Over-localization


  • Premium Member

    @myskaros said in Over-localization:

    @shiny Did you mean Quarkboy?

    Yeah, updated.


  • Translators

    @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.

    In this particular case, the honorific in question is -jou. The same jou as in Ojousama. It's also being accorded to them out of respect, something he doesn't bother to show Ruby or Kaede in the same sentence, who get no honorific.

    The way people in Realist refer to each other actually is pretty stilted and formal. There aren't a ton of -sans and -chans, and the translation largely ignores those there are. The most common honorific thrown around in the series is -dono, which basically everyone gets referred to with, followed by -sama.


  • Member

    So, one of the most famous over-localization relates to translating food items in other culture.

    How much of tolerance would you have to see name of foods you are not familiar with? Do you care to learn about new Japanese foods or alien ingredients, or does it get in your way of your reading pleasure?

    How about something like Nikujaga? Very common staple food in Japan but it is not something you see served at Japanese restaurant. But it is very common so I can find many recipe written in English.


  • Premium Member

    @hiroto said in Over-localization:

    So, one of the most famous over-localization relates to translating food items in other culture.

    How much of tolerance would you have to see name of foods you are not familiar with? Do you care to learn about new Japanese foods or alien ingredients, or does it get in your way of your reading pleasure?

    I think that if the name can be translated it should be (e.g. prefer "rice balls" over "onigiri"), but I'd rather see unfamiliar food terms than have them be changed to something else entirely.


  • Premium Member

    Elsewhere in this thread someone mentioned tatami mats as an unit of measurement. Recently, someone in a translation described a room as "about six square meters". I thought that was an oddly specific size and I've previously seen "six tatami mat" as a common Japanese idiom for a small room, so checked the source and saw that six tatami was indeed used and indeed rounded to one square meter. Knew a tatami mat is about one meter by two meters and therefore knew that six was definitely wrong by any measure. So looked up the real size and found out the most common size is 0.91 by 1.82 meters. So a six tatami mat room is 9.9372 square meters, and a proper translation is "about ten square meters". For us folks using imperial measurements, a nine foot by twelve foot room is less than 3/4ths of an inch too large in both dimensions. Definitely close enough. But there's a part of me that wishes the result wasn't ten square meters. Actually want any number but ten. Reason is due to rounding. If I see nine, or eleven, I think "rounded to nearest whole unit" and know that the actual sizes are somewhere between 8.5 to 9.5, or 10.5 to 11.5 respectively. But with ten, I have the additional option of "rounded to one significant digit", so the actual size is either between 9.5 to 10.5, or between 9.5 to 15 and the mental jarring as I determine which interpretation to use is annoying.
    Frankly, if the translator used any value other than six, I probably wouldn't have noticed and continued reading. But now that I've done the research and the math, it's likely that if any translator uses any number other than ten, it's likely to trigger my doing a cross check. But still really wish the result wasn't a ten.


  • Premium Member

    Well put. Having unfamiliar foods don't trip me up as much as having something that sounds out of place like having someone in Hokkaido making home-cooked tacos because us gaijin don't know what Nikujaga is.


  • Premium Member

    @hiroto there's also issues with reader expectations even if translation issues are not involved. For instance, Eric Flint in a novel of his described some Roman shields as "laminated wood" which quite accurate, instead of the shorter and just as accurate "plywood" because to his audience, "plywood" is a modern development and has no place in a story involving Roman legions. Just as in your example, do you introduce a foreign word to the audience or say "meat and potatoes", or perhaps " meat and potato stew".


  • Premium Member

    In general if the food have it's own name I'd prefer it to be left intact. Even if I can't make out what it is from a context, googling it is not a big deal, unlike trying to reverse-engineer what it was initially. Thanks, I already have enough of that with converting everything back to metric.
    As an example, something like onigiri is very specific while "rice balls" can mean anything from a huge selection of dishes that fall into this category.


  • Member

    @hamsterexastris said in Over-localization:

    I think that if the name can be translated it should be (e.g. prefer "rice balls" over "onigiri"), but I'd rather see unfamiliar food terms than have them be changed to something else entirely.

    Yeah, onigiri is one typical staple food which is not in the common English vocabulary like sushi. I guess because it is not served in Japanese restaurants. I'm still waiting for some entrepreneur to create national onigiri franchise and make it popular in US. It is so much more versatile food than sushi.


  • Member

    @jcochran said in Over-localization:

    "meat and potatoes", or perhaps " meat and potato stew".

    That is a valid option in this particular case.


  • Member

    @jcochran

    Unless we are talking about actual Japanese house and the room size is important subject matter in the plot, quite often author using 4.5 tatami mat, 6 tatami mat, and 8 tatami mat as coarse estimating of the room size. They are really really rough number to begin with.

    Also, there are different tatami mat size, and 6 tatami mat can be anywhere between 8.67 sq meter and 10.94 sq meter, adding even more fuzziness.

    So translator has great amount of flexibility in deciding how to covert these numbers.


  • Premium Member

    @hiroto Oh, I know about the different sizes such as Kyoto, Nagoya, Tokyo, and even found a company that makes mats in custom sizes. That's why I said "most common size". Honestly, would prefer the translator just keep the tatami mat convention in place to add a bit of local flavor. But then again, this entire thread is dealing with the issues of under or over localization, so doubt than any one preference is superior to another.

    Also will say that this entire thread is extremely interesting. Learned about the green/blue aoi issue here today and wonder if it's at the root of a few recent posts in the P2V2 Ascendance of a Bookworm forum.


  • Premium Member

    Back when I was reading Lazy Dungeon Master, I believe there was also some confusion because the translator decided that "anpan" was better recognized as "jam bread".

    So my opinion is that food and cuisine should be left as is. If there's an obvious translation, then certainly use that (eg "omelette rice" or "rice in an omelette" for "omurice"), but switching references should never happen.

    Because so far from what I've seen in JNC translations, every attempt to make something more "familiar" to English readers assumes an American cultural base. Which means now I have to figure out what this weird new foodstuff or reference is, thus the point of making it "more familiar" is lost.

    @farmerdad said in Over-localization:

    Well put. Having unfamiliar foods don't trip me up as much as having something that sounds out of place like having someone in Hokkaido making home-cooked tacos because us gaijin don't know what Nikujaga is.

    And then there's Okinawan cuisine, where "taco rice" is actually the usual taco fillings over (white) rice. Pronounced the same as "tako" (octopus) too, for extra confusion when I visited.

    @hiroto said in Over-localization:

    @jcochran

    Unless we are talking about actual Japanese house and the room size is important subject matter in the plot, quite often author using 4.5 tatami mat, 6 tatami mat, and 8 tatami mat as coarse estimating of the room size. They are really really rough number to begin with.

    Also, there are different tatami mat size, and 6 tatami mat can be anywhere between 8.67 sq meter and 10.94 sq meter, adding even more fuzziness.

    So translator has great amount of flexibility in deciding how to covert these numbers.

    Of course, we have an actual series where the six tatami mat room is part of the title, much less an important subject matter in the plot.

    From what I can tell, the term "six-tatami" when used in Japanese media is generally not so much about the exact dimensions, but more about how small the place is. Not so tiny that it's unusual, but more that it's the sort of flat someone looking to save money on living space would rent/buy, especially if they're living alone. Small living space, basic amenities, and certainly not the sort of place you'd expect to be invaded by a number of supernatural factions.

    So I think it's fine to avoid measurements entirely, and instead use the cultural equivalent. Searching Wikipedia, apparently this is called "studio apartment" or "micro apartment" or "bachelor pad".


  • Staff

    @unsynchedcheese said in Over-localization:

    every attempt to make something more "familiar" to English readers assumes an American cultural base.

    Well, we are an American company, after all...

    To reiterate, there is never going to be a happy middle ground. Leaving it untranslated can alienate anyone unfamiliar with Japanese food/culture. Trying to translate it will alienate Japanese language "purists" who don't want it translated. Trying to localize it will alienate the locales not chosen.

    Even the people who complain are only the couple dozen vocal minority who care enough to make a forum account or find the right Twitter tags. Most people just read it and move on.


  • Premium Member

    @farmerdad said in Over-localization:

    Well put. Having unfamiliar foods don't trip me up as much as having something that sounds out of place like having someone in Hokkaido making home-cooked tacos because us gaijin don't know what Nikujaga is.

    Me too. I'd be happiest with a loose translation like "meat and potato stew" for Nikujaga since I'd never heard of it until now, but given the choice between using the unfamiliar term or replacing it with something obviously wrong like mac 'n' cheese or haggis please go with the original dish.

    In a Japanese light novel I also expect currency references to be in yen not dollars until they inevitably are transported to their new world, at which point they pay with coppers, silvers, gold, etc.


  • Premium Member

    Can't you just do both with an example like the food thing?

    '"Let's eat some Tamagoyaki"
    We started digging into the Tamagoyaki, a rolled, square shaped Omlete.'


  • Premium Member

    @terrence said in Over-localization:

    Can't you just do both with an example like the food thing?

    '"Let's eat some Tamagoyaki"
    We started digging into the Tamagoyaki, a rolled, square shaped Omlete.'

    That could be considered, if not over-localization, taking liberties with the original manuscript. The original author didn't put the phrase "a rolled, square-shaped omelet" in his book. Now, I know that such liberties are taken with speech tags as it is often obvious who is speaking in Japanese by word choices in a way that doesn't translate into English, which I appreciate. So, it's a tricky line to walk.


  • Premium Member

    @terrence said in Over-localization:

    Can't you just do both with an example like the food thing?

    '"Let's eat some Tamagoyaki"
    We started digging into the Tamagoyaki, a rolled, square shaped Omlete.'

    That would be the worst case to happen. Some sort of that, and that demands that English novels, for example, needs to put the same kind of text-disturbing explanations for stuff like shepherd's pie or sloppy joes.

    Better to such customs as original as names and have instead extra notes to help out - as seen with the Final Fantasy Lost Stranger manga or the foot/side notes with other. Plus: when it comes to digital content, there is still the benefit of device included Wikipedia access.


  • Premium Member

    @farmerdad There ARE books that insert translation notes in the back... The style used by My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected doesn't just explain what the original meant to convey, but also what memes are being used. A food example:

    P. 199 Okonomiyaki is something like a savory pancake ...


  • Premium Member

    @someoldguy said in Over-localization:

    @farmerdad There ARE books that insert translation notes in the back... The style used by My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected doesn't just explain what the original meant to convey, but also what memes are being used. A food example:

    P. 199 Okonomiyaki is something like a savory pancake ...

    Yes, I've seen that and I love that! But the explanation isn't added inline with the story. I have learned so much about Japanese things that way, because yes, I read those foot notes when the story is over.


Log in to reply