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Author Topic: Lost in Translation
steampunkgrrrl
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Icon 1 posted April 29, 2011 07:37      Profile for steampunkgrrrl   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
There's something that I've always wondered about anime, and I'd like to hear an expert's opinion on it. Between the dubs and subs, how much is there really lost in translation?

I know that sometimes companies will add extra information because they're afraid the English-speaking audiences won't understand, and I also know that some things are deleted because of its offensive nature.

Does anyone know? Is there an article out there that has this kind of information? General discussion?

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Ashitaka

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Icon 1 posted April 29, 2011 08:54      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
it is very interesting to listen to the directors commentay in princess mononoke. Additional information is often needed, not because there is no direct translation, but to comunicate things that are obvious to a certain culture.

IN the japanese audio, ashitaka cuts his top knot off and nothing is said. In the english subbed and dubbed versions, they always have to add dialog that where ashitaka explains he is not coming back home ever. To the japanes audience, this was known simply by cutting off the top knot.

The cutting of the top knot was used as foreshadowing in the tom cruise film the last samuri. It was obvious that the son would die after his top knot was cut off, there is no other resolution to this.

Also in princess mononoke, there is a scene where some soup is eaten and a comment is made. In the japanese audio, a direct translation into english would have been "this soup is bland". It was however translated to "this soup tastes like piss" so that the american audience would know how great an insult was said. ( never tell a japanese host the food is bland, even if they are serving just rice.)

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted April 29, 2011 09:59      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ashitaka covered the 'cultural issues' part quite well, so I'll cover the boring practicalities...

I speak a little Spanish, just enough to get me in trouble.

Watching English language movies with Spanish subtitles, or Spanish movies with English subtitles, I often find myself having a "That's not what she said!" moment - subtitling is a subtle art, readers don't read fast enough to keep up with the full text, so the subtitler has to trim a little, and sometimes the subtleties are lost.

I suspect something similar goes on with the dubs in anime. The japanese speak quickly, 2 seconds of rapid-fire Japanese might take 4 or 5 seconds of English if you translated it properly, so "when hell freezes over!" becomes "never!"

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted April 29, 2011 10:41      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sometimes a word or phrase is hard or impossible to express in another language as well. Those moments can be funny/interesting if you have both dubbing and subtitles turned, because you may get two entirely different translations. Sometimes you can even figure out what the actual meaning must have been and you'll realize that neither of the translations was correct.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted April 29, 2011 10:53      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well...I was 'trained properly' by my friends to hate dubs, so I can't speak to them. [Razz]

Besides that, I take things in faster visually than aurally, so I love subtitles. (I watch English/American stuff with subtitles turned on as well. I'm so happy Netflix finally added them a few months ago.)

Might there be some differences...sure, due to some of the reasons above, as well as due to poor translations. [Razz] The English grammar in Japanese subs (at least a number of the ones I've seen) tend to be chockful of Engrish. However, that just adds to the experience, IMHO. [It doesn't hurt that some of the subbed stuff my friends play is of less than official provenance.]

For better or for worse, I haven't watched anime in quite awhile, so perhaps things are better these days (but perhaps not).

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steampunkgrrrl
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Icon 1 posted April 29, 2011 12:33      Profile for steampunkgrrrl   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by GrumpySteen:
Sometimes a word or phrase is hard or impossible to express in another language as well. Those moments can be funny/interesting if you have both dubbing and subtitles turned, because you may get two entirely different translations. Sometimes you can even figure out what the actual meaning must have been and you'll realize that neither of the translations was correct.

I have done this before...and it is pretty funny. I know it happens in Cowboy BeBop the Movie...and thanks everyone for replying! I just think it's interesting that two different cultures with two different viewpoints on things (i.e. the soup is bland [Big Grin] ) have such a wide audience and things have to be changed to get the point across.

I do wonder if, when English movies/animation is translated for Japanese audiences, do they add things as well? Hmmmm....

There is one minor rant I would like to add, and I point to Cowboy Bebop the Movie on this one. In the Japanese translation it's clear that Faye makes the connection between the hacker and the terrorist (on the couch, if you watch the subbed version, she yells "They're connected!"). (Sorry for the spoiler.) In the English dubbed version, she yells "I forgot about the card!" Granted they may still be trying to get the point across, and you may be able to read into the English version a little that she made it, but it's not so obvious.

Opinions?

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Grummash

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Icon 1 posted April 30, 2011 12:40      Profile for Grummash     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hello Steampunkgrrrl (henceforth SPG, if that's ok)

Welcome to the forums. [Smile]

Now, I know nothing about anime but I was intrigued by your question about translation. Ashitaka's points about cultural context, and TFD's comments on practicalities are both relevant, but I would like to offer a little anecdote that I believe shows that there is a further element to consider which is completely separate from these two issues... shades of meaning.

Many moons ago I was on holiday in the Czech Republic, in a little village in the sticks. The village noticeboard had various handbills and posters, and one was for a Heavy Metal music festival. Most of the detail was beyond me (and my English-Czech phrasebook)but I could see that one of the bands performing was called "Sick With".

I though this was strange, and it was some time later that I realised that these Czech metallers thought they had named their band "Infected" [Wink]

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted April 30, 2011 23:51      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
____ Label on the oil tank of a very large milling machine imported from Japan.

"Only used clean oil must be put in this drain tank."

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steampunkgrrrl
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Icon 1 posted May 02, 2011 07:43      Profile for steampunkgrrrl   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
This is starting to remind me of the Engrish Fail Blog on LOLCatz. [Razz]

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Danapoppa
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Icon 1 posted May 03, 2011 14:38      Profile for Danapoppa     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by steampunkgrrrl:
I do wonder if, when English movies/animation is translated for Japanese audiences, do they add things as well? Hmmmm....

Happens all the time. There's a standard formula they use when preparing translations, to set an upper limit on the length of the subtitles. Basically they decide how many seconds a subtitle can appear on the screen, and multiply that by a constant that gives the maximum number of Japanese characters the subtitle can contain. (I can't give exact values, as it's been a long time since I had anything to do with translation for video.)

The resulting numbers are always surprisingly low, so translators are hard pressed to come up with ways to convey the necessary information and subtext in a very small space. Often they get quite creative. Now and then I'm impressed with the results, but mostly you can be sure some information is getting lost, added, or mangled along the way.

Translations for voiceover are not quite as restricted in terms of length, but I've noticed that Japanese translators generally strive to match dubs to the original lip activity as much as possible. So you never see anything like the strangely unsynchronized and time-delayed dubs on old Godzilla movies; when I watch a Hollywood movie that's dubbed in Japanese, it's not too hard to imagine that Clint Eastwood is really talking in Japanese. So of course that ends up restricting the translators in different ways.

And yeah, translators make mistakes all the time. I can't help but notice them; some of them really stick out. The most noticeable are instances where the translator clearly doesn't understand the language. I remember seeing a movie in which an adult character offered to treat a child to a "malted." The translator rendered it as "Come on, I'll buy you a beer."

[Eek!]

And just yesterday we were watching the first four episodes of Rome (again, since Amazon Japan had the DVDs on sale cheap) and the scene where Vorenus' wife Niobe shouts "My father's cock!" was translated as if she were making a fowl remark rather than a foul one.

[crazy]

Sincerely,
Danapoppa

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 03, 2011 16:19      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The most noticeable are instances where the translator clearly doesn't understand the language. I remember seeing a movie in which an adult character offered to treat a child to a "malted." The translator rendered it as "Come on, I'll buy you a beer."
Well, to be perfectly honest, I'd never heard of a 'malted' until just a few minutes ago. I'm sure in context (perhaps waiting 20s) I'd have figured it out, or at least searched Google (which I just did), rather than making a rather incorrect translation. [Razz]

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CommanderShroom
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Icon 1 posted May 04, 2011 09:06      Profile for CommanderShroom     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Malted's rock

But on a personal note. I lived in Korea for a very short time many years ago (long term tourist). And I went to a movie with a friend of the family from there. We decided on an American flick because it was both a popular movie at the time and I wouldn't have a terrible time understanding.

After the movie I was asked about the translations. What he found odd was that I was chuckling at moments where the actual Korean subtext was very serious, and oddly quiet during the parts where the movie had a humorous translation.

And my company has a few translations of our software and I get a lot of E-mails about less than stellar translations. Mainly it will be about a missed nuance, such as a word used is technically correct, but not proper in the context.

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iheartcomicbooks97
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Icon 1 posted July 03, 2011 05:33      Profile for iheartcomicbooks97     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think quite a lot is. After watching Pan's Labyrith with and without subtitles ( I speak Spanish), it made loads more sense without subtitles. I expect the same with anime.
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