Re: [gundam] Lost In The Translation

Scott DiBerardino (
Tue, 16 Mar 1999 10:11:52 -0500

> From: Woo Lee <>
>> that's one of the reasons I'm taking a japanese class next semester...
>> subtitles only tell what's being said, not what's being _said_... better
>> than dubbed tho.
>Well good luck! ^^ Its harder for a non-asain like yourself to learn
>Japanese so expect lots of Difficulty early on..if you tend to watch lots
>of anime it'll speed up your education by quite a bit...but dont expect to
>understand much Japanese until your 3rd year or so. If you ever do get
>to the point of Good-Excellent Understanding of the language, you'll see
>that most sub-titles dont do the dialog justice..except for certain cases
>that is ^^

I've been studying Japanese formally (and intensively) for three years now,
and informally for many years before that. I agree that some background in
anime can be helpful in the beginning, but it can become a great hinderance
later on, when you have to actually start talking like a normal person.
Nearly all of the anime fans that began the program here were gone by the
second year. I'm not sure what that says, except maybe that wanting to
understand anime better is not sufficient reason to sustain interest in
learning a language... For my own part, issues of translation and
linguistics have sustained my interest much more than being able to
understand (better at least) some anime I occasionally find time for.

As for quality of subtitling, Many translators (especially fansubbers) seem
to think that a pile of dictionaries is a good enough substitute for direct
knowledge of the people and its culture, or even rudimentary writing skills.
I should know, I used to be one of them! IMO many scripts would be much
improved if the translators would just be willing to show them around a bit
and get more peoples' opinions.

On Sun, 14 Mar 1999, -Z- wrote:
> There are, as I've noted in the past, translations and interpretations.

I've always been partial to "transliteration" and "translation". In my mind,
translation includes attempting to divine the intent and meaning behind the
words, and then find equivalent (but not exactly equal) ways of
communicating the same meaning. Transliteration is just word and grammar

Did anybody see the anime of Crying Freeman they brought over to the US? I
laughed all the way through, 'cause the language the original Japanese voice
actors used was quite rough, thanks to politeness levels and other such
cues; but the translation provided was so squeaky clean! I would've added a
liberal amount of cursing to try to indicate the same lack of social grace
and consideration, but the tone of the translation was simply identical to
that used by most translators in the anime business here: a kind of dead,
voiceless grind that is too concerned with being 'accurate'.

As far as Neil Nadelman's work on Gundam (and I only feel qualified to speak
about his stuff since we spent our formative anime discovery years together
in CT), I find it sufficiently flexible and accurate as far as it goes; I
know Neil has a good working knowledge of the culture behind the words. But
his characters definitely lack a voice, and his writing skills are perhaps
not as sharp as they could be. Overall, except for some minor technical
issues and errors that I would easily lay at the feet of the Immortal
Deadline, I was rather pleased with it. If the dialogue often sounds cheesy
in Gundam and other anime, that's because it often IS. When it comes down to
it, Gundam is a toy-selling show with soap opera aspirations, and with the
occasional character or plot twist that touches our 'cool' buttons. But
nobody's gonna mistake if for great literature...

OTOH, <sigh> I just dig the Hyakushiki... :)

-scott \\
"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving
 through traffic in a car you are still paying for, in order to get to a
 job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and house you
 leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it."
 -- Ellen Goodman
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