England or something.


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    @myskaros But, in other languages/cultures, is there the same sort of hierarchy involved in interpersonal social relationships? The number of honorifics in common use in English is not what it used to be, but they still exist.


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    Honorifics. I guess it depends on context.

    Keeping in mind that we're reading Japanese Light Novels, I kind of assume that there are honorifics in the original text. Now if it's a story with Japanese characters, especially if it's set in Japan, like Kokoro Connect, I expect to see honorifics. If it's not set in Japan (isekai), my expectation of honorifics really can vary widely. Outbreak Company would seem wierd without them while Smartphone and a few other seem fine. Stories where the characters aren't even Japanese really would be jarring with them.


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    @travis-butler said in Over-localization:

    Honorifics are one of the worst offenders for me, because most of the over-localizations do the opposite of what they're supposed to - they call attention to themselves instead of vanishing into the background.
    -chan seems to be one of the worst offenders - 'Young Miss Aisha'? 'Young Miss Naden'? Really? Does anyone really think that sounds like natural speech? Presumably Fuuga's use of Aisha-chan and Naden-chan was meant to make him sound casual and overly familiar, but that kind of translation makes him sound stilted and overly formal.

    I absolutely agree that most attempts to localize honorifics is a short road to disaster. I was accused of trying to advocate for the over-localization of a certain LN, but I actually prefer some native flavor. Either leave the honorific or just drop it entirely and hope context conveys the relationship. Some work, such as changing -san to "Mr./Mrs." and -sama to "Master/Mistress" but you probably can't change some but keep others. That lacks consistency.

    For me, the worst offenders is when the personal titles are used in place of names such as onii/onee, senpai/kohai, etc. I don't know about you, but I never called my brother "brother" when addressing him in the normal course of the day. Translating Onii to "brother" breaks the flow. It's better to just leave it as Onii or use the characters actual name. Same goes for coworkers, bosses, and the like. I called my boss either Jill or Mr. Gruber, depending on how high up the food chain he was. If I tried to get his attention with "Boss", I would likely get written up for insubordination (well, not that far but you get the idea), and that is the impression I get when I read scripts where people are called "Boss/Manager" -- lack of respect.


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    @farmerdad said in Over-localization:

    I called my boss either Jill or Mr. Gruber, depending on how high up the food chain he was. If I tried to get his attention with "Boss", I would likely get written up for insubordination (well, not that far but you get the idea), and that is the impression I get when I read scripts where people are called "Boss/Manager" -- lack of respect.

    As you said, it depends on how far up the chain they are. I have called my direct boss "Boss", and could see myself doing the same to her boss, but not anybody higher up than that.


  • Translators

    It’s interesting that the question of over- or under-localization, at least as it’s shown up on this thread, is primarily revolving around specific, individual linguistic or cultural cases: do the characters address each other as “Mr. Y” or “Y-san”? Does she call her big brother “onii-chan,” “Big Bro,” or “Taro”? Do the characters eat rice balls or doughnuts? Even broader language concerns are focused on individual instances: itadakimasu or “let’s eat”? O-yasumi nasai or “Nighty-night”?

    Partly this is probably because any discussion like this one is going to need individual examples at some point, but I think it’s worth noticing how much of the disagreement seems to be about particulars, and then remembering how much more translation involves than hauling concepts from one tongue to the other like some sort of inter-linguistic beast of burden.

    Consider a sentence like 太郎は学校に行った (Tarou wa gakkou ni itta). As far as I can tell, no one here is suggesting that it should be rendered “Tarou as-for school to went,” although this would probably be the least “localized” form of the sentence in English short of simply rendering it in romaji. Barring some special reason for doing otherwise, most readers would probably prefer the more natural “Taro went to school.” This sentence doesn’t touch on any questions of honorifics, cultural background, or any other thorny issues, yet the average translator is going to make this sort of conversion far more often than they must make any calls about -san, sempai, or natto.

    Other potential features of a text come to mind. For example, when is kibishii "strict," when is it "severe," and when is it "harsh"? When does neru mean to "go to sleep," and when should it be rendered "go to bed"? (For that matter, how about “hit the sack”?) Choices such as this have, in my opinion, as much or more to do with the tenor of the final text than more prominent and controversial decisions about things like honorifics.

    Looking at the text at a higher level, it’s not uncommon for LNs to structure their dialogue like this:

    “Blah blah blah.”
    “Boo hoo hoo!”
    Character A said, and character B wailed.

    At best, this is a little awkward in English. So if a translator recasts it as:

    “Blah blah blach,” character A said.
    “Boo hoo hoo!” character B wailed.

    --is that “over-localizing”? To the extent that it serves to turn a natural-souding Japanese text into a natural-sounding English one (in my mind, generally the goal of translation—but isn’t that just the issue?), certainly not.

    All I’m really saying is that there’s more to localizing (or indeed translating – part of the problem here may be that we haven’t defined our terms very clearly) a text than using a few specific knotty points as litmus tests. Does the text communicate in the target language? (And _what_does it communicate?) Does it read smoothly? For that matter, are those the goals of the translation? (It should be clear from reading this thread that part of the issue is people who want mutually conflicting things from their translations, or even people who want the same thing but prefer different ways of getting it.)

    I’m not suggesting there are obvious or easy answers to these questions—or even that we’ll all ever agree about the answers—but rather that they deserve consideration. We can’t say translation is an art while at the same time issuing categorical imperatives about what translations must or must not contain. Reflecting on the sorts of things I’ve outlined here, and above all on the aims and purposes a given translation ought to serve, might help us to better articulate what we want from our translations, or at the very least may remind us to hold our dogmas lightly.


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    One thing I would like to see translators be more proactive about is explicitly indicating who is talking. I hate it when there are multiple characters talking at once or even sometimes two characters and you can't tell who's who because the Japanese relied solely on speech quirks and the translator didn't bother to add like "X said", "Y cried", etc. to make it clear in the English. I haven't noticed any particular JNC series that have been particularly problematic in this regard, though.


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    @yumenokage said in Over-localization:

    One thing I would like to see translators be more proactive about is explicitly indicating who is talking. I hate it when there are multiple characters talking at once or even sometimes two characters and you can't tell who's who because the Japanese relied solely on speech quirks and the translator didn't bother to add like "X said", "Y cried", etc. to make it clear in the English. I haven't noticed any particular JNC series that have been particularly problematic in this regard, though.

    I was about to say the same thing, so couldn't agree more. I hate having to go back several lines to try to figure out who is talking, and so am very happy for it to be made super explicit.

    JNC generally isn't too bad in this regard, but I seem to recall having problems with Rokujouma which has a large cast of characters and a lot of dialogue. I seem to remember reading that in Japanese it is relatively easy to figure out who is talking in Rokujouma because each character uses different ways to refer to themselves or to refer to one another (or they otherwise use recognisable manners of speech that give it away). Howver, in English I too often just had to guess who was saying what which is a shame because the dialogue can otherwise be so fun and I do care about understanding the interesting dynamics between the characters and it is harder to do that when I don't know who spoke.


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    @kevin-s

    Using your example, there is a difference between translation and localization. Translation involves rendering the language from one to another, while localization is rendering concepts from one culture to another. Let's consider the sentence you gave: "太郎は学校に行った (Tarou wa gakkou ni itta)." That sentence has a perfectly English equivalent with no culural concepts that do not cross over. Japan has schools. We have schools. Japan has names. We have names. People in Japan go to school. People here go to school. In Japan, one would say 太郎は学校に行った. In English, one would say "Tarou went to school." What might be considered localization is changing the name from Tarou to Taro unless the 'u' is not vocalized. In that case, it would simply be rendering the name using English characters. (I am not very knowledgeable in Japanese. The example I'm about to give is based on a few papers I've read on the difference between Japanese and English grammar.) From what I understand, a sentence could be considered complete with just a single verb. All the objects would then be inferred from context and prior sentences. In English, it would not be properly translated to just put "Died." as the whole sentence. Translating is pulling the proper objects out of the fog of context and constructing a complete sentence.

    On the other hand, itadakimasu, yoroshiku onegaishimasu, honorifics, and such represent concepts that do not exist or exist in English. Rendering them in English is where localization comes in. Go to far, and a story becomes awkward and difficult for the reader to insert himself into it. Don't go far enough, and a story becomes hard to understand because of many unfamiliar phrases that have to be guessed at, reread to try to understand from context, or looked up, breaking the flow of the story.

    Translating Japaneses, or any language, is an art for the reasons like the examples of "kibishii" and "neru". It is part of the art of the translator to figure out which form of the word the author intended and then to convey that same intent to the English reader. Still, there are rules. The translator is not going to take 青 (ao, blue) and translate it as "salt". That is a hard and fast rule. In the examples of "kibishii" and "neru", the rule is to try to convey the original intent. As for the rest, there are still rules. The rules are just more personal. I would defend Hagen's right to call his cadavers art, but you would never find one standing in my study... well maybe, that might be cool. You wouldn't find a painted bowl of fruit hanging on my wall. I prefer landscaped architecture like Thomas Kinkade or etching like Roy Purcell. So my rules, to painters who want me to buy their paintings, are to paint them. The difference is how I, the consumer, react. There is a series put out by a certain publishing team that contains phrases and ways of speaking that I found jarring. As long as the publishing team does not care that I will never buy any of the novels from that series, and I will not be recommending that series to anyone, the publishing team is free to use that style of their art. If the publishing team wants my wife or friends around me to starting reading light novels, they would need to not use phrases like chuunibyou and itadakimasu untranslated. If they're interest isn't sought after, leave the phrases as-is.

    Looking at the text at a higher level, it’s not uncommon for LNs to structure their dialogue like this:

    “Blah blah blah.”
    “Boo hoo hoo!”
    Character A said, and character B wailed.

    At best, this is a little awkward in English. So if a translator recasts it as:

    “Blah blah blach,” character A said.
    “Boo hoo hoo!” character B wailed.

    --is that “over-localizing”? To the extent that it serves to turn a natural-souding Japanese text into a natural-sounding English one (in my mind, generally the goal of translation—but isn’t that just the issue?), certainly not.
    Agreed for reasons stated above. This is part of translating as it is rendering what is in Japanese to what is English. There are no questionable concepts.


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    @yumenokage said in Over-localization:

    One thing I would like to see translators be more proactive about is explicitly indicating who is talking. I hate it when there are multiple characters talking at once or even sometimes two characters and you can't tell who's who because the Japanese relied solely on speech quirks and the translator didn't bother to add like "X said", "Y cried", etc. to make it clear in the English. I haven't noticed any particular JNC series that have been particularly problematic in this regard, though.

    I so agree with this. It is one of the reasons that I had a hard time deciding where I stood on the tilde in "The Holy Knight's Dark Road." The tilde at least helped show who was talking when there were more than two people involved and one of them was the maid.


  • Translators

    @farmerdad said in Over-localization:

    @kevin-s

    Translation involves rendering the language from one to another, while localization is rendering concepts from one culture to another. [...] Translating is pulling the proper objects out of the fog of context and constructing a complete sentence.

    Good! This is exactly what I meant about staking out some definitions as points of reference. Broadly speaking, I can agree with this definition (although personally I would consider Taro/Tarou to be a matter of style more than localization). I would suggest, though, that even with this description, translation and localization exist more as a spectrum than as two sides of a coin, precisely because in constructing that "complete sentence," the translator frequently has to make decisions about things like the kibishii/neru renderings that I mentioned in my example. The translator is a reader first, and (almost) no translation is going to be completely free of any reflection of the translator's reading. In some cases that will have more of an effect than others. (This is of course to leave aside instances where the source text is itself ambiguous, garbled, or otherwise in need of specific interpretation or emendation.)

    On the other hand, itadakimasu, yoroshiku onegaishimasu, honorifics, and such represent concepts that do not exist or exist in English.

    This is always an interesting question to me. It's possible to make too much of a sacred cow of things getting "lost in translation." Do English speakers, for example, have a single phrase that they inevitably say before meal, harking back etymologically to an expression of gratitude toward some other power for providing the food (itadakimasu literally means "I humbly receive")? Maybe not in those exact terms. But do English speakers sometimes say things like "Let's eat!", "Down the hatch!", or "Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub!"? (Or for that matter, and perhaps a better parallel, "We thank you, Lord, for this food...") Sure they do. To exchange one for the other is, as you say, a certain kind of localization, but I don't believe that (except, as ever, with perhaps some very specific exceptions) it's doing any kind of cultural violence to the text.

    Thus too yoroshiku onegaishimasu: I readily grant that it covers a far wider range of situations than any one expression in English, but are there things people say in English quite naturally in most of those situations? Sure there are, and again, I don't think the translation gains in most cases from retaining an elaborate and not necessarily familiar Japanese phrase.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say the same extends even to honorifics. English very much has registers, word choices, and other elements of speech that are modulated according to the relationship between two speakers--very much like honorifics in Japanese. Again, they aren't identical, but I think it's possible to make too much of their failure to completely overlap.

    In the examples of "kibishii" and "neru", the rule is to try to convey the original intent.

    I agree, but as you seem to imply in your next couple sentences, I think the exact same statement applies to all of the cases above – that the question is one of degree, not kind. (If kibishii can cover "harsh," "strict," "severe," "stern," and more, then would it be fair to say that 'the concept of kibishii doesn't exist in English'? Or perhaps we could argue that discrete concepts of harsh, strict, etc., don't exist in Japanese?) One of the points I wanted to make by highlighting a simple, uncontroversial sentence like "Taro went to school" (which you've bookended by pointing out that there are upper limits to interpretation) was that much of this discussion about under- and over-localization actually takes place within a relatively narrow slice of the localization spectrum.

    There is a series put out by a certain publishing team that contains phrases and ways of speaking that I found jarring.

    This is an important point, and I appreciate your putting it in just this way. A lot of these discussions about what is going too far (or not far enough) in translation seem to revolve around what individual readers find takes them out of the reading experience – either by sounding unnatural ("Big Brother!") or by requiring too much background knowledge ("What's onii-san mean?"). As others have pointed out, the "comfort zone," as defined by the thresholds of these respective extremes, is going to be different from reader to reader. But it also implies something that goes beyond light novels: people rarely question a translation that sounds smooth to them. This gets back, maybe, to why so much of this discussion focuses on particular flashpoints like honorific usage: these are things that can draw people's attention in a positive or a negative way, thus people who have no other way of judging the quality of the translation use them to sort out the "good" from the "bad." But perhaps I'm getting too far afield here. (And I'm certainly not denying that deftness of style isn't a hallmark of good translation in most cases – although there's always the question of source texts that are themselves poorly written.)



  • @kevin-s said in Over-localization:

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say the same extends even to honorifics. English very much has registers, word choices, and other elements of speech that are modulated according to the relationship between two speakers--very much like honorifics in Japanese. Again, they aren't identical, but I think it's possible to make too much of their failure to completely overlap.


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    seems to me some of this is a matter of taste, and translators/editors walk a tightrope- I might like less localization than some and am tolerant of glossaries/indexes/footnotes... others might hate what I like

    you can't merely translate (like a machine) and correct for sentence structure. The result i suspect would be unreadable (or at least not easily enjoyed)

    the challenge is to discern enough of the authors intent to preserve the 'flavor' of the story / characters/ dialogue etc. and at the same time modify the literal translation to make the story flow/be readable and relate-able to an English speaking audience

    I applaud the efforts of translators (actually interpreters might be a better term) and editors that take on this task (and do it so well here at JNC)



  • @jon-mitchell said in Over-localization:

    translators (actually interpreters might be a better term)

    From what I understand, people who do "text translation" are referred to as "translators" while people who do "verbal translation" are referred to as "interpreters." At least in my experience working for hospital systems, it was 100% always interpreters that walked around with patients who didn't speak English, although their department was still called "translation services" :<


  • Translators

    @myskaros said in Over-localization:

    @jon-mitchell said in Over-localization:

    translators (actually interpreters might be a better term)

    From what I understand, people who do "text translation" are referred to as "translators" while people who do "verbal translation" are referred to as "interpreters." At least in my experience working for hospital systems, it was 100% always interpreters that walked around with patients who didn't speak English, although their department was still called "translation services" :<

    This is correct – by and large, transferring material between two languages in a written format is called translation, while doing so verbally is called interpreting. Trying to get the average person to draw the distinction can feel like a lost cause sometimes. But (if I may guess) I think what @Jon-Mitchell was getting at with his "interpreters might be a better term" comment was that going between languages, in whatever form, involves a good deal of "interpretation" in the sense of parsing the text, understanding both its broad and subtle meanings, and then trying to make those meanings accessible in the target language. ("The translator is always an interpreter" is of course a tired old saw by now.)


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    For those not following on Discord, this is what Quarkboy said in response to my request for more speaker tags in Rokujouma when I raised it:

    For rokujouma we kind of purposefully didn't add in many speaker tags
    It would have been an even greater task to do that for the Vols 1-22
    And it's actually pretty clear who is speaking based off characterization or description. You just have to pay attention.
    Going through and changing that now consistently for earlier volumes beyond just a qa pass would actually add months to the delivery.

    I'll judge how easy it is to follow the dialogue when I get it...



  • @shiny Did you mean Quarkboy?