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HonorificsSurvey

(8/1 update) Results of the honorifics survey

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Purpose of the survey: Find out the preference for honorifics in JP->EN translated VNs
Target group: People who are interested enough in VNs to be a part of a major VN discussion community
Communities approached: 4chan, Fuwanovel, Reddit, VNDB, and various Discord servers
Survey duration: July 17 to July 31, 2018
Sample size: 752 people
Subsample of Fuwanovel respondents: 62 people
Link to the questions, possible answers to each question, and graphs made from raw data by Google:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdC78xb3vobwtZJRHVY9ITMQtED3Xn15kvT2kaOghBoedA8GQ/viewanalytics
Link to my excel sheet with the raw data, analyzed data, and all the graphs I made with the analyzed data:
https://mega.nz/#!u0kl2C6b!3f_ZD3AG_k9aEW-iElozzleB54-x6UJkUqWNyUPZvic

How the analysis was done:
The main source for the graphs are the answers people gave in the "What is your reason for picking the last answer the way you did?" question. I fell back to the short answer when things weren't clear. There are several cases when the short and long answers clearly contradicted each other. I put comments to some of them.
Setting split:
Having been through quite a few of these conversation myself, I know setting is the most common reason why people change their minds on the presence of honorifics in the text. This was confirmed by the results and the respondents' comments.

 

3qZ1CrH.jpg

 

The results:
Starting with Chart #1
We can see 75% of the respondents prefer honorifics to be kept in the translated text when the setting of the game is Japan (including current Japan, historical Japan, future Japan, alternative universe Japan, or fantasy land heavily based on Japan). The most commonly stated reasons for this preference include:
Ability to see the same nuances and character relations as the Japanese readers; Some honorifics which replace names OR conversations which play with honorifics are untranslatable without heavy re-writing; Simple fondness for honorifics (As part of character moe, fetish, etc.); Desire to see the original writer's vision in the work; Discrepancy between voice and text in names (honorifics being a part of how characters address each other)

5% of the respondents want honorifics kept in the translated text only when certain conditions are met. The most commonly stated examples are:
Relevance to the plot (e.g. feudal Japan, used honorifics give some foreshadowing); There is a conversation about honorifics in the VN itself; To preserve the moe factor or sexual appeal of some honorifics which replace the name entirely (Senpai, Onii-chan, etc.)

11% of the respondents have no preference or leave it up to the translator's preference

9% of the respondents want honorifics removed from the translated text, stating the following reasons for their preference:
Honorifics are not a part of the English language - leaving them in is the same as leaving any other untranslated text; Desire for the translation to read as if it was originally written in English; Good translators are able to show the nuances through other means than honorifics; No reason to see them in text when readers can hear them


Moving on to Chart #2, we can see a significant dip in the "keep" camp when it comes to settings which are not Japan. Examples of those would be: Isekai VNs, fantasy world VNs (which are not based on Japan), VNs set in historical or alternative universe Europe/West. However, the majority of respondents (52%) still want honorifics to be kept in those settings. The reasons for their preference are the same as stated above.

8% of the respondents want honorifics kept in the translated text only when certain conditions are met. All the examples listed above still apply. What should be noted, however, is how some respondents differentiated between isekai, fantasy, and western setting, with some outright stating that honorifics should be always kept in isekai (Such as Koihime Musou or Newton to Ringo no Ki) and others wanting them kept in fantasy (Such as Evenicle or Kamidori Alchemy Meister). Medieval or modern western fiction (like Fata Morgana no Yakata) was not mentioned in these replies, leading me to believe people's desire for honorifics in such titles is smaller.

12% of the respondents have no preference or leave it up to the translator's preference.

28% of the respondents want honorifics removed in a non-Japanese setting. From this, we can see a major move from the "keep" camp to the "remove" camp. A 19 percentage point gain from the people who voted that they want honorifics kept in a Japanese setting, yet they want them removed/replaced in a non-Japanese one. These people have the following reasons for why their opinion is different: Breaking the immersion - Japanese is likely not the "real" language of the world/country they're in, so it makes no sense for them to use honorifics; There are more likely to be English equivalents for honorifics when you have the option of using old English in the translation.

 

(scroll down for comments, open the image for a larger version)

R0Fqx6U.jpg

Now I will use the other data I collected to show what has and does not have impact on the preference for honorifics.
First, here are the preferences for Fuwa only. A lot less people want honorifics kept in all settings (14 and 15 percentage points below average), with a very large group of people wanting them to be always removed in non-Japanese setting.

Next up, I split the respondents into several groups based on how long they have been reading visual novels (this is global data, not just Fuwanovel). I initially thought newcomers to VNs would be the biggest opponents to honorifics, due to them not being used to seeing them in text or even not understanding them. However, it is exact opposite. This goes to show that while these people are new to VNs, they are certainly not new to Japanese culture in general. It is very likely that most of the people who read VNs started with other forms of media such as anime or manga. Other than this, there is nothing special to say. All the other groups are pretty close to the average with their replies.

I also made groups based on number of completed titles, as the length of reading VNs and number of completed titles don't seem to be connected at all. For example, a large number of people who have been reading VNs for over 5 years have only read 25 or less (translated) VNs. In my opinion, you just need hands-on experience with localized VNs to see the real state of the translation scene, what are the realistic expectations for translators, and what are the common roadblocks in localization of honorifics. Anyway, you can see the charts in the picture. What stands out the most is the 101+ completed VNs chart (I merged 101-200 and 200+ because 200+ was a very small subsample). The number of people who want honorifics kept in Japanese settings is about 8 percentage points above average, but the number of people who want honorifics removed in non-Japanese settings is 10 percentage points above average. 

 

(scroll down for comments, open the image for a larger version)

82ozyZR.jpg

And here are the other statistics I got from doing the survey. Left is Fuwa, right is global. People here have been reading VNs for longer than average, are more likely to know Japanese, and read more VNs in general. You also love cute things.

Note: Obviously there is an overlap between some of the communities, so these charts based on community might not be completely accurate, but I posted it all over the place at around the same time, which means the place you saw it first is likely the one you frequent the most.

Edited by HonorificsSurvey

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I don't recall having (Japanese) honorifics in English.

With names of food or distinctly Japanese objects, I'm okay with leaving them in Japanese, though surely they can be adapted to English somehow.

That's what it means providing a true translation- not only transliterating, but adapting the text to the audience.

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"That's what it means providing a true translation- not only transliterating, but adapting the text to the audience". I dont 100% agree with that, whatever someone say it please remember that one episode in Pokèmon where thy call hamburger to a onigiri (something like that also happen in Gyakuten Saiban). But i understand the great difference in the cultures.

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As simple as calling the onigiri a "rice ball". But full-fledged weebs love their untranslated Japanese terms (even if they can't speak Japanese).

You can't pretend that Japan is America (or Spain). But the script should be at the very least understandable by the people you're doing it for.

I don't tend to mix Spanish words into my English speech, because that's bad English.

Edited by Okarin

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I think one of the most horrible things I've read when it goes to VNs was an EVN with Japanese honorifics in it. Just so forced, dumb and clunky... :wafuu:

In general, I think there's no justification for leaving them in. I can accept some expection, like when "senpai" is used as a pronoun it might be hard to find any English equivalent and a weeb reader won't be bothered by leaving the Japanese word in. In most other cases, however, it's poor desition-making or simply laziness on the part of the translator.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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Honorifics should be untouched, otherwise, it's hard to adapt most part of it without butchering original meaning, especially in a situation when people moving from one honorific to another one or even try to speak without them (like love couple). Not to mention honorifics jokes that almost all moege has. Although, I don't mind adaptation of some honorifics like -dono or -hime, because they can be easily adapted without losing anything.

Also, there is the special place in hell for those who swap first and last names in text, or trying to translate names (like Pyra - Homura).

 

Btw, when japanese translating from english - did they add honorifics?

Edited by ShinRaikdou

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47 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

I can accept some expection, like when "senpai" is used as a pronoun it might be hard to find any English equivalent and a weeb reader won't be bothered by leaving the Japanese word in.

I think there can be more exceptions. Basically, every case where using of this or that honorific combined with first or last name is plot point, is explicitly talked about, and characters make great fuss about it. Like my Princess Evangile example from another thread. Recreating that scene (and whole Vincennes' "ecosystem") without using any honorifics at all would be really difficult task, and results may not sound good.

While it's true that every language has different levels of politeness, they may not be compatible with what we see in VNs. And honorifics in VNs are not only about politeness, but also about different levels of affection and familiarity.

Like, most highschoolers in VNs adress each other by "lastname-san" unless they are close to each other. In English we have only choice of using last name or first name. While sometimes "-san" could be translated as Mr/Ms among adults, in HS situation it would sound ridiculous. Using only last name may sound rude. And if we default to first name, then we may get away with it if there is no change in relationship. But then, what to do when they get closer, and switch to first name? Translation has nowhere to go.

21 minutes ago, ShinRaikdou said:

it's hard to adapt most part of it without butchering original meaning, especially in a situation when people moving from one honorific to another one or even try to speak without them (like love couple). Not to mention honorifics jokes that almost all moege has. Although, I don't mind adaptation of some honorifics like -dono or -hime, because they can be easily adapted without losing anything.

Also, if it's just generic "name-san" because it had to be there for basic politeness in Japanese, then chop it off, no problem :)

 

Side note: I don't like when there is too much discrepancy between voice and text (like character constantly uses last name but translation uses first). So with unvoiced titles, it is possible to do more of adaptation work without annoying the player ;)

47 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

I think one of the most horrible things I've read when it goes to VNs was an EVN with Japanese honorifics in it. Just so forced, dumb and clunky...


Katawa Shoujo did nice job at avoiding it - Hisao just suggests to switch to first-name basis, they agree, and that's it :) Maybe not exactly realistic considering the setting, but definitely better than English writer trying to imitate Japanese speech patterns.

Edited by adamstan

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1 hour ago, ShinRaikdou said:

Btw, when japanese translating from english - did they add honorifics?

Of course.

They add honorifics and titles, just like we remove them, in order to adapt the text to our culture, and make it more readable. I've seen some very good Japanese subs and dubs in the past, and they do exactly what we do, in the sense that they localize. Translation is about localizing the material to fit the target language, whether you are translating to English, Greek, Japanese, what have you. Leaving in something like honorifics, which is completely alien in English, is objectively a bad idea, unless it simply cannot be avoided, which is incredibly rare.

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Mr., Mrs., Ms., and if you like, Sir, are the only honorifics in English that I know of. And obviously they're used in a different way than in Japanese. In Japanese, speaking politely is a core need for people. In English, it's way more loose. Also Japanese can be, and in anime and VNs it sometimes is, very rude and even aggravating.

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A translator will just have to translate however he/she wants. A translator will never be able to satisfy everyone. Half wants a translation that's directly translated from its source language and the other half wants it tailored towards not only their language but their culture as well (which to me is incomprehensible, but that's my opinion).

Edited by Stormwolf

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I guess than when you've played 40+ novels and watched dozens of anime you know enough of what happens in Japan. But we're not segregating by weeb experience, and things should be palatable to Western readers, no matter how much experience they have in Japanese culture. "Onigiri" is pretty easily recognisable, but "rice ball" doesn't really hurt anyone either. And the honorific play is more extreme than that. It can be discarded or transformed without much being lost.

I'm not really saying they should pretend Mt. Fuji is located in Maryland, like they did in the 90s here.

Edited by Okarin

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3 minutes ago, Stormwolf said:

Man, if westerns have no interest in japanese or it's culture, perhaps don't even want to play japanese games, then they can stick with their own entertainment. Give me a break.

If you have to be familiar with Japanese, or even know Japanese to enjoy VNs... why translate them in the first place? That'd be a utopia truly.

In the end all you want is to feel superior because you know Japanese and most people don't... or maybe you just know a bunch of Japanese terms.

Edited by Okarin

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3 minutes ago, Kiriririri said:

Bad/lazy translators keep honorifics

Good ones don't

Simple as that

But if not-so-good translator tries to do it (that is, remove them), it's double disaster. (And good translators seem to be rare)

Edited by adamstan

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1 minute ago, Okarin said:

KIRI WINS

FATALITY

He just reinforces your opinion, nothing about fatality or winning. Grow up some and try again.

To me it's very simple. We have different opinions and i have my own, just like you. 

Saying a translator is lazy/bad for having his/her own way is fucking stupid and very narrow minded if i'm being entirely honest.

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25 minutes ago, adamstan said:

But if not-so-good translator tries to do it (that is, remove them), it's double disaster. (And good translators seem to be rare)

And that's most of tl nowadays, especially from Sekai or Nisa.

Dal segno was a triple disaster. For one sentences honorific was there, but in second one SAME honorific was replaced by adaptation or just cut out.

Or Ys VIII without honorifics:

Spoiler

3300279-4.jpg

 

Edited by ShinRaikdou

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There was hilarious instance in Kazoku Keikaku (which is complete editing mess, with all possible ways of translation mixed up). In one scene Matsuri speaks to Aoba calling her "Aoba-neesan" which got translated as "Sister Aoba" :wahaha:

Edited by adamstan

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1 hour ago, Stormwolf said:

He just reinforces your opinion, nothing about fatality or winning. Grow up some and try again.

To me it's very simple. We have different opinions and i have my own, just like you. 

Saying a translator is lazy/bad for having his/her own way is fucking stupid and very narrow minded if i'm being entirely honest.

Why so serious.

When talking about Spanish culture and conditions in English (and you can replace Spain with any country, except it's mine), you don't really mix in Spanish words with English ones. And I warrant you that Spain has some things that are very different from English-speaking countries. Why should we do the same with Japanese?

In the end, the problem can be circumvented, but like Kiri says, it implies not being lazy, really. Things that change between countries are things like the food and so on, and they can mostly be adapted, not to be things they aren't (like rice ball -> hamburger), but to make some sense. After all, side notes about translation are very common, for example, explaining things like name-based jokes, or holidays.

Edited by Okarin

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Huh, is there any to see the results of the survey? Kinda curious to see where the votes are going.

I'm personally in favor of keeping honorifics. I don't think they do anything to hurt the script at all, and they are used in dubs. One of the earliest dubs I've heard use honorifics was FLCL (which did have a TV broadcast in the U.S.), and it didn't take me long at all to grasp their meaning since it can be easily derived by tone and social structure. In fact, I was actually kinda interested in the learning experience that came with it.

But yeah, that's just my opinion. I have nothing against translators leaving honorifics out and will gladly read their works regardless, but I don't appreciate reading all these comments trying to stigmatize a minor preference in entertainment media. I'm not saying you shouldn't make your opinion known, but you gotta admit, it's a little harsh to associate this preference with derogatory terms such as 'weeb' or 'lazy.' It's kinda like stating that your opinion matters more than those of whom you disagree with (which may have usefulness in science, but it's a little absurd in entertainment).

There are reasonable arguments on both sides to justify either opinion. It might be beneficial to understand the driving force behind opposing views and keep an open mind. This doesn't need to be toxic.

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11 minutes ago, Kenshin_sama said:

it's a little harsh to associate this preference with derogatory terms such as 'weeb' or 'lazy.' It's kinda like stating that your opinion matters more than those of whom you disagree with (which may have usefulness in science, but it's a little absurd in entertainment).

I don't know about "lazy", but "weeb" is a pretty accurate term, even if it's derogatory. That's why I used it. This kind of people are the ones who don't study nor know Japanese, but want to keep the Japanese mannerisms. I'm sure you know how the story goes, you can easily find discussions about this matter. I'd add that they are also, amusingly, not native English speakers. But then I'm not either, and I can fully understand the "localisation consists of adapting to target audience" thing.

Not that my opinion matters more, but perhaps, it's more well-thought than "keep honorifics plz". And also, it's the opinion of a lot more people.

Edited by Okarin

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2 hours ago, Stormwolf said:

the other half wants it tailored towards not only their language but their culture as well (which to me is incomprehensible, but that's my opinion).

Language and culture are not things you can separate from each other. They are strongly interconnected and when you try to imitate some nation's manner of speech with a foreign language you end up with a mess, that sounds neither like the source material nor like proper prose on the language you're translating to. Putting the absurd cases of cultural appropriation aside (like the infamous easily-recognizable rice balls turning into doughnuts in Pokemon), honorifics are something to be avoided whenever possible. Because unlike "rice balls", there's no place for them in the logic of English language and the prose that uses them in abundance will never flow well - and might be even hard to read for someone without basic knowledge of Japanese culture. And no, I don't see any reason to believe that you shouldn't be able to read English-localized VNs without being a weeb - the less confusion the text creates for a normally-educated English reader, the better, as long as we're not going against the source material or missing something really important.

I guess I'm in the minority here though. :P

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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Tbh I don't mind what people think about this, everyone can have their own preference about this, readers and translators.

Fantranslators can do what they think is the best but however, I believe that official translators who get paid to do this should remove honorifics because that is what their job is about.

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