JP formatting elements in translations


  • Member

    TL;DR I prefer removing Japanese formatting elements from translations. What are others' thoughts, and why do some seem to favor including them?

    I'm putting this is the suggestion subforum because my suggestion is to be more aggressive in converting JP punctuation and formatting, things like 【, [, <, 《, or «, to English equivalents. The degree to which this is done currently varies by translator. Examples of such formatting character use are at the bottom of this post.

    However, because "I like it that way" won't be a particularly compelling reason for anyone other than me, and because there's obviously different opinions on the matter, I'll go into more detail on my perspective, and I'll be curious to hear the reasons behind the opinions of those who favor leaving such formatting characters in. Hopefully I'll either convince people or they'll help me understand the perspective behind keeping them in the translations.


    The main reasons behind my perspective are:

    1. Formatting using those characters/punctuation isn't typically done in English prose;

    I would say they don't have an common, accepted meaning that would be universally understood (I wouldn't expect someone to know what it means to speak a word in [bracket] or <bracket>?)

    This argument is based on my exposure to published, English-language works, so it could be countered by pointing out that they are used in English-original-language works (examples appreciated). What I'd consider a weaker counter would be claiming that they are accepted within the Japanese translation subset of the English language.

    1. I would claim that the English language already has equivalent formatting that can capture the meaning of the formatting characters/punctuation in Japanese.

    I can't read Japanese, so I don't claim perfect understanding, but based on context in translations, it seems to me that such formatting would be equivalent to capitalization, bold, italics, or quotation marks in English (I would hypothesize that the JP language uses more formatting characters because it lacks some of those formatting elements English has). It may not always be a 1-to-1 translation, but I've never encountered formatting in a translation I thought couldn't be just as easily represented by those standard elements of English formatting.

    I would contrast this with something like honorifics, where preserving the meaning of the original is more difficult to do without retaining them. Because there aren't always concise, appropriate English equivalents to them, a translation is more likely to encounter a situation where trying to preserve the meaning without honorifics would adversely affect the structure or flow of the text, which are important elements in story telling.

    The counter here would be to explain how the meaning or purpose behind such formatting characters are not well represented by standard English formatting (capitalization, italics, bold, quotation, etc).

    1. And this is not as much of a logical reason, but I enjoy reading something that's written like a standard English work.

    I'm giving this a number and stating it that way because someone else may counter simply by saying they enjoy it more when the text feels closer to the original Japanese (with the inclusion of Japanese formatting).

    I personally think preserving JP elements for that reason alone goes against the principle of translation, and it seems like a slippery slope that could justify all sorts of things; but creating a product that fits consumer tastes is a valid reason in business.


    The impression I get from reading multiple JNC series is that different JNC translators take different approaches to translating or including such formatting.

    I'll list some examples from the chapters where such formatting is included on JNC and how I would personally choose to change it. I don't mean to say my suggestions are the only way it could be done, but I do think the formatting characters could be removed or replaced in all these cases .

    Examples:


  • Premium Member

    Your point is well made and I agree. Retaining original formatting elements has some value in terms of faithfulness and flavour, but at least in most case it is unnecessary and can be jarring. I'd say that, of the examples provided, the Dendogram example is the most justifiable because having application-specific formatting to identify a system message is common and the use of square brackets is not overly jarring.


  • Premium Member

    I'd honestly prefer less "..." lines, but only because my text to speech reader can't handle them. Every time dots pop up without any line after them in quotation marks, the reader says "QUOTE" audibly aloud (the literal word "quote", not quoting the ellipses or pausing).

    I don't expect you to cater to my niche third party app use though. xP

    I'm game either way for whatever you guys decide on punctuation wise. Personally, I don't mind stuff getting "cleaned up", even losing honorifics most of the time, but I know that's blasphemy for some. xD


  • Member

    @Terrence said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    I'd honestly prefer less "..." lines, but only because my text to speech reader can't handle them.

    While reading, the "..." isn't something I notice much personally. But when I was skimming through to compare some of the translations to originals, by coincidence, I did notice one instance of the translator converting "..." into narrative.

    So there is at least one person working in your favor with respect to "..."


  • Translators

    @hatguy12 I actually agree with you on that one in Realist. I've generally nixed those everywhere else, and on Living Poltergeists itself on later occurrences. That one's one of those early hiccups while I was getting used to dealing with the formatting. You shouldn't see any more of them.



  • Personally, I don't mind the usage of brackets for things that are a little out of the ordinary, such as magic spell names or looking at text on a screen or text box, as it gives them emphasis without making them confusing (using quotes or speech marks), changing the tone (changing cases such as all caps, superscript, etc) or making them more difficult to read (underline). That said, in most cases italics or bold could replace brackets without a problem.

    My issue comes with using full width brackets rather than half width brackets. Whenever full width brackets are followed by half width punctuation, it looks pretty unnatural to an English reader as the punctuation looks like it's just floating in space. For example, "Fear my terrifying spell [[ Full Width Brackets ]]!"


  • Translators

    I'd honestly prefer less "..." lines, but only because my text to speech reader can't handle them. Every time dots pop up without any line after them in quotation marks, the reader says "QUOTE" audibly aloud (the literal word "quote", not quoting the ellipses or pausing).

    @Terrence, Thank you for bringing this up. It may be a niche concern, but that doesn't mean it's not worth mentioning. (I certainly would never have thought of it otherwise.)

    Personally, I usually convert "..." or "...!" type lines to narrative. I (and I think most readers) understand what they represent, and they work fine so far as it goes (except for audio readers!), but as I did more and more LNs I couldn't help thinking that there had to be a smoother way to represent them in English.

    Light novels have a number of conventions surrounding dialogue, and translators massage those conventions all the time to get natural-sounding English--so in my view there's nothing to prevent doing it with these lines as well.


  • Translators

    I'm sure Steiner will reply here eventually about smartphone, but we ran out of "normal" punctuation to use basically.

    The special << >> and [ ] instead of italics are used to indicate when something is in the language of that world and "translated" to something Touya can understand, and the [ ] are used specifically for the english words in spells that have plot specific significance. We originally removed them but then a later conversation makes showing them as being "literal english words" somehow was important, so we decided using [ ] was a valid solution here. Italics are already used for monologue and normal emphasis, so using them also for this purpose would get even more confusing.

    Generally, I fully agree that Japanese specific punctuation be converted as much as possible. But LNs tend to use more varieties of brackets than english for sometimes plot crucial meanings, so sometimes we need to pull out "alternative" brackets.
    Another example is brackets used for telepathic powers, where you're supposed to realize other characters can't hear the conversation. If you're already using italics for monologue the only more "englishy" thing to do would be use normal ( ), but that also looks kind of wonky.


  • Translators

    @Sam-Pinansky It's not like there aren't examples of English works that use unique punctuation for psychic conversations anyway. If I recall, the Animorphs series used [] for it. Not exactly high literature, but what series with psychic conversations between people who transform into animals is?


  • Member

    @Sam-Pinansky said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    I'm sure Steiner will reply here eventually about smartphone, but we ran out of "normal" punctuation to use basically.

    The special << >> and [ ] instead of italics are used to indicate when something is in the language of that world and "translated" to something Touya can understand, and the [ ] are used specifically for the english words in spells that have plot specific significance. We originally removed them but then a later conversation makes showing them as being "literal english words" somehow was important, so we decided using [ ] was a valid solution here. Italics are already used for monologue and normal emphasis, so using them also for this purpose would get even more confusing.

    I will admit my claim of "could be removed or replaced in all these cases" was evaluating them on an isolated basis. As you point out, it may not be that simple on a larger scale, particularly if it's involved in some important plot point (the one I vaguely remember was a relatively small point regarding the meaning of "bubble," but there may be more than that).

    From a purely preference standpoint on Smartphone, I find the spell names appearing so heavily emphasized and so frequently in narration (like [Gate]) to be jarring. It sounds like there was already significant thought put into the matter. I'm suspicious I would personally still be more aggressive about their removal even if I was properly evaluating the issue on the overall scale, but thanks for talking some about the reasons.

    Sean McCann said

    It's not like there aren't examples of English works that use unique punctuation for psychic conversations anyway. If I recall, the Animorphs series used [] for it. Not exactly high literature, but what series with psychic conversations between people who transform into animals is?

    Thanks for the example of a case it might be used in English. I haven't read Animorphs and don't think I've read much with psychic conversations.

    I don't think I was paying close attention to the psychic conversations in Smartphone (I may take a look later), so I might agree there that something outside the basic English formatting set would be appropriate.


  • Premium Member

    @Sean-McCann said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    @Sam-Pinansky It's not like there aren't examples of English works that use unique punctuation for psychic conversations anyway. If I recall, the Animorphs series used [] for it. Not exactly high literature, but what series with psychic conversations between people who transform into animals is?

    You also have the Valdemar series that used a combination of colon and italics :like this: to denote mindspeech, which is all kinds of fun now with forum markup.


  • Translators

    @hatguy12 said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    @Terrence said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    I'd honestly prefer less "..." lines, but only because my text to speech reader can't handle them.

    While reading, the "..." isn't something I notice much personally. But when I was skimming through to compare some of the translations to originals, by coincidence, I did notice one instance of the translator converting "..." into narrative.

    So there is at least one person working in your favor with respect to "..."

    It's me, isn't it.

    EDIT: Oh, maybe it's Kevin. :)


  • Member

    @Liz said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    @hatguy12 said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    So there is at least one person working in your favor with respect to "..."

    It's me, isn't it.

    Yup. I had been somewhat expecting Narrow Fantasy Online to have some special formatting when appearing in the original and was curious, so I was looking through that one when I noticed.


  • Editors

    Hrm... I agree with you guys on some things, and others not so much. But it's definitely an interesting conversation to have.

    First off, regarding the use of《, we would have used regular <<'s, but those can get muddied up and confused by some HTML programs, and we use those for our epub assemblies.

    If you don't take spacing problems into account and just look at it from a functional perspective, at least in Uchi Musume, I almost get an "echo-y" feeling from that formatting, which helps convey the power of the spell. For me, anyway. :)

    I think that now that everyone has access to computers and other digital writing implements, you may end up seeing more weird formatting making its way into English. It wasn't that long ago that everything had to be sent off to a printer for pressing, and I wouldn't be surprised if that prevented format evolution. Interestingly enough, this is kind of reminding me of My Little Sister Can Read Kanji... @Sam-Pinansky .

    It's one of those things that initially made me cringe, but as an editor you also have to learn to roll and adapt.

    (Side Note: Although this isn't prose, many English-language comic books have interesting formatting in their text to convey different things, not just telepathy. It's like comic book formatting is leaking its way into novel text, in a way.)


  • Editors

    (Side-Side Note: While I didn't like the book itself, if you want to see an example of some extreme and experimental text formatting, pick up House of Leaves. Get a physical, color copy.)


  • Translators

    @hatguy12 That's funny! Yeah NaroFan is straight up. We get the << >> around skills and arts names and initially I put quotes around every instance, but one of our proofreaders recommended that we just put quotes around them the first time they appear or else it gets too distracting. I was fine with that; out they went.

    @Terrence We got that complaint about "...quotes!" early on, and I took that to heart. If it was a serious concern for our earliest readers, it's a serious concern for me, and it also wasn't something I'd ever have considered if it hadn't been brought up. So please, definitely bring that stuff up!


  • Translators

    @Sean-McCann said in JP formatting elements in translations:

    @Sam-Pinansky It's not like there aren't examples of English works that use unique punctuation for psychic conversations anyway. If I recall, the Animorphs series used [] for it.

    Funny, because this was exactly the example I was going to bring up. I recall the books using pointy single brackets (<>) for thought-speak, not square ones. FWIW, I've also seen more than one example of English-language comics using pointy brackets to indicate when someone is nominally speaking in a non-English language.


  • Translators

    @Kevin-S And don't forget the venerable translation of Miyazaki's Nausicaa manga which used < > to denote foreign language,


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