Translation isn’t so easy after all

My goal in life is to be an Japanese to English translator. I honestly have no idea how I am going to do this. But this is what I want to do. There is something about translating from one language to another that is fun. It’s like decoding a puzzle. I like the ones that I can understand easily. The ones I can’t, well, they just frustrate me. Becoming a translator is something I think about doing in the far, far future. I have other things that I need to achieve first before that. For example, obtaining Japanese language fluency.

I came to the realization that just because I haven’t gotten to the level of fluency that I want. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t check out other avenues to improve the skills I have now. So, I started looking for online translation courses. I have one in mind that I am going to try in late spring. I decided to at least get a head start by buying the textbook the course uses.

It’s Introducing Translation Studies by Jeremy Munday. It’s an alright textbook, and it really is an introduction. But I hate books that introduce so many different terms and ideas at once. Then it just moves on to introduce a ton of other ideas and names in the next chapter. I like learning things in a more concise and in detail manner. This isn’t a bad thing though. I can be exposed to a bunch different ideas. Later I can then look into those of interest in more detail. I have about 50 pages left, and I would say that I learned new things that I didn’t think about before I read it.

To be honest, I want to be a translator but I don’t know about it as a study. I just figured people read a sentence and put it into the target language they wanted. I for a long time  believed that translation should be as exact and as much like the original as possible. But this book has opened my eyes to other opinions and ideas. Translating actually isn’t always that easy. There are many factors that can change the translation. Like who is the intended audience? What does this audience expect from the work? How can the original works ideas and feel be transferred into the translated text’s culture but still retain the same feel?

I like the case studies that are used at the end of each chapter. They’re interesting and put what was read in the chapter into perspective. For example there is a case study about the first Harry Potter book and aspects of its translation into Spanish and Italian. The Spanish version retains many of the names and places of the original without alteration. While the Italian version retained some names but tried to give a sense of what the names and places are of others in Italian.

This reminded me of the kind of alterations that people hated in translations of JRPGs. Chrono Cross is the only one that comes to mind at the moment. Like how they changed Yamaneko to Lynx for the English version. Yamaneko IS Lynx if you translate it to English. But for some reason or another people were pissed off about this kind of translating. There is an article on Hardcore Gaming 101 where they interviewed Ted Woolsey and other game translators. There is another that is about fan translation. I recommend them if that kind of thing interests you.

After reading this book, I believe that certain liberties can be taken in certain contexts depending on what is being translated. Taking the overall meaning and sense and then putting into how it would be found in English might work. But that might not be the best method. I know now that translation is far from an easy task. It has a lot of varying ideas. Some of which are interesting and I want to check into more later. I’m glad there is an extensive bibliography in the back.

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