an opinion about honorific

  • i've bought some of your series, and i feel strange without honorific on it. we can all agreed that honorific can change intonation and state of relationship.. for example, when i read realist hero, tomoe usually calling juna with -san as respect for older person. juna then calling tomo with -chan as a adoration for younger girl.. i didnt get that feeling at your release. another example is when juna going to date with souma.. usually souma called juna with -san as respect, then when he gave her gift he calling her with just juna without honorific as sign of intimacy and to tease her.. in your release.. i didnt get that intimacy mostly because he calling juna the same all trough novel without honorific..

    i hope this critic doesnt offend you as translator.. thank you for attention..

  • Premium Member

    Yeah, it should stay in there because it's a subletly that cannot really be translated, but nontheless hold quite a bit of significance under certain circumstances.

  • Premium Member

    Depends on the honorific, in my opinion. For instance, -san is usually safe to drop. You can simply be sure if they're using -san to use polite language. "Mr. Welf" is a tragedy, though. shudder

    -sama is harder. You can continually say "sir", or something, like that, but that can get repetitive as it's not repeated that often in English.

    Senpai/Kouhai should be kept, IMO.

    I do like how the Smartphone translator translates what I /ASSUME/ is de gozaru, though. It has a similar feel but is English, rather than simply using de gozaru.

    Really, it depends on the honorific in general.

  • Sometimes you can take out honorifics or replace them with an equivalent without an issue. And sometimes doing that can't be done as smoothly, so you have to balance the disruption (some) English readers would feel for encountering an untranslated element in an English translation to the loss of meaning or flow that the imperfect conversion would result in.

    Some anime/manga/LN fans have gotten used to seeing them, and therefore no longer view them as a disruption, but that's not everyone.

    Also, sometimes I see people representing the issue as a one-to-one translation issue, which it's not. "Mr/Ms" might be a perfectly fine conversion for -san in some places, even though it's perhaps more often the case that -san can simply be dropped. For any honorific (and really any word), how they should be translated (or not) is highly dependent on the context.

    The other notion I reject is that the honorific information that is explicitly represented in Japanese needs to be explicitly represented in English. Often times that information is already represented in the context of the situation or implicitly in the tone of conversation. In the OP's example of Juna/Tomoe, I know that Juna is an adult and that Tomoe is a child, so I can imagine their tones to each other without needing -san and -chan to explicitly tell me who's is treating the other as the elder/younger.

    The OP's example of Juna-san/Juna as situation dependent address is one of the cases where there are a range of different options to take, none of which is going to be absolutely perfect. If the translator can represent the switch in tone of speech between formal and informal with word choice in dialogue, or by using a common nickname, then that can be used in place of honorifics.

    If the translator decides that the change in tone is an important element of the story, and can't be represented clearly and succinctly enough with the normal English elements, then that's the point I'd start considering the option of leaving honorifics despite the disruption it would give some readers. However, most of the time (including the Juna-san/Juna example to the extent I know it), I personally don't think making it explicit is important enough to justify just leaving honorifics in.

  • Premium Member

    If it's a video game with English voice acting, I prefer no honorifics.

    I'm indifferent when it comes to books, but I probably haven't read anything where they are prominently used. Grimgar occasionally throws one out there where it makes sense.

  • @hatguy12 While it's a generalization, I'm gonna go ahead and say JNC attracts mostly more intense fans and people interested in Japanese culture. For that reason I feel that while you make some excellent points there are some novels in which honorifics ought to be left intact, even if it requires some explanation at the beginning of the novel.

    That said there are also some novels where I feel like there's no reason they need to be left in. Probably Uchimusume is a good example. The setting is not in Japan and while honorifics might clarify some relationships they'd also clash with the culture that the author established. While this might be seem odd given that it was written in Japan I feel like honorifics are simply a matter of the way the language is and have nothing to do with the actual content in this case.

    On the other hand something like Smartphone would probably benefit from having the honorifics in, and I think perhaps Infinite Dendrogram as well. For Smartphone, Touya is speaking Japanese and hearing the other characters as speaking Japanese. While something like Yae's speech tic is well translated, honorifics would certainly help clarify Touya's relationships as can be seen in the subtitled version of the show.

    Anyway to summarize, some JNC novels would definitely benefit from leaving honorifics in, while others you can make a strong case to translate and leave them out.

  • Premium Member

    I think that so far only Grimgar, Arifureta, and Rokujouma have preserved honorifics. Smartphone has honorifics, but only for the characters who are from the fantasy version of Japan. Even series set entirely in Japan like Big Sister and Paying to Win don't keep honorifics.

  • @gonki As you mention, there is a matter of catering to your audience as a business decision outside of the philosophy of translation. I think it's an interesting question and a reasonable factor for JNC to include in their choices.

    I haven't seen any data on the topic, but my guess is there is a higher fraction of "pro-honorific" fans here in the forums and on other fan discussion forums compared to the average amazon customer, for example. It would likely be hard to do an accurate survey of customers who don't frequent the forums for comparison, but I think that'd be an interesting comparison if it were possible.

  • Premium Member

    While I personally don't overly mind honorifics in tranlsations, I'm not really fond of them and think that they shouldn't be included unless there are compelling reasons to keep them.

    Furthermore, I find @Bookmaker's interpretation of the honorifics in the first post interesting. While dropping the honorific obviously signals something, I'd never associate -san with respect, but rather with being baseline polite. Similarly, using -chan for a small child (as opposed to a woman who's not an old friend/acquaintance) has no connotation of adoration for me, but is just the normal thing to do in Japanese.

    Also, I'll never get how people can argue all night and day about honorifics, but nobody ever complains that more than 20 different words get translated as “I”.

  • @jaquobus That's a very interesting point about "I." That said I've definitely seen cases where "jibun" is properly translated as "This one" or "Myself" and on the other hand the stuff like "Waga" etc. gets translated as "The great I" (in Death March for example). However many of those simply sound awkward and the impression of arrogance or superiority can be made by attitude rather than directly translating the pronoun. I think it's important to keep in mind that while honorifics are easier to understand with only a cursory knowledge of Japanese, the nuances of pronouns are significantly more difficult and it doesn't help that fansubs etc. often don't bother with conveying that.

  • Staff

    I said the same thing in the "translation sfx" topic, but it's a slippery slope when you start down the path of "there's no perfect translation, so let's leave it untranslated." Where do you draw the line? Does the line move as society evolves?

    With regards to audience, as a business, it's more beneficial to target larger audiences than to cater to niche ones. It's much more likely for a newcomer/visitor to be turned off by untranslated honorifics than it is for an anime/manga/LN fan to boycott the company because honorifics aren't retained.

    As a translation company, it also looks better for JNC to put in effort to translate everything possible to avoid awkward questions from potential Japanese partners like "In the sample you gave us, why did you leave -san and -sama? is it not Mister/Miss and Master in English?"

    I just feel like there are so many more advantages to translating honorifics than there are to keeping them.

  • @myskaros That's certainly a good point. In the end it honestly seems to come down to the translators' preference. It's easy to find official translations that leave them and on the other hand those that don't. I honestly don't think there's enough data on fan preference for there to be a clear cut decision on ALL media. I do believe there are some series with truly mass appeal where it's wise to leave them out though.

  • @myskaros i do agree with your reasoning.. what i feel weird is the lack of something that honorific add to literature.. if that can be solved then i have no complain.. in many case, it's better to translate the honorific than to flat out drop it.

  • Staff

    @bookmaker I agree. I would say that honorifics add less than people who complain about losing them think they do. 90% of the time, the nuances they impart can be completely ignored without affecting the audience's perception of the characters' relationships. The few times it does matter, they can be represented appropriately in English via translation.

  • @myskaros now, back on my case.. the main problem is that on some series that i bought from JNC, the honorific is discarded rather than translated properly.. it's really disturbing for me, enough to consider not to buy another from that series.. it changed my perspective about character relationship. since i enjoy character relationship on literature more than a plot itself, that make me reserved to read the whole novel.. i am pretty excited when i bought them, then when i read half of it i just skimmed the rest since it bored me and at that point i only wanted to know the plot since my curiosity for character relationship is gone..

    i know that it's close to ranting, sorry about that..

  • Staff

    @bookmaker In the end, you know what you want and you can make your own decisions on what you want to buy, so if this really is a dealbreaker for you... well, I hope you find books that suit your needs.

    If you might allow me to persuade you, though, from a culture perspective, other non-Japanese cultures get by defining and expressing relationships just fine without prolific honorifics. If you're unable to determine how characters view each other from a single suffix, it sounds like you're not paying attention to all the other contextual clues that are used to convey that information.

    • Aside from the first time two characters meet or talk about each other, do you really need a constant reminder that "oh, she's his big sister," or "this guy has a very important social position"?
      • If the answer is yes, I would say this is a problem that goes far beyond whether or not honorifics are kept in text.
      • If the answer is no, then why is a simple description of the relationship when the characters first introduced so much worse than honorifics? They both accomplish the same thing.
    • Character relationships are defined by the way they interact with each other, not what honorific they use. Honorifics are simply a shortcut that takes advantage of a cultural system already in place in Japan.

  • Premium Member

    Considering that Realist Hero is a non-Japanese European style fantasy world, the honorifics would actually distract from the translation imo.

    Honestly, if you read non-manga/non-Light Novel translations of Japanese fiction honorifics are very very very rarely used. It's only in our very small subculture that any translator would consider using them.

  • Premium Member

    I'm in the no honorifics camp, myself. I can understand why translators might leave them in in video games or manga where the amount of space to write is limited and writing around them is therefore harder, but a novel does not suffer from that problem.

    My main issue is where do you draw the line with honorifics? I think most manga and anime fans would know common ones such as -san, -kun, and -chan but what about -meijin or -senshu or -bucho? There are tons of honorifics based on job titles alone. And that doesn't even address that some honorifics don't have one cut-and-dry meaning - if a newly introduced character that you have no other context about is called -sensei, are they a teacher, a doctor, or a mangaka?

    Honestly I think the context that honorifics bring could be added in other ways that are more natural to read in English. Not using them avoids confusion or the need to have a translation page explaining what honorifics mean.

  • @raddevlin how about making a short note in the beginning of Novels that explain the meaning of all the honorifics used in that novel? That way everyone would be pleased, no?

    Edit: seems like you already considered that.

  • Staff

    @imilyaz It's not a great solution, honestly. Again, imagine someone who really doesn't know anything about the Japanese language getting a page or more of non-story exposition about what a bunch of words mean, followed by an entire novel littered with words they have to keep flipping back to the front to check what they mean.

    As @the-green-death brought up, "keeping stuff untranslated" is pretty much restricted only to anime/manga/LNs from Japan. If you tried it with anything else, there would be massive blowback.

Log in to reply