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Answerman - What's Wrong With Fan Translations?

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Joined: 04 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:28 pm Reply with quote
It's pretty obvious that OP has little idea how fan translator or professional translator works. While it's true that worst of "official' translation is better than worst of fan translation, the overall quality is largely the same.

I worked as translator during college (because I wasn't good for anything else then), it's one of the most joyless job available, people worked on short term contract with no motivation or accountability, the work was rarely checked (because if they had someone good enough to check, they wouldn't need you).

Closest comparison I can think of is open source / proprietary software. Equally prone to bugs, but only one gets fixed in a timely fashion.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:36 pm Reply with quote
Gina Szanboti wrote:
And then there's that whole Alucard/Arucard controversy. To this day, there are people who insist on the latter as being the One True Name.

What, you've never heard of the Rord of Night Dracura?
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:38 pm Reply with quote
Gina Szanboti wrote:
And then there's that whole Alucard/Arucard controversy. To this day, there are people who insist on the latter as being the One True Name.

The best was a fansub that said his name was Ackard. Like it goes out of its way to say it isn't Alucard "backwards for Dracula."
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:40 pm Reply with quote
Hameyadea wrote:
DuelGundam2099 wrote:
Levi as "Rivaille"

This was a thing? Seriously? How did that happen? Laughing

It was due to how that character's name was written in Japanese. Levi, with the regular pronunciation (lɑːviː) [IPA for English for reference]. In Japanese it will be written as レヴィ (example: Trinity Seven's character Kazama Levi). In contrast, Shingeki no Kyojin's character Levi is written as リヴァイ (Rivai), which in addition to it sounding French (see: French author Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, English Wiki entry, Japanese), it is also the first part of how the biblical monster Leviathan pronounced in Japanese (レヴィアタン Rivaitan), which I guess why it is "levi" and not "rivalle."
That IPA is way off; what you wrote would correspond to the English spelling "Lahvee" or something. I suppose you were thinking of /ˈlɛvi/. I also suppose you wanted to use the katakana spelling リヴァイアサン ("rivaiasan"), because the one you chose is "reviatan", from a Latinate pronunciation of the name. Anyway, as you can see on that page Leviathan has several variant katakana spellings, so it's not like the name "リヴァイ" will automatically trigger that association. Besides, /ˈliːvɑɪ/ is the traditional English pronunciation of "Levi", so there's really no need to go that far to justify it. I suppose to some early fan translators a French name seemed to make more sense in the context of the story than an anglicized Hebrew one, but if "Levi" is what the author and/or publisher says is right then that's the way it is. Considering certain revelations about him and his family later in the manga there might actually be very good reasons why Isayama insisted on that name, but that's probably too off-topic and spoileriffic to discuss here.

Last edited by vonPeterhof on Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:42 pm Reply with quote
vonPeterhof wrote:
That IPA is way off; what you wrote would correspond to the English spelling "Lahvee" or something.

I just noticed that myself and corrected it. Stupid mistakes at the A.M., I guess.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:14 pm Reply with quote
Just-another-face wrote:
pikabot wrote:
Sometimes this is because Japanese executives are sure that they know what's best for the American market and feel like they need to micromanage

That's really cute, especially when said execs generally don't know a lick of English themselves. Anime hyper

Probably my favorite example comes from the TV version of Hellsing. I guess it was a rather big point of dispute between the Japanese and American side of things whether the main character's name was "Arucard" or "Alucard." Despite pointing out the obvious that it is Dracula backwards, and the whole "l or r" thing being a common issue, the Japanese rights holders insisted on it being "Arucard." New Generation basically split the difference by using that when written on screen, but pronouncing it as Alucard in English. Later on, they all happened to meet with Kouta Hirano, and asked him who was correct. Apparently, his response was something along the lines that it was probably best to defer to the English speakers because he wasn't certain himself.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:16 pm Reply with quote
I was kind of disappointed by this article. I was hoping to see discussions on liberal/literal translation styles, localizations, cultural references, honorifics, translator notes and how to translate jokes, puns and wordplay. Do you translate names? Should everything be translated or should certain things be left as esoteric trivia?

I have my own preferences and extensive thoughts on the issue, but perhaps I'll save those for another time. Right now, it seems that the fansubs and official subs are swapping roles - with fansubs becoming more liberal and official subs becoming more literal. (I love how the dub of Beyond the Boundary kept the term "Youmu" when fansubs were making every excuse to sub it.)

Speaking of fansubs, something that wasn't addressed in this article is the god-awful fansub politics of groups being elitist and fighting with each other and the fans. That's one of the reasons why I completely stopped following the fansub scene.
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Stuart Smith

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:21 pm Reply with quote
Discussions of accuracy tend to be a bit bias and unfair. Using no-name guesssubs as an average measure of fansub quality is akin to using 4Kids and Saban translations as the average measure of a professional translation.

Translations are ultimately a personal preference though. Some people dislike literal translations, but other loves them. With official subs you generally only have one choice, but with fansubs you do get a bunch of options to choose from. Crunchyroll seems to have two different ideals depending on who gets the show. One show could be localized, and another could be leaving half the show in Japanese. Ever since Detective Conan started streaming on Crunchyroll some of the translations they left in Japanese have been pretty random. Conan saying "Heiji no nii-san" and similar untranslated phrases made me think I was watching a fansub. Not that I disapprove, since I'm used used to fansubs using honorifics like that, but other official translations I've noticed tend to ignore honorifics entirely so it was jarring.

One thing to note is they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Official translations are often times legally bound to do something. Yu-Gi-Oh's official subs are unfortunately forced to use the Americanized card games, while the fansubs are free to use the original card names. I imagine if Pokemon was ever offered subtitled they'd use the American names where the fansubs are free to use their real names. Being outside the law definitely gives you freedom.

-Stuart Smith
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:46 pm Reply with quote
Same as Justin, I pretty much use fansubs or scanlations as a last resort. The two points from the article that really stand out for me are script access (most of the time, at least) and vetting official translators. Access to a script can be really helpful, especially if a show has scenes where more than one character is talking at once or other characters are talking in the background. Another example I'm thinking of is when characters are speaking in accents or using very stylized speech. I imagine both cases can be very tricky to translate just by ear.

Vetting a translator's language ability is also incredibly important. No offense to any fansub translators in college, but I'm not sure if 3 or 4 semesters of Japanese necessarily qualifies you to translate something. Of course there are plenty of talented fansubbers out there that are just as talented as an official translator, but I feel that having been "tested" adds a level of reassurance.

As mentioned already, the only detriment with official translations is that the licensor pretty much has the final say for better or worse. Most of the time it's fine but a couple people have already mentioned some bad examples like Alucard/Arurcard. The one I always think of is Gainax originally insisting on the terms first children, second children, instead of first child and second child for Evangelion.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:52 pm Reply with quote
I need to vent.

Noragami. It literally means "stray god". The Japanese word "nora" means "stray". Easy.

There is a character in Noragami who, in Japanese, is known as "nora". In the best fan translations I've seen (and in the official translation of the manga, thankfully!) they refer to this character as "Stray" or "the Stray". Later in the story, other strays show up. In Japanese, they too are referred to as "nora". Because "nora" is not a name. It's a noun and a derogatory term within the context of the series.

Funimation took it upon themselves to just... not translate this. In the subs and in the dub, the Stray is named Nora. You know, the English-language name Nora. That's her name. And now we've reached the point in the story where the other strays show up, and I am not sure what they are gonna do about that. Will they be "Nora" too? Will they be "strays"? You ever gonna explain what "nora" actually means, Funimation?

Most of the English-language fan community thinks that this character is named Nora and that it's a proper name instead of just some untranslated artifact and every time I read it I want to cry a little.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:02 pm Reply with quote
jsevakis wrote:

Oh, believe me, no such rule exists. The percentage of useable questions I get is really low. (It's about 30% "Will there ever be another season of x", 50% "I feel like this general nonspecific feeling I have is a trend, why is that?", 10% confused people thinking they're writing to an anime company.) If you've gotten one answered before there's a good chance you know how to ask the sort of question I'm looking for.

well I definitely agree with the manga side. those fan translations are god forsaken awful. and its worse when their translating the 18+ manga. however I can understand why. for one thing there are some manga versions of kodomo no jikan as well as nanoha haven't been licensed in the US which is why their are fan translations of those series. so while it will be convenient for some fans, its not as rampant now since we have official digital versions, so its kinda a mood point at this time.

the anime side is a little tricky. especially when it comes to series that were massacred by the horror that is 4kids as well as those series like YGO where answerman defended the Americanization of those anime series into kids shows. we all know that the US companies that licensed them will NEVER release an official uncut English sub version which is why some groups have basically only sub those series.

also its not just series for the younger audiences.

there are some series like kodomo no jikan that for some reason or another haven't been licensed in the US at all. the same for Nanoha Strikers and Vivid. which is why again fans are downloading and watching those fansubs for those series. Not because they want to, its because they have NO choice.

and of course 18+ series will always get a fansub version unless their part of the milky brand or from the vanilla series which will at some point get licensed by Kitty Media. but considering on how long that takes is why fansbubs are there. and there are 18+ companies like Lilith/Pixy/Ziz animations ,PoRO and others that will never ever release their series to the US and even resorted to having them region locking their products of fear that if they do, their imported versions which are uncensored will outsell the originals. which is why fans translations of their series are insanely rampant.

so while I technically don't like fansubs of any kind ,its unfortunately a necessarily evil in some cases. especially for when it comes to series for younger audiences and for ero series and unless the attitudes for these companies change and quickly, I'm afraid that fan translations will continue to thrive no matter how much people dislike them.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:15 pm Reply with quote
Kill la Kill was quite interesting with its "Stripped of the Will to Fight" vs "Fiber Lost". "Fiber Lost" was the professional translation, but it seemed so generic.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:36 pm Reply with quote
I only have 2 issues that sometimes occur with fansubs
1, Some refuse to translate certain words, and will have a message on the top of the screen telling you what it means. I have seen professional subs do this on very rare occasions though, this weeks Gintama did not translate senpai
2, Some add a ton of swearing, which I'm sure is not there. In Azazel San you get lines like "shut up pussy face",
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:51 pm Reply with quote
Typically I prefer official subs, since I can usually bank on someone there being a Q&A person.

But I have to admit, I miss the DCTP fansubs for Detective Conan. I felt like they had just the right amount of slang and shortened words (like 'round or 'because) that got each and every character's personality across through the words they used. That, and they had translation notes for more obscure references, which was nice.

Though words cannot express how happy I am that Crunchyroll decided to NOT use the Americanized names. I feel like we dodged a bullet there.

As for scanlations, it's hit or miss for me. It usually depends on the genre of the manga--more intelligent manga like Liar Game that are heavily dependent on exposition seem to get higher quality translations by necessity--but lighter fare like Girls of the Wild's (UGH that title) seem to go more literal, and I can't tell if it's because of a weird translation gap between Korean and English, or if they just don't have folks well versed in English working for them. Generally, I prefer official translations, if only for the (usually) better grammar.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:54 pm Reply with quote
Levi as "Rivaille"

This was a thing? Seriously? How did that happen? Laughing[/quote]

Yep I remember that all to well. I'm in High school so I know a ton of people who use fansubs.
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