A video letting everyone know how thankful I am (seriously) for everything people do. Not only for me, but for everyone on and around this site. Even if your name is not in the video, it does not mean I don't appreciate everything you do. Thank you so much for being such awesome friends.
Well Japan is cranking out anime like there's no tomorrow and there's already more anime from years gone by than you can shake a stick at so if you want to keep up with the Joneses you're gonna have to burn the midnight oil and watch anime like all get out.
I don't know how it works with coming up with a good story, but if you mean writing in the purest sense (whether fiction or nonfiction), then I agree completely with your professor. Not that reading alone can make a good writer. But surely being a wordsmith requires you to know something about...well, words. And by reading you encounter lots and lots of words and phrases that you might not otherwise be familiar with.
I've yet to meet a musician that didn't listen to music. On the contrary, they always turn out to have the largest collections of music I've come across. Again, not that listening to music can automatically make you a musician, but you get the point...
As someone who's recently started a legitimate Translation Project, I've been wanting to kind of look back on my progress and see how I improved ever since I started learning Japanese to where I am now, how I plan on evolving, etc. and hopefully with it also help other people who might be in the same situation I was or just people in general who are interested in translating visual novels.
First and foremost: This is my opinion and my opinion only. This is not meant to be a bible for you to religiously follow. I'm not a professional, nor do I claim to be one. This is simply me attempting to give some form of meaningful advice and input from my own experiences, as in, how things worked out best for me. So please, don't burn me at the stake if you disagree with something, although do feel free to give productive comments, this is meant to be helpful for everyone after all.
So you want to translate a visual novel?
Below i'm going to list the 3 most important steps in starting a translation project, and the ones I use as guidelines.
Keep in mind you can do whatever you want, this is simply my advice on how to try and make your project have the highest success rate.
First off there's one important factor to take into account. This is the most crucial part of translating anything and you need to drill it into your brain as soon as possible.
Answer this question: Do you like the visual novel you want to translate?
Now I know this sounds generic as hell, but you have to understand this: Translating something you're not sure you're going to enjoy is like playing russian roulette. It's like trying to make a cake and not being sure if you're adding salt or sugar.
And I know some people already know this, but they still strongly believe they'll enjoy the visual novel despite never having played through it (particularly prevalent with visual novels that have anime counterparts). This is terrible practice.
Why you ask?
First let's assume the worst case scenario: You end up translating it and find out you don't really like it. You'll end up demotivated and 99% of the time you'll drop the project.
Now let's assume you're translating it and end up enjoying it: The fact that you have not played through it and you're giving the raw scripts a look before knowing the whole context, how the VN feels, and sometimes even how the characters are speaking (tones and stuff), can be a huge factor in mistranslating or misinterpreting words/sentences, which will lead to inaccurate translations.
And lastly: You might be translating the scripts and realising it's kind of boring, but maybe if you had played the game beforehand you would have known it picked up the pace at some point and was actually fun.
Essentially speaking: Not knowing wether you like a VN and translating it is a huge gamble that more often than not has bad results.
My personal experience:
I liked the anime Sakurasou quite a bit and knew it had a visual novel counterpart.
What did I do? I immediately went and got the scripts, thinking maybe I'd tackle it as a translation project.
Before taking a serious look at the scripts, I actually ended up and grabbing the game. Well guess what? I actually didn't have much fun with the game and I'm still thankful I didn't end up mindlessly attempting to translate it.
And a more positive example to showcase why it's so important to like the visual novel you're translating:
My translation project for Lilium x Triangle was only started after i cleared the entire game. After I had read through every single line and understood everything.
And you know what? I'm having a blast translating the scripts, because it brings me back the feelings I had when I read the game, it reminds me of how much I enjoyed it, and it makes translating it fun instead of a drag.
And this is why, and I know some disagree with me on this, I don't believe random people that have never tried the game should try to start translation projects.
Now I assume you have played and enjoyed the visual novel you want to translate. Now comes the second crucial part: know your own skills.
This one's more obvious but, you have to know exactly how can you start a translation project for a visual novel. How are you going to accomplish what you want?
First off, there's two skills you need to have in your team in order for your project to have any chance of succeeding: Translation and Hacking.
Without these two, your project will never take off or finish.
And this is where I might have a bit of an unpopular opinion but, I really don't have much faith in translation projects that are not started by the translators themselves. But I can give this a bit of a slack depending on certain circumstances detailed below.
If you're a translator
Great! You have the best chance of succeeding if you, as a translator, are the one who started the project.
Assuming you've followed step 1, here's my personal advice if you're a translator:
1. How good is your Japanese/How difficult is the visual novel to read? (Obvious question is obvious).
You need to know your own skills before attempting to translate anything.
Like I mentioned in step 1, you need to read the visual novel you're translating first and foremost. Make sure you understand a bare minimum of 90% of it (ideally, higher) so you know you are capable of even thinking about translating it.
Clephas made a really helpful guide for beginner translators that I really recommend you checkout beforehand: http://forums.fuwanovel.net/index.php?/topic/7692-advice-for-a-beginning-translator/
2. Never use machine translators
I'm not afraid to admit I've been here, and let me tell you right now: This does not work.
Attempting to interpret machine translations, even if you believe the translator you're using is accurate, even if you're just looking at the romanji/furigana and you feel like you grasped it, it will more than 80% of the time result in inaccurate translations/meanings.
The first game I ever attempted to translate was a nukige which I thought I'd like given the CGs.
And to be fair, I really did like it once I legitimately read it (which was a while back after I improved my own skills to be able to comprehend Japanese better) but when I attempted to translate it, I resorted to machine translations, and boy was it hell. As soon as a sentence that wasn't a couple words long appeard, it was simply impossible to make anything meaningful out of it.
Even if you believe you have a really good editor, this is still not a viable way to translate anything.
3. Know your own pace.
Knowing how fast you translate is super important. This helps you know how long you will likely take to translate the visual novel and also it will let you put everything into prespective and evaluate wether or not this is a project you want to sink time in.
If you're a beginner, your pace is likely not fast, and attempting to translate really long projects will likely result in you burning out halfway through it.
4. Don't force yourself!
The most important step, in my opinion, is not forcing yourself to translate something.
Even if you liked a visual novel to death, sometimes you just don't enjoy translating it. This is normal. To some people, translating just doesn't have the same value as reading.
You don't have to feel bad for quitting after you realise you don't really like it.
Don't beat yourself over it. It's much better to leave a project you know you're not having fun with than going through the pain of translating something you're not enjoying, which will most likely also affect the quality of your work. Doing the latter can even lead to you not enjoying the visual novel anymore. Who would want to do that?
If you can't find enjoyment in translating a particular visual novel. Don't do it.
I promise you, when you enjoy translating something, it feels like a breeze, because you relive the story, you interpret character's words more in depth, and it's like reliving the experience.
If you're feeling like it's a drag. Please reconsider what you're doing.
If you're not a translator:
Sorry but I'm lumping all the other positions here for the simple fact that you need a translator to even begin whatever kind of translation project you want (duh).
Now it's not to say you can't be successful if you're not one, but projects that start with no translator, statistically speaking, have a higher chance of dying, because you're not as attached to the visual novel since you haven't read it (most of the time, might not be the case sometimes), you don't understand the scope of the project, you're kind of an outsider to the novel itself, and it's much harder to get into a project like this, and thus I'm not fond of it.
But it's not to say everything is impossible so I'll try and give my best advice in this case too.
If you're not a translator, the one thing you need to do before anything is recruit a translator. Until then you'll be stuck in limbo.
And even if you get a translator, there's always the possibility they'll drop out of the project since they weren't part of the founding team.
This is my personal advice if you're not a translator:
1. Have the scripts ready!
Please do not proceed any further until you're sure you have a viable way of even translating the game.
If you're not a hacker, make sure you find someone who will help you hack the VN first and foremost.
I actually don't even advice you to make any form of public annoucement unless you're really desperate for one.
2. Try to find a translator you're familiar with or ask people you know if they know someone they trust.
It's important that your translator is reliable and unless you have someone else helping you, you'll likely be at loss on who to accept for help and you run into the very real possibility of them just quitting half way.
3. Make sure your translator has read the game and liked it! (always that step 1)
Again having a translator that's not 100% on board and that doesn't understand the project scale is bad practice, you need to make sure you're working with the right people
4. Have someone you can translation check with
You might be confident in your Japanese, but it's always nice to have someone re-check the lines with you to make sure you didn't commit any blunders.
I usually mark lines I'm not sure I translated properly and then I go through them with my friend and we usually end up finding a much better translation.
A translation checker doesn't have to be someone you go to all the time for every line, but it is a helpful position to fill in for those more complicated lines.
And please make sure your TLC is someone with a very good understanding of Japanese.
You don't have to be ashamed for not knowing certain lines, it's perfectly normal not to, just make sure you have someone there to support you. It helps you understand things better and it helps make the project better.
5. Find an editor.
A lot of people claim to be editors, but only a few have actually tried the job, they just assume because they are native speakers or their English level is really high that they can edit anything.
While part of an editor's job is indeed to make sure you're using good English syntax, it is also their job to make sure the prose flows nicely to the reader. Without a good editor you can end up having a text that's full of poor transitions and just general weeabooisms and literal translations you make.
Ideally never have more than 1 editor on the team.
Different editors have different styles and having 2 editors essentially defeats the purpose of editing to begin with.
If you can't fill any position (i.e "I'm just a fan")
This is actually the most simple one, start learning!
I didn't know Japanese a year ago, and now I'm starting my own translation project. And all of it because I took the time to care to learn in order to enjoy a medium like visual novels.
The best thing you can do when you don't have the skills to help a project is to try and develop said skills instead of half assedly trying to start a project. I promise you it's not as hard as it seems, it just takes dedication and love.
The last step i'd like to mention is one that usually leads to the downfall of many projects, and that is: Understanding the scale of your project
After you've gone through step 1 and step 2, you need to evaluate your own project to make sure it even has any chance of succeeding. This is when knowing your own skills comes into place.
Never start anything you're not sure you can finish.
There's nothing worse than starting something half assedly. If you're not 100% sure you can complete a project, you should consider not starting it, even if step 1 and 2 are looking good for you, gut feeling also comes into play, and if you're not invested in your project, you'll never finish it.
And this is not meant to contradict what I said earlier about quitting.
Some people wholeheartedly start a project but sometimes halfway through realise they just can't do it. This is fine because you took the time to evaluate it, even if it was halfway in, and made the better decision to abandon it and you learn from it.
But half assedly starting a project just shows you're naive and is a poor attitude to have.
When you're pondering wether or not you're going to start a translation project you have to consider things like:
1. How long it took you to finish the visual novel.
If you're just a beginner, you should ideally start with something small because you don't know your own endurance yet.
So if a visual novel took you more than 10 hours to finish, it might not be the best choice for you.
2. How many lines are there.
This one correlates with your translation pace.
In my case, before I was confident about my project, I tried translating lines and timing myself and realised 200 lines a day was pretty viable and comfortable for me. But that is also because the visual novel I read had less than 3,000 lines.
This pace is not ideal for longer visual novels since they'll take you a lot longer and that is why I chose to pick something small.
3. How much free time you have
Don't tackle a project if you know you have a busy schedule.
If you work or are attenting school/college, you may want to re-consider working on a project unless, again, you're confident you have a good translation pace in relation to the length of the visual novel and also that it won't impact your daily schedule too much.
Always make sure no matter what the scale it, you're invested in it, because that's the best way to build a path to success.
Other random tips
To those who think this sounds like a lot of work, well I'm glad it does, because it is important to know that translating visual novels is not a simple task, and those who go into it with such a mindset are usually the ones who end up quitting halfway, so I hope this improves your mindset and the way you look at translation projects.
Don't make promises you can't keep. If you have a public project, don't try to sugarcoat things to make yourself look better, always be honest with your audience.
The visual novel fan translation world can be cruel, especially if you tackle projects people care about. Again only tackle projects you're confident about.
Even if your visual novel is not popular, even if it's just a nukige, please don't waver. Always translate what you like, no matter what it is, what's important is that you like it.
Don't set deadlines. Deadlines can be evil, they can be discouraging when you don't meet them and they're just pressure overall.
You can set personal goals to yourself, but never set public deadlines.
And last, but not least, have fun!
I hope this post is of some use to people. I really wanted to share my experiences with the Fuwanovel community since Fuwanovel was the whole reason I even got into translation in general.
And to those who don't think I'm qualified to rant on this matter because I'm not a pro or because I've just recently tried to do something bigger, I guarantee you I'm proud of my small translation project, because it was the fruit of my mistakes and how I learned from them, my studying and my love for the game itself (and yuri <3).
And because I made sure I knew 100% I could do this, I started it, and I don't regret it one single bit because every time I'm translating its scripts now, it's like replaying the game, and it feels great. And I hope one day to tackle bigger things, but I will only tackle things I like, and that's the way it will always be, regardless of length~
A hungry man tries to buy an apple from a street vendor. The shopkeeper is away at the moment, and he doesn't know when he'll be back. So he swipes it anyway.
A man somewhere in America copies an HD movie off the internet. That same movie is available for $9.99 over at the Wal-Mart down the street from him.
A man somewhere in America copies a movie off the internet. The movie is only sold in Japan. Because it has no subtitles, it is inaccessible to him language-wise (luckily, someone subbed the movie so he can watch it)
All of these are illegal. That doesn't mean they are the same.