Sunday, August 23, 2009

Translation

So one of the things I've been doing this summer is translating manga (comics) from Japanese to English.

Mostly, I've been responsible for the translation of the manga Akaboshi Suikoden. It's based on an old chinese novel, "Shui Hu Zhuan" or "Water Margin". I figured that I should make these summers where I have a bunch of free time worth something, so the moment I had the opportunity, I joined a translation team at IEatManga. I had randomly started looking into the JET program in prior weeks, and it renewed my interest in learning Japanese.

The most interesting part about manga translation (and also unfortunately), is how much it tests your skills in the target language rather than the source language. Ultimately, the target language is what the readers are going to be seeing, and as long as you can get the gist of what the source is saying (whether through your own personal skills or heavy reliance on a dictionary), you can make do with what you got. There's a major problem in Japanese (that doesn't occur as often in English) where words are altered drastically and sentence endings have definitions that aren't handled in dictionaries, but a basic knowledge of language can pull you through.

The target language, however, is a whole different level. A dictionary can't help you utilize "voice". Limited experience in the target language won't help you speak to the reader in the same language. At best, you can only talk in a stilted formal voice. Although it gets the idea across (since really, your average manga reader glosses over the bubbles), it's still awkward and you just won't have the experience for using the right wording.

Good thing I'm a English speaker first, and a Japanese learner second, I guess.