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How good should your translation be before editing?

Zakamutt

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Despite there being a few good editing blogs on Fuwanovel, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of translation blogs. I think part of the reason for this is that editors in the fan translation scene are often doing things the translator could very well be doing themselves, often to the detriment of the final product. Look at, say, the “big back” entry Fred wrote. Now tell me why this issue couldn’t be avoided back at the translation stage.

There are two reasons why you would do this: one, you don’t know Japanese well enough to understand what is actually meant, so you put down whatever it says literally. In this case, the sane way to handle the issue is to ask someone who knows Japanese better than you for advice. Two, you’re just lazy. Who actually thinks “the date changed” sounds right in English? An edge case of this is prioritizing speed; Ixrec and MDZ* both prioritized speed and neither had very good results to show for it, but they did complete things. Personally I still think this is ultimately lazy; it is significantly more simple to translate literally than to try to actually write well. In this case, ask yourself if you really want to produce a shitty translation.

What I’m trying to get at is this: if you actually want to produce something good, you can’t just leave writing the thing up to the editor. Editors are not miracle workers; they have to deal with what they’re given. Furthermore, many editors working on fan translations, and well, translations period, are not very good at the job. Any time you leave something bad in, there is always the possibility of it sticking around in the final product. I’m not saying you have to be perfect. I’m saying this: for the love of visual novels, try.

If you ask me, before you hand your script to the editor, you should have already done an editing pass on it. Or two. The lines should connect with each other rather than float like islands in a sea of prose, there should be at least an attempt at character voice, and all ugly stock translations should be kawari-fucking-mashita’d, much like the 日付 at midnight, with extreme prejudice.

Sometimes you’re still going to come up short. Sometimes it just won’t sound right whatever you try. That’s when you should pray that your editor knows better than you  leave a note at the line explaining the problem, move on, and hope to hell that your editor is actually good enough to work it out. That’s what the editor is for. The editor should not be translating from weeb to English. The editor should not be doing your job.

*Its not just the fan translation scene that does this, by the way  there are companies, like Aksys, which demand its translators write a colorless literal translation to be punched up by superstar editors later. Unsurprisingly, they’ve put out some real stinkers; I have a lot of respect for Ben Bateman’s work on 999 for this reason.


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Finding someone who can both write and translate is pretty hard, Zaka.  In a world where most people lose their ability to understand the written language the second they get out of high school or college, that's asking a bit much.  *Clephas smiles, malice dripping from every word*

That said, speaking from the translator's point of view... that won't work.  Most people simply don't have the ability to construct coherent sentences while bringing text over from another language.  That is why both edit and tlc stages become necessary in most cases.  Not to mention that translating VNs is a lot of work, so the translators often just don't have the energy for it.

How much Japanese does an editor need to know?  That's a decent question... to be honest, rather than trying to double up a translator and editor, it makes a lot more sense to just have a translation-checker do the first run edit.  In my experience, 90% of a good translation checker's job ends up being making the raw translation make sense.  TLC is a lower stress, less time-consuming job than translation, in general... and unlike a Japanese-incompetent editor, he generally has a better chance of figuring out what's wrong and knowing when to look deeper.  Ideally, the regular editor's job would just be smoothing the rough edges and/or turning dull text into prose.

 

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23 minutes ago, Clephas said:

Most people simply don't have the ability to construct coherent sentences while bringing text over from another language

I guess there's also a problem of some translators being native speakers in neither English nor Japanese? From what I understand, a0art from lack of proper editorial oversight, that's where the Hoshimemo disaster came from - the lead translator was German. And I think it would be the same if I've attempted translating anything, even if we assume I'm a fairly competent writer (disputable) and know both languages somewhat well (not yet true), there's just a ton of nuance that would escape me, metaphors that would get over my head and many situations in which I would create sentences that seem logical from my point of view but for a native speaker looks horrible.

Tanslating is scary business... :amane:

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33 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

I guess there's also a problem of some translators being native speakers in neither English nor Japanese?

That is a problem... but not the primary one.  Most raw translators tend to get latched onto the Japanese sentence structure and try to recreate sentences that are grammatically impossible in English.  Those sentences tend to make a lot of sense to the translator at the time, but anyone else (or even the translator himself, going back later on) will probably have trouble figuring out what it was.  Tunnel vision is endemic to raw translators in general, whether professional or fan.

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I presume the best possible result can be achieved through:

  1. Translating, while maintaining a healthy balance between literal and liberal, when required.
  2. Doing at least two TLC runs through the entire script. First one should remove the most obvious errors and mistakes, while second one should aim to fix the translated sentences.
  3. Editing to improve the general flow, readability and quality of the english translated text.

Skip any of these or half-ass them and you'll get a monstrosity of an english TL in the kinds of SP's late translation attempts or Hikari Field's level of translation "quality".

Editors should never fix the translator's mistakes. Their job is to turn the translator's garble into a Shakespeare's level of prose. Likewise, it's not the translator's job to instantly turn their translations into coherent and readable english prose. It's fine, if they can, but most of the times - they can't and really shouldn't even try, for their own sake. This is why professional game localizations are always a team attempt in the first place.

Edited by Narcosis

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1 hour ago, Narcosis said:
  1. Translating, while maintaining a healthy balance between literal and liberal, when required.

I feel like trying to maintain the literal-liberal balance in a single translation is pretty impossible a task.
I wonder if it would be unreasonable to provide both liberal and literal translation and have an editor suggest a compromise?

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I forgot to add one more thing - seriously, fuck japanese honorifics. They are not required in like 85% of cases. If you want a quality TL, you drop honorifics for the sake of language integration and use western-based equivalents, when possible.

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1 minute ago, Narcosis said:

I forgot to add one more thing - seriously, fuck japanese honorifics. They are not required in like 85% of cases. If you want a quality TL, you drop honorifics for the sake of language integration and use western-based equivalents, when possible.

Not even given Japanese setting?

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1 minute ago, Beichuuka said:

Not even given Japanese setting?

Only when prose operates on strict usage of honorifics to address people and create a setting, it won't make much of a difference otherwise. Don't be a weeb.

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3 hours ago, Beichuuka said:

I feel like trying to maintain the literal-liberal balance in a single translation is pretty impossible a task.
I wonder if it would be unreasonable to provide both liberal and literal translation and have an editor suggest a compromise?

The editor can help you out a bit here, assuming competence, but only based on how well the literal and liberal lines read and fit into the rest of the text. Since they can't read Japanese, ultimately you and other translators / translation checkers are going to be the only reasonable judge of whether you've gone too far. If you know some nice senpai, definitely see if you can get their opinion! In my experience you probably haven't gone too far, though, and should stop worrying and learn to love the memes creative ways of expressing ideas.

I do think that it's reasonable to give your best try at a liberal tl then leave a note with a more literal tl that your editor can work with if they're dissatisfied. But you should try not to need to, imo.

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On 2/1/2018 at 9:02 AM, Plk_Lesiak said:

From what I understand, a0art from lack of proper editorial oversight, that's where the Hoshimemo disaster came from - the lead translator was German.

None of the mistakes where things that a native speaker would have been incapable of making. 

 

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On 01/02/2018 at 12:41 PM, Narcosis said:

Skip any of these or half-ass them and you'll get a monstrosity of an english TL in the kinds of SP's late translation attempts or Hikari Field's level of translation "quality".

While I do agree that having all of those passes would guarantee some level of quality, they should not all prove essential for a somewhat acceptable translation. Hikari Filed's translation is several steps below acceptable at the moment. Several steps below a great deal of translations which most definitely did not have repeated TLC passes.

 

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On 2/1/2018 at 7:41 AM, Narcosis said:

Doing at least two TLC runs through the entire script. First one should remove the most obvious errors and mistakes, while second one should aim to fix the translated sentences.

Skip any of these or half-ass them and you'll get a monstrosity of an english TL in the kinds of SP's late translation attempts or Hikari Field's level of translation "quality".

Well, I can tell you that barely any game translations, VN or otherwise, employ extensive TLC. The most TLC you tend to get is from editors who also know Japanese and can correct errors during the editing pass, which is somewhat common in certain translation companies like 8-4 and such. 

MangaGamer, for example, almost never TLCs unless it's an adopted fan translation. The idea is that a translator who is good enough to get paid should be good enough to get it right the first time around. NekoNyan does have TLC listed in their progress page, which is interesting. I'm not sure how comprehensive that is, though.

Edited by Decay

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@Decay

I've actually heard the statement that the VN industry not hiring TLC is due to them having to be cheap due to the niche nature of the market, so I'm not sure if that goes for all industries. I've seen "revision" of translations thrown around as the actual professional term on some translators' blog(s). I do think that it's a sane policy to try not to need it in the first place, though.

With that said, though it seems this made the rounds with professionals (thanks verde ilu), I'm probably more interested in the fan translation case (I mean, it's what I do... a few hours every year...). I've worked with TLCs on several projects simply because I'm not that good, and certainly wasn't that good, when I was translating back then. That said, I used them for their superior Japanese comprehension (including help on lines left blank due to not understanding them!), not for their writing skills.

Clephas' conception of the editor-TLC is certainly a way to turn out a passable product if the stars align in proper order, but it always gives me this niggling feeling that either the TLC is doing too little and letting bad lines slip by or should simply dispense with the first translator since they're just re-translating all the lines anyway. It's also hard to get someone both motivated and competent, and the best have a tendency to leave bad translators in disgust. Some projects I know seemed to spend their entire lifespan looking for TLC and not really finding it, eventually finishing tl, and just going without it in the end.

Going back to fan translation: fan translators are generally not paid, and in some sense this actually gives them an opportunity to create the best quality product. Professional translators generally lose profit by translating slower, and pay is not in high supply for VN translations much of the time. As such there is always a tension between quality and quantity that a fan translator does not necessarily feel. I can understand how professional translators might be forced to cut corners to make ends meet, get destroyed by ridiculous deadlines, and make contextual errors due to not having the time or ability to compare with the original. I can also see why it would make sense to hire much-cheaper editors and have your translators do light, quick work from a business perspective. But none of this has to apply to fan translation. It will make you slower, sure. But it will make you better.

In the end, maybe I should be questioning why exactly I hold my ideals anyway. A lot of the reason I try to work with the philosophy I do is that translating stiffly is just not fun for me. What delights me is writing, coming up with clever ways to convey ideas in different languages. It's hard for me to even understand the people that turn out real stinkers. If I had to push out stuff like that for 30,000 lines I'd feel like killing myself on a regular basis.

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I would also argue that TLC might not have improved the quality of these recent releases by much. Translation accuracy isn't what I generally see people complain about with them, though I admittedly haven't played anything released in the last eight months so I can't say for sure.

When are we getting the post about this systemic issue tbh because I agree (maybe there isn't anything new worth talking about? But idk about that...)

Though admittedly, I hate it being like this but the notion of people generally not noticing on a conscious level is p real

Edited by Zakamutt

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On 2/1/2018 at 4:41 AM, Narcosis said:

at least two TLC runs through the entire script

You're much better off just getting someone who knows what they're doing translating it in the first place. Translation checking is a luxury some localization projects have, but at least in fan translations, it's largely there to compensate for the fact that most of the people working in fan translations just aren't very good translators. 99% of the time, if they were passable at translating, they'd get out of fan translation and translate for a living.

On 2/1/2018 at 4:41 AM, Narcosis said:

Editors should never fix the translator's mistakes. Their job is to turn the translator's garble into a Shakespeare's level of prose.

If the translation is best described as garble, no editor can save it short of going to check every translated line and effectively redoing the work. I think what you're saying here is predicated on a mistaken assumption people often make when talking about localization: that there's some sort pidgin language between Japanese and English (let's call it Fantranslationese). Bizarrely, some people not only believe in the existence of Fantranslationese, but they have even convinced themselves that they prefer to read Fantranslationese over English. But make no mistake: Fantranslationese is not a language, and it does not communicate anything like what the original Japanese did and what a decent English translation would. Fantranslationese is a pale shadow of a language, and an editor can only do so much to fix a "translation" attempting to use it short of retranslating the work because the editor otherwise doesn't actually get an experience like reading the original. Relying on editors to inject flair into a Fantranslationese script means you lost all the flair that was in the original. You're certainly not there yet, but you're well on your way to writing fanfiction instead of a translation, if you go this route.

Editors should be polishing a translation, smoothing out rough edges and ensuring consistency. They absolutely should be fixing the translator's mistakes, always with the aid of the translator, because the editor sees the work differently and therefore is going to rarely find translation mistakes due to their different view. This is a given especially because of how ambiguous and context-dependent Japanese is.

On 2/1/2018 at 4:41 AM, Narcosis said:

Likewise, it's not the translator's job to instantly turn their translations into coherent and readable english prose.

I never want to work on any project with a translator who believes this.

Edited by Fred the Barber

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