Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My post on the translation of Fruits Basket picked up a couple links (thanks!), and also some feedback. Johanna Carlson said, referring to my list of errors, "I didn't see any of them as terribly significant, but I wasn't reading the list with the manga at hand." No, I wouldn't say that they were terribly significant. Certainly they don't affect the plot, for the most part. On the other hand, I think they all do affect the characterizations to some extent. This is particularly important in a manga like Fruits Basket, which largely revolves around the slow unfolding of character; especially since a good deal of the characters' psychologies so far (I've only read through vol. 6) have only been obscurely hinted at.

In a comment to Johanna's post, Ed Sizemore "wonder[s] if the translation mistakes pointed out might be problems of trying to convey the same thought and nuance of a Japanese sentence to a general audience. Sometimes those that can read Japanese, or another foreign language, forget they are doing more than just word for word substitutions when they read a text. They are actually entering into a different culture and perspective. They forget all the unspoken subtleties they are projecting into their reading of a text." (I've fixed a couple of typos.)

Actually, I'm willing to allow manga translators a good deal of leeway, and did so in the case of Fruits Basket. A word-for-word translation of Japanese is likely to be flat and dull, because much of the emotion and "color" in Japanese derives from particles and grammatical constructions which can't be translated. In a certain sense, a literal but lifeless manga translation is less accurate than a freer but lively one (unless the original is lifeless, of course). I only counted as errors those instances where the translators had substantially changed the original thought (as I had thought was clear from comparing Tokyopop's translations and my literal translations).

As for Ed's final sentences, I only wish that I could "enter into a different culture and perspective" when I read Japanese! I'm not nearly fluent enough, nor do I know that much about Japanese culture. Usually the best I can do is to be aware that there are "unspoken subtleties," without knowing what they are.

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