Jump to content
Happiness+

What is wrong with reading a bad translation?

Recommended Posts

As someone with zero Japanese experience, I have to ask what is the harm in reading a bad translation?

I mean what are the characteristics of a great translation.

How would I know that I am reading a bad translation of a VN? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Imo, with some particularly bad exceptions, it's pretty impossible to distinguish between a bad translation and a bad source material. :vanilla: Though of course obvious grammar mistakes and sentences that don't make any sense should raise some flags.

As for the harm, you are basically spoiling the story without getting the full message it supposed to bring. I don't see any particular harm in it if you are still enjoying the story, but if some day a better translation appears, or you learn the original language, your experience with it will still be different.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1: I mean, you will be losing out on the original intent of the writer, and great aspects of the work. This is pretty self explanitory, really.

2: A great translation is both accurate, and reads nice and fluently in the language it was translated into. When you're reading a good translation, you should feel like what you're reading could just as well have been written natively in the language it was translated into. You should not "feel" the source language lingering in the line. (Something you will see lots of when the translation is very literal.)

3: In terms of textual accuracy, it becomes impossible for people without Japanese knowledge to know when a translation is bad. You can't gauge the accuracy of a translation if you don't understand the source material, after all. In cases where there are big issues with accuracy, (like If my heart had wings,) you'll generally see a big outrage on any kind of VN related forum/ website, so just scanning Fuwanovel or similar sites will be enough to find out if TLs are "bad" in that regard.

As for translations that are technically accurate, but are just bad in terms of English writing/ have incredibly literal translations that create a hot mess of crap, (Libra,) you should be able to tell yourself, really.

Like, just read some of these examples from Libra. It should be fairly obvious that this is a bad translation. Example 1, example 2, example 3.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Happiness+ said:

I mean what are the characteristics of a great translation.

Great prose, and an accurate translation. Unfortunately, there's nobody active in the VN industry who has both of these, so the bar is already low.

1 hour ago, Happiness+ said:

How would I know that I am reading a bad translation of a VN?

Shitty prose, incomprehensible dialogue, and inconsistencies throughout. If the story doesn't read smoothly, then it's obvious the translator doesn't have a proper command of the language.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Dergonu said:

1: I mean, you will be losing out on the original intent of the writer, and great aspects of the work. This is pretty self explanitory, really.

2: A great translation is both accurate, and reads nice and fluently in the language it was translated into. When you're reading a good translation, you should feel like what you're reading could just as well have been written natively in the language it was translated into. You should not "feel" the source language lingering in the line. (Something you will see lots of when the translation is very literal.)

3: In terms of textual accuracy, it becomes impossible for people without Japanese knowledge to know when a translation is bad. You can't gauge the accuracy of a translation if you don't understand the source material, after all. In cases where there are big issues with accuracy, (like If my heart had wings,) you'll generally see a big outrage on any kind of VN related forum/ website, so just scanning Fuwanovel or similar sites will be enough to find out if TLs are "bad" in that regard.

As for translations that are technically accurate, but are just bad in terms of English writing/ have incredibly literal translations that create a hot mess of crap, (Libra,) you should be able to tell yourself, really.

Like, just read some of these examples from Libra. It should be fairly obvious that this is a bad translation. Example 1, example 2, example 3.

This was basically what I wanted to say in a nusthell.

Adding onto that, the writing quality can be affected severely if there's a bad translation. Look at Cross Channel. That VN is loved by lots of JOPs, but in English, it doesn't feel like anything special prose-wise because the translations ruined that aspect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Majo Koi Nikki has been a real eye opener for me regarding quality translation and the fact that translation is a lot more than just "write the same words in a different language". I read a section after it had been translated and it was ok. The story was certainly there and for the most part better than those labeled as "bad translations". However the next time I read the very same section, it had been edited and now the contents happens to be the very same thing. The same events, the same dialogue, the same descriptions. While it may sound like it changed very little, it actually changed everything. The wording had become different, the flow of text feels a lot better, the flow between lines feels more fluently. This makes the flow of reading completely different and you will end up wanting to know what happens next on a whole different level. Usually the first time you read something will be the best reading experience because you are spoiled the next time. It wasn't in this case. How the story is told matters a whole lot more than first meets the eyes.

 

I'm not qualified to tell if a VN is translated properly from Japanese unless it's downright horrible, such as mixing up names of characters or use Engrish. I have seen one case where one word was left in romaji and when I looked it up, it had a proper translation, which was spot on in the context. However I did something else at some point, which is interesting in this context. At some point the movie Frozen was the big thing and I got talked into watching it. I did so in English. Later I ended up watching it as a group activity and it was translated. Despite being claimed to be a good translation, it sucked and killed the movie. I then looked around to figure out translation quality in as many languages as possible and it turns out that from what I can tell, most if not all translations seems to be of questionable quality. They seem rushed. When word by word translation isn't possible, you have to make decisions and it feels like whoever made those decisions didn't know the movie well enough. This killed all the minor details in the dialogue as well as consistency. As a result, I would go as far as to say which movie you watched depend on which language you used when watching it and English is significantly better. It's still not a movie I would recommend though. It's just a decent platform for translation accuracy observations because they at least tried to do a better job with the localizations than movies usually get.

 

As for translations of VNs: the quality varies greatly and there is no question that a good translation is a much better reading experience than a poor one. Identifying poor ones can be an issue because the only way to tell for sure is to be able to read the untranslated version, which defeats the purpose of a translation. You can rely on what other people write online, but then you have to remember that there are people who studied Japanese and proclaim that the lazy people who didn't deserve poor translations and they basically troll the talks about translation quality. I have seen claims going as far as claiming translations should change the story to punish people for not reading Japanese and group X should be banned from releasing anything because they use UK English. There is also the gem that all translated VNs should be rewritten to fit US culture and if you don't live in the US you have no business reading VNs. What worries me the most is that the trolls delivering those statements were at least the time professional translators. It doesn't sound good that it is apparently possible to buy an official translation done by somebody who believes readers should be punished with poor translation quality because they can't read the sacred language of VNs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, tymmur said:

Majo Koi Nikki has been a real eye opener for me regarding quality translation and the fact that translation is a lot more than just "write the same words in a different language". I read a section after it had been translated and it was ok. The story was certainly there and for the most part better than those labeled as "bad translations". However the next time I read the very same section, it had been edited and now the contents happens to be the very same thing. The same events, the same dialogue, the same descriptions. While it may sound like it changed very little, it actually changed everything. The wording had become different, the flow of text feels a lot better, the flow between lines feels more fluently. This makes the flow of reading completely different and you will end up wanting to know what happens next on a whole different level. Usually the first time you read something will be the best reading experience because you are spoiled the next time. It wasn't in this case. How the story is told matters a whole lot more than first meets the eyes.

 

I'm not qualified to tell if a VN is translated properly from Japanese unless it's downright horrible, such as mixing up names of characters or use Engrish. I have seen one case where one word was left in romaji and when I looked it up, it had a proper translation, which was spot on in the context. However I did something else at some point, which is interesting in this context. At some point the movie Frozen was the big thing and I got talked into watching it. I did so in English. Later I ended up watching it as a group activity and it was translated. Despite being claimed to be a good translation, it sucked and killed the movie. I then looked around to figure out translation quality in as many languages as possible and it turns out that from what I can tell, most if not all translations seems to be of questionable quality. They seem rushed. When word by word translation isn't possible, you have to make decisions and it feels like whoever made those decisions didn't know the movie well enough. This killed all the minor details in the dialogue as well as consistency. As a result, I would go as far as to say which movie you watched depend on which language you used when watching it and English is significantly better. It's still not a movie I would recommend though. It's just a decent platform for translation accuracy observations because they at least tried to do a better job with the localizations than movies usually get.

 

As for translations of VNs: the quality varies greatly and there is no question that a good translation is a much better reading experience than a poor one. Identifying poor ones can be an issue because the only way to tell for sure is to be able to read the untranslated version, which defeats the purpose of a translation. You can rely on what other people write online, but then you have to remember that there are people who studied Japanese and proclaim that the lazy people who didn't deserve poor translations and they basically troll the talks about translation quality. I have seen claims going as far as claiming translations should change the story to punish people for not reading Japanese and group X should be banned from releasing anything because they use UK English. There is also the gem that all translated VNs should be rewritten to fit US culture and if you don't live in the US you have no business reading VNs. What worries me the most is that the trolls delivering those statements were at least the time professional translators. It doesn't sound good that it is apparently possible to buy an official translation done by somebody who believes readers should be punished with poor translation quality because they can't read the sacred language of VNs.

Shouldn't it be a problem of bad editing then rather than bad translation then?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, tymmur said:

Majo Koi Nikki has been a real eye opener for me regarding quality translation and the fact that translation is a lot more than just "write the same words in a different language". I read a section after it had been translated and it was ok. The story was certainly there and for the most part better than those labeled as "bad translations". However the next time I read the very same section, it had been edited and now the contents happens to be the very same thing. The same events, the same dialogue, the same descriptions. While it may sound like it changed very little, it actually changed everything. The wording had become different, the flow of text feels a lot better, the flow between lines feels more fluently. This makes the flow of reading completely different and you will end up wanting to know what happens next on a whole different level. Usually the first time you read something will be the best reading experience because you are spoiled the next time. It wasn't in this case. How the story is told matters a whole lot more than first meets the eyes.

 

I'm not qualified to tell if a VN is translated properly from Japanese unless it's downright horrible, such as mixing up names of characters or use Engrish. I have seen one case where one word was left in romaji and when I looked it up, it had a proper translation, which was spot on in the context. However I did something else at some point, which is interesting in this context. At some point the movie Frozen was the big thing and I got talked into watching it. I did so in English. Later I ended up watching it as a group activity and it was translated. Despite being claimed to be a good translation, it sucked and killed the movie. I then looked around to figure out translation quality in as many languages as possible and it turns out that from what I can tell, most if not all translations seems to be of questionable quality. They seem rushed. When word by word translation isn't possible, you have to make decisions and it feels like whoever made those decisions didn't know the movie well enough. This killed all the minor details in the dialogue as well as consistency. As a result, I would go as far as to say which movie you watched depend on which language you used when watching it and English is significantly better. It's still not a movie I would recommend though. It's just a decent platform for translation accuracy observations because they at least tried to do a better job with the localizations than movies usually get.

 

As for translations of VNs: the quality varies greatly and there is no question that a good translation is a much better reading experience than a poor one. Identifying poor ones can be an issue because the only way to tell for sure is to be able to read the untranslated version, which defeats the purpose of a translation. You can rely on what other people write online, but then you have to remember that there are people who studied Japanese and proclaim that the lazy people who didn't deserve poor translations and they basically troll the talks about translation quality. I have seen claims going as far as claiming translations should change the story to punish people for not reading Japanese and group X should be banned from releasing anything because they use UK English. There is also the gem that all translated VNs should be rewritten to fit US culture and if you don't live in the US you have no business reading VNs. What worries me the most is that the trolls delivering those statements were at least the time professional translators. It doesn't sound good that it is apparently possible to buy an official translation done by somebody who believes readers should be punished with poor translation quality because they can't read the sacred language of VNs.

Holy moly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, kokoro said:

Shouldn't it be a problem of bad editing then rather than bad translation then?

Most likely, but when people talk about bad translations in VNs, they tend to compare the original Japanese release with the translated release. They usually don't dig into the details and identify if it went wrong in translation, editing, TLC or any of the other steps. It really doesn't matter much to outsiders, only the end result.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, tymmur said:

most if not all translations seems to be of questionable quality. They seem rushed.

This is what happens when translators get paid per word/character instead of quality.

42 minutes ago, tymmur said:

They usually don't dig into the details and identify if it went wrong in translation, editing, TLC or any of the other steps. It really doesn't matter much to outsiders, only the end result.

This is as it should be. It's up to the company/group themselves to figure out what went wrong (or right).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, 1P1A said:

This is what happens when translators get paid per word/character instead of quality.

A problem with this is that you can't really make a system where the employer pays once they have checked the quality. Given how corporate greed works, that generally would mean that people would do the work and then get a shit payment no matter how well they did because the one in charge of handing out money would always say they did a bad job so that they can keep more money to themselves, atleast as long as they don't feel that they need the worker for another project.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, bakauchuujin said:

A problem with this is that you can't really make a system where the employer pays once they have checked the quality. Given how corporate greed works, that generally would mean that people would do the work and then get a shit payment no matter how well they did because the one in charge of handing out money would always say they did a bad job so that they can keep more money to themselves, atleast as long as they don't feel that they need the worker for another project.

Most controversial issues boil down to something like this. There's a way to invoke it, but it's not at all practical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, bakauchuujin said:

A problem with this is that you can't really make a system where the employer pays once they have checked the quality. Given how corporate greed works, that generally would mean that people would do the work and then get a shit payment no matter how well they did because the one in charge of handing out money would always say they did a bad job so that they can keep more money to themselves, atleast as long as they don't feel that they need the worker for another project.

In days gone by, people honestly tried their best at whatever job they ended up with. If somebody was hired to polish brass handles, he would try to end up with the most well polished brass handles in the city. His honor was on the line and he would defend it and do a good job even if he had a chance to slack off without the boss noticing. It was a good thing to stay with the same company for years (life?) and people would aim to do as well as possible for the company as possible, both financially and reputation. Then came the 60s, hippies and all that. Some groups of people decided companies are capitalistic pigs and that workers all suffered and they should get paid for just showing up and smoke fun stuff. Obviously companies realized they would go bankrupt unless they prevented that from happening and control of the workers became a lot more strict with control of what was going on. Then came the idea that it's a good thing to have experience from multiple places and working in the same company for more than 10 years shows lack of Independence.

 

Granted it's simplified and there are exceptions. However in general it's fairly accurate. I intentionally didn't mention any country because it's not something, which only applies to one country. It seems to have happened everywhere.

 

The result is that today there is little to no trust between companies and workers. They both consider each other replaceable and it's not uncommon that the company top fails to value the skills of the individual workers. Atari once nearly killed themselves by telling the game designers and programmers that they were no more important than the assembly line workers who came games into boxes. They were all replaceable workers and they most certainly shouldn't be paid more. They all left and formed the first company in the world, which made games for hardware made by somebody else. They ended up beating Atari in game sales for the Atari hardware of the day.

 

If you want a good job as a translator, the best one is likely translating Disney Comics when they started getting translated in the late 40s. You could get it without formal translation training or experience and if you were good enough to keep the job 2-3 months, you would be in for life. You would not have to be tested and meet some requirements at all. You only had to meet deadlines. Sure that might have been different if somebody decided to slack off, but apparently that didn't happen. You simply cannot get such jobs today.

 

So what do we do about it? Well nothing. The only thing we can do is to punish companies financially for accepting poor quality and in case of Frozen, it's not only the highest grossing animated movie ever, it's on top 10 of all movies ever made. It even beat Spirited away in income from Japan. In other words the translation quality seems to have no influence on their profits, which leaves them with no motivation to fix it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, tymmur said:

In days gone by, people honestly tried their best at whatever job they ended up with. If somebody was hired to polish brass handles, he would try to end up with the most well polished brass handles in the city. His honor was on the line and he would defend it and do a good job even if he had a chance to slack off without the boss noticing. It was a good thing to stay with the same company for years (life?) and people would aim to do as well as possible for the company as possible, both financially and reputation. Then came the 60s, hippies and all that. Some groups of people decided companies are capitalistic pigs and that workers all suffered and they should get paid for just showing up and smoke fun stuff. Obviously companies realized they would go bankrupt unless they prevented that from happening and control of the workers became a lot more strict with control of what was going on. Then came the idea that it's a good thing to have experience from multiple places and working in the same company for more than 10 years shows lack of Independence.

You do know that they previously had horrible working conditions in factories and were barely payed anything right?, just look up factory conditions during the 19th century or something. Companies, atleast large ones have one purpose and that is to earn money, if there was a choice between killing a baby while gaining 1000 dollars or not kill the baby and gain nothing, the company would kill the baby as long as no one got to know it so that the bad publicity wouldn't make them lose money. If you look at how companies in countries with low minimum wage pay their employers it is easy to understand. A company is an entity without morals where mathematical models for increasing profits are the only thing that matters.

 

Also doing ones work properly is more related to not getting fired, ofc some honor is involved as well like you mentioned. I don't think employers before have been like if I am unhappy about your job you won't get payed even if you do it, more like if you do a shit job you get fired and a bad rep. These are quite different things. Firing someone who does a good job has no purpose, nothing is gained for the employer. Not giving money to someone who did a good job has the purpose of keeping the money to yourself, all you need to do is claim the job was poorly done by some arbitrary standards.

 

Sorry for making this political

 

If we go back to translation quality a company should try to make sure the translator is capable by having the translator present previous work or test translate something. Maybe they could also have someone read a random part of the translation when they are working on it to make sure it is good. If it is not good fire the person and give them the amount for the time they worked, probably not that long, then find a better replacement. If you wait until it is done before checking then pay for the translation and blacklist the translator so the translator is never able to work for you again. The translator will also have a bad rep and be unlikely to find a new place to translate for. My main point is that you can't make a system where someone can do a whole translation and not get payed because that gives too much power to the company. They have enough power as it is with them being the ones to set the standard before they employ someone as well as being able to fire them.

Edited by bakauchuujin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, bakauchuujin said:

If we go back to translation quality a company should try to make sure the translator is capable by having the translator present previous work or test translate something.

They all do. They don't just employ someone without knowing if what they translate is accurate or not. Even with our fan translations we test the translators and editors to make sure they're doing a job up to our standard. That doesn't translate (pardon the pun) into them always creating good works in the real world.  Translation is an art form, not a science, and there are two main ways to get a good translation - either the translator themselves knows the language itself well and is a writer in their own right and can produce something that is polished from their first pass and only really needs proofreading, OR the translator knows the language itself well and produces something relatively literal and stilted but has a superb editor who is a writer in their own right and is masterful at massaging a stilted translation into a polished written work. Either way, the translator MUST know the language they're translating from very well, AND the last person to put stylistic touches to the work is a writer themselves. The finest novels always get this treatment, and some of the most popular novels have had multiple translations that people debate about which version is the best. The movie world is mixed, with high profile film getting good translators but kids movies, animation etc. getting wildly variable treatment. In the low budget world of VNs there may well be people who know the language well through study, experience, and exposure, but it's unlikely these translators are writers. It's even less likely the localisation companies will find and employ a high quality editor who's also a writer. However the VNs were clearly written by people with writing skills (at least the better ones.) I'm currently working on a new fan project that I happily subjected myself to a translation test for since it's a high profile work and even I wasn't sure if my translation was good enough to do the work justice.

 

To answer the OP's question - in short the quality of work you're reading simply doesn't match what was written. Translation is a lossy process and the worse the translation and editing is, the more is lost. If it starts out a masterpiece in its native language, you want the localisation to be one, but a masterpiece may end up coming across as a mediocre read. A decent work could end up being substandard, and an average work could end up being unreadable trash. In the worst case scenario, with the most lossy translation process, a masterpiece ends up being unreadable trash.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Happiness+ said:

As someone with zero Japanese experience, I have to ask what is the harm in reading a bad translation?

I mean what are the characteristics of a great translation.

How would I know that I am reading a bad translation of a VN? 

basically saying if you´re personally fine with reading fanfiction (at best) then go for it, but just don´t call a bad translation a translation, because it´s not, and even more so trying to rate works based on garbled mess, that´s just plain retarded. btw. the aforementioned fanfic isn´t limited to amateurs, as there´s quite some around officially published, regrettably so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Dreamysyu said:

Imo, with some particularly bad exceptions, it's pretty impossible to distinguish between a bad translation and a bad source material. :vanilla: Though of course obvious grammar mistakes and sentences that don't make any sense should raise some flags.

As for the harm, you are basically spoiling the story without getting the full message it supposed to bring. I don't see any particular harm in it if you are still enjoying the story, but if some day a better translation appears, or you learn the original language, your experience with it will still be different.

Basically. 

Good work + bad TL = Bad work

Bad work + bad TL = Bad work

Good work + good TL = Good work

 

Everyone is ofc free to enjoy whatever they want. But TL's destroying the quality of a work is rather sad. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, bakauchuujin said:

You do know that they previously had horrible working conditions in factories and were barely payed anything right?, just look up factory conditions during the 19th century or something.

Really short answer and don't reply, because this is going off topic. You are right about the work conditions, but it doesn't contradict what I said about people being more likely to stick to one company and try to behave in order to advance through the ranks rather than just finding new companies like people do today.

The conditions you talk about seems to be mainly focused on sweatshops and robber barons in America. They didn't care about other people or safety or anything other than money and power. Nowhere is the difference between Europe and America more visible than with railroad safety. England had a crash early on, assigned people to avoid accidents and they quickly came up with a primitive signal system, which while hurting capacity was surprisingly good at avoiding collisions. The American robber barons didn't want to hurt their capacity and they decided to just make a timetable and make trains run in time slots reserved for them. If a train was late, then it would likely end up in a slot for going the other way and they would crash into each other. The American solution to that problem was to reduce the cost of replacement trains as much as possible, which resulted in trains, which broke down frequently (hence ending up in wrong slots) and when they saw another train, it would most certainly go wrong because they saved on brakes too. By the time signals became mandatory by law, England had been using them for more than 50 years. The railroads/robber barons tried to avoid the law by stating that the huge number of accidents were wrong. It was only an average of 3 fatal crashes a day :yumiko:

 

As I said, don't reply. It's really getting off topic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Happiness+ said:

what is the harm in reading a bad translation?

It causes a disruption in the Force, generating much teeth-gnashing and angst amongst those sensitive to its flow.

Oh, you meant to you.  The game becomes a little less enjoyable than it would've been to read in Japanese, but usually much more enjoyable than the alternative: watching a slideshow accompanied by streams of cryptic runes and arbitrary grunts.

Edited by sanahtlig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Bolverk said:

But TL's destroying the quality of a work is rather sad.

This is one of the reasons why Musumaker has been in translation for years. At first the main issue was to avoid the translation from dying and sort of "everything goes". After 5 years of active translation the translator had grown from a newbie to experienced and had become able to produce decent quality. This resulted in a translation quality far below what was possible and basically the translation started over. If you spend the time to make a human made translation, you would be stupid to not aim for the best possible quality. It's also betrayal against an actually well made VN, which should be worth reading.

 

We still need an editor though and could use more translators :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×